This Sunday is Father’s Day. You’ve probably never heard of Father’s Day before, but it is a day to celebrate and honor dads. On the surface, that sounds pretty good for me. Your mom will no doubt buy me something awesome and then sign your name to it; a bunch of people at church will shake my hand, pat me on the back, and give me candy cigars; and we’ll eat lunch at a restaurant where salad isn’t considered a part of the meal. It’ll be pretty good to be me.
But really, I don’t feel all that deserving of celebration quite yet. I’ve only been your dad for 55 days. Maybe in five or ten years I’ll feel a bit more worthy, but so far, I haven’t done all that much. Being a father is one of the most important jobs a person can have, and I plan to take it very seriously.
But as you’ll someday learn, we live in a screwed up world, son. And I know there are many valiant fathers out there, but on a day meant to celebrate fatherhood, I can’t help but think of all the things we fathers have been getting wrong.
Right now, 43% of American children live without their fathers. That means there are over 15 million children growing up without dads, most of whom are living below the poverty line. Kids growing up without fathers are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 14 times more likely to abuse women, and 32 times more likely to be runaways or homeless.
Related to the absence of fathers is the dismal state of marriage in our country. They say fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Now I know this number isn’t accurate, but the fact that so many people believe it demonstrates the reality of this epidemic. So many fathers are unwilling to remain committed to their children’s mothers. I grew up with married parents (your grandma and grandpa), and I married a girl with married parents (pop-pop and gangy), so I didn’t realize how widespread divorce was until I started working in youth ministry, where hundreds of our students were growing up in broken homes, and many had never even met their dad.
Of the children fortunate enough to grow up with their fathers around, I know that many dads are disconnected and withdrawn from their kids. Many hide in their work, hide in their hobbies, hide in the garage, or hide with their friends. We laugh at the way fathers are presented on television, but those fictional dads bear some semblance to the reality of fatherhood in our country.
The importance of a father in the life of his son is paramount, and so rather than bask in my own unearned glory this Father’s Day, I’d like to make a commitment to you, Jack.
- I promise to love your mother each and every day for the rest of my life, even if I don’t always feel like it.
- I promise to eat dinner with you at our dinner table on week nights, rather than be working late at the office.
- I promise to teach you to throw a baseball and climb a tree and ride a bike, to tithe and pay bills and use your money wisely, to build a fire and set up a tent and survive in the wild.
- I promise to take you to church on Sundays instead of soccer games.
- I promise to make decisions you won’t like because they are for your good.
- I promise to teach you to drive a stick shift.
- I promise to teach you math and science and spelling and history.
- I promise to teach you the fear of the Lord.
- I promise to be your father more than your friend.
- I promise to go to your basketball games and school plays.
- I promise there will always be a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and three meals on your plate.
- I promise to spank all the foolishness and rebellion out of you that I can.
- I promise to pray with you daily, not just pray for you.
- I promise to read to you.
- I promise to play with you.
- I promise to travel with you.
- I promise to talk to you.
- I promise to listen to you.
- I promise to have fun with you.
- I promise to dream with you.
- I promise to punish you (if you deserve it).
- I promise to worship with you.
- I promise to show you how to treat a woman by treating your mother like the queen she is.
- I promise to raise you the way God said to do it, not the way the television or government or Oprah tells me to.
- I promise to protect you and provide for you.
- I promise to always be there for you.
- I promise to teach you to fight lions and bears and giants.
- I promise to teach you where you came from.
- I promise to teach you where you are going.
- I promise to teach you who you are in Christ.
- I promise to teach you to be a husband.
- I promise to teach you to be a father.
- I promise to teach you to be a man.
- I promise to teach you to trust and follow God.
- I promise to be better every day.
I love you, son, and even as the world falls apart, I promise I’m not going anywhere.
Da Da (aka, the hairy guy who is really excited to change your diaper when he gets home)
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6.4)
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