On the special days that are centered on the family – Mother’s Day, Christian Family Week, Father’s Day – we have a tendency to look in two directions. We look to the past, remembering the homes of our childhood and youth, being grateful for the contributions that have been made in our lives by generations that have gone before. And then, as we consider the homes from which we have come, we think of the homes that are now ours, especially if we have parental responsibility.
Father’s Day, which will be celebrated Sunday, is largely an addendum. It is an add-on, an afterthought, a latecomer. Mother’s Day had been on the calendar for many years; and then someone had an idea, “Father is part of the family, too. We should have a day for him.”
Early in my pastoral ministry I was visiting with a distinguished minister from out of town to whom I said, “Dr. Smith, Sunday is Father’s Day. Could you give me an idea for a sermon and appropriate scripture?” Dr. Smith replied, “Fred, I cannot give you the outline of a sermon, but I can give you a topic. Why don’t you use ‘Every Dog Has his Day?’”
Thus in minimizing humor and depreciation is often depicted the role of father.
Historically, the father’s role has been as head of the family. He was the leader, the decision-maker, and the provider. In more recent times many of the responsibilities have been shared, but the father’s role is still of utmost importance. There is much truth in the statement, “Boys love their mothers, but they pattern their lives after their fathers.”
There has been a long and extended debate on which factors are most important in determining the life of a child – heredity or environment. I have a friend who said that this question used to really concern him, but it does not any longer. “You see,” he explained, “I finally realized that I am responsible for both!”
My friend was right. He is responsible for both heredity and environment. But he was only partially right, because he has effect and influence on only one of these. There is nothing he can do regarding the heredity, but there is much he can do regarding the environment in which his children live.
Our young people have a way of adopting the value standards that are exemplified by their elders. They are influenced not so much by what we say as by what we do, and even more by what we are.
The values that they consider to be important are usually the values that we demonstrate in our living. The goals for which they strive are likely to be the goals that we and contemporary society deem to be most desirable. If we expect the qualities of love, faith, and service to be theirs, then we had better be sure that we are demonstrating these