The Reward of Being a Father with a Purpose
(This sermon was preached at the Church Picnic in the Park on Father’s day. This time, instead of calling the children to the front for a children’s story, I went out on a limb and asked all the dads in the audience to bring their lawn chairs, and come sit “up front”. It worked like magic).
Ill.: The cover of our bulletin today
has been years in the making.
I’ve observed David & his son Kevin at Church picnics for years.
In 2002 I took a picture of them –
it’s one of the cutest pictures I’ve ever taken,
and I’m very proud of it.
It was also at the church picnic.
It’s a shot of a father and son,
Taken from the back.
They are both wearing the same
Paraguayan national soccer team jersey
and they’re walking down a trail hand in hand,
absolutely carefree and talking about “who knows what”.
They are totally lost in time
and giving each other their undivided attention.
Two years later I took this photo
that you see on the cover of today’s bulletin.
It’s the same father and son duo.
Still the best of friends.
And if you look at the picture closely
you will see the words “#1 Dad” on David’s forehead.
And, the $1,000,000 smile says it all!
He is the #1 Dad for that young boy right there and then!
There’s no doubt about it!
Today we celebrate “Fathers Day”.
We give thanks to God for the dads in our life.
And as we praise God for the gift of godly fathers,
we are fully aware that not every person
has had the benefit of having a dad,
that truly deserved the distinction of being “#1 Dad”.
But, for all the dads out there
who truly and honestly seek the distinction
of being a godly example
and dedicated caregiver to your children,
this message is especially dedicated to you.
(Everyone else is invited to listen in as well
and to share in the blessing
that we want to give to all our fathers today).
The Purpose of this Sermon is first and foremost
to encourage all the fathers here
by reminding ourselves of the divine and high purpose
of our calling as a dad.
I want to read Psalm 127 as the text for our meditation today:
1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for while they sleep he provides for those he loves.
3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Content: One of my favorite images of a father is found in these verses. It is the image of the Master Archer, God Himself, drawing back the arrow in the bow and releasing it with great skill and precision and purpose to find the target that the Archer has chosen for this particular arrow.
Kahlil Gibran, writes the following poem On Children
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Feelings: How many of you who are here today are fathers?
Let me see your hands…
Let me ask you:
how many of you can say with total certainty,
that you know exactly what God’s plan is
for your children’s life?
How many of you could say to your child,
“I know the purpose of your life,
and I’m going to teach you, my daughter/my son,
what that will is”.
I didn’t think so…
Our children have to find their own purpose in life,
I don’t know God’s full will for my children.
I might have a general idea and a sneaky suspicion
That God wants them to live their life to the fullest,
And to be a productive and respected member of society;
And that they would love God and their neighbor.
That much I know!
But, exactly how they are going to achieve that
I have no clue…
They have to figure that out on their own.
I’m just the bow that has been drawn back
in the hands of the master,
the bow that is ready to be released
so that the arrow can take flight
and find the target for which it was chosen.
I am not the Archer…
just the bow!
as parents we sometimes get confused about our roles.
And I have to confess
that I am more than guilty of that.
See, when I as a father get confused,
and believe that I am the archer rather than the bow,
I’m becoming brutally controling,
because I want my children to do what I want them to do.
And when that happens… its not good.
Let me just say that I’ve had to fix doors
and patch the drywall in my house on more than one occasion.
Needless to say,
in today’s world its not easy to raise children
the way that you feel you should, because…
well, its just not easy!
There are so many unwholesome influences
on the lives of our kids,
and as responsible parents we worry a great deal,
that they will be all that God wants them to be.
Its hard to be a dad today!
And, at the same time it’s also hard to be a mom.
And, if the truth be told,
its hard to be a child in a world
that expects you to be all grown up and responsible
by the time you start Kindergarten.
The time in which we live is tough on the family.
And so, as a parent, (and I’ll speak for myself as a dad)
I’m often plagued with feelings of inadequacy.
Well, you know, dads are supposed to put the food on the table…
but, we are also supposed to spend quality and quantity time
with each one of our children.
And, there just isn’t enough time and energy in a day
to get it all done.
But, the Good News is,
there are also moments in my life as a father,
that I would not trade for all the riches in the world.
Like those tender moments when baby takes her/his first steps. And you know immediately,
the rest of that child’s life is going to be marked
by a long series of ‘first steps’:
the first day of school;
the first concert;
the first deep conversation about God and faith
& the birds and the bees;
catching the first fish (which is also the last);
the first job;
introducing a first special friend;
the first solo ride with the family car;
the first vacation without the kids;
(I’ve got melodies of Martin Luther King Jr’s
“I have a Dream” speech playing in my mind:
“I have been to the top of the mountain.
And I have looked over hills.
And, I have seen the promised land!
Free at last! Free at last!).
But seriously, being a dad is soo incredibly rewarding.
When you see your children grow up.
And, they have a solid head on their shoulders…
When you see them make choices that…
to be perfectly honest, you would never have made yourself,
and you would have wished they had done it differently…
but, when you see them make choices
that make them glow for joy,
because they have found the mark
for which they have been crafted by the Master Archer…
Oh, what a feeling!
Can you feel that feeling?
Come on dad’s, let me hear it:
can you feel that feeling deep down in your soul?!
You see, you have just seen the purpose
for which the Master Archer has designed you!
Sometimes you may wonder,
“Is it all worth it?”
“This is such a struggle.”
“I want one thing, and wouldn’t you believe it,
Jr wants exactly the opposite.
I tell her to do this and she does that.”
And, (maybe you have said this yourself:
“I have prayed sooo hard,
but my child would not choose the way
that I wanted him to go”).
John Drescher, in his book, If I were starting my family again,
Says something really profound:
“he used to pray for his children…
That they would become more obedient,
pleasant, loving, and so on”.
And then he says,
“… it struck me that this kind of praying myst stop…
I was praying for the wrong person.
I realized that if my children were to know Christ’s love,
then I, as their father,
needed to experience more of Christ’s love
and make that love visible.
if they were ever to learn true love in relation to others,
then I needed divine help to demonstrate true love
in all my relationships with the family and others.
So my prayer turned to
“Lord, make me fit to live with,
loving and kind,
as you are to me.” (Drescher, 1979, p 34).
Ill.: I want to share a personal story with you
that meant the world to me.
I have seldom felt so loved and appreciated by my father,
as on our last trip visit our parents in Paraguay
just a few months ago.
I share this story
because I want to give you all the encouragement
I can possibly give you in your families
on this fathers day.
And, you might say that it is even a bit self-serving.
And so it is – I love my dad and he loves me.
During our visit,
on one occasion when we were sitting in the living room,
my dad read me a letter
that I had written to him more 20 years ago.
As soon as he heard that we were coming,
he was excited.
And in the weeks before our arrival
whenever we would talk on the phone
he would tell me about this letter I had written to him
and he wanted me to read it.
You can just imagine
how my anxiety level shot through the roof.
I vaguely remembered that I had written a letter to my dad
during my College years.
I remembered that in my early 20s
I could still be a fairly tactlessness person…
and that I had written that letter fully aware,
that I was reasonably safe
with about 10,000 Km of air travel between us.
And, in that letter I had said “thank you”
for all the good things I had at home growing up,
even if at times it had felt a bit like a dictatorship.
When my dad brought out that letter,
he was grinning ear to ear.
And when he got to that part,
his comment was,
“I didn’t know that was the perception you had of me.”
I said, “Yes, you could have had a pretty successful career
as an army general…”
We all had a good laugh
and there was soo much love in the room…
It was one of those moments you want to hang on to
for the rest of your life.
What a moment of blessing!
What a gift!
First from a son to his father in a simple and honest letter…
many years ago…
The gift of gratitude for a job well done in raising me,
and letting go when the time had come …
And then I received the greatest gift
that my father could ever give to me.
He said, “My son, I love you.
I am a blessed man because I have you as my son.”
There are some things money can’t buy…
This was one of those things!
For everything else there’s dad’s mastercard.
Or like our dear friend Henry Siemens would say:
“You can put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
There are no riches and treasures in whole wide world
that can pay for such words of affirmation
and hope for the future
coming from a father to his son or daughter.
But, that’s not all…
There’s a sequel to the story…
Sometimes, when I feel pretty foolish
about the way I handled my kids,
or I was giving them a really hard time
about some choices they were making
that I did not totally like,
they had the amazing wisdom and insight of telling me,
“Dad, give yourself some credit.
Look at us!
You’ve done a pretty decent job raising us!”
I’ve got the best children in the world!
And, I am absolutely confident,
without the shadow of a doubt,
“even if I don’t always understand everything that they do…
the choices they make,
the music they listen to,
the people they hang out with,
the hairdoos and piercings they have,
and what all else…
they are going to hit the mark
for which the Master Archer, God Himself,
has created them.”
And so will, by God’s grace,
their children after them.
I don’t want to claim to be a perfect father
or to have a perfect family.
Far from it!
But, I am a blessed dad!
Let me assure all you dads here today,
There are no riches in the world,
that can pay for the satisfaction of knowing
that your children are hitting the mark
for which the Master Archer has called them.
And that you, as their father,
Are the bow that will propel them
Into a wide open tomorrow that you cannot visit,
Not even in your dreams…
my prayer for myself and for all you fathers
is that you would place yourself confidently
in the hands of the Master Archer.
That you would have trust in the Archer’s ability to aim well…
He knows where He wants the arrow to end up.
And that you would believe
that He is in control of the wind
and any other conditions that will affect
where the arrow will go.
Allow Him to pull you back all the way.
And when he releases that arrow,
and shoot far.
Let it fly and make it count.
Follow it with eager anticipation
that the arrow will reach its intended target.
And celebrate the fact
even as the Archer loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
"Oh, heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them or contradicting them. Make me as considerate to them as I would have them be to me. Forbid that I should ever laugh at their mistakes, or resort to shame or ridicule when they displease me. May I never punish them for my own selfish
satisfaction or to show my power. Let me not tempt my child to lie or steal. And guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all I say and do that honesty produces happiness. Reduce, I pray, the unkindness in me. And when I am out of sorts, help me, O Lord, to hold my tongue. May I ever be mindful that my children are not mine but that they belong to you. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to grow up as self-reliant children firmly resting in your love. Bless me with the bigness to grant them all their
reasonable requests, and the courage to deny them privileges that I know will do them harm. Make me fair and just and kind. And make me fit to be loved and respected and imitated by my children. Then I will have accomplished the purpose for which you have called me. Amen."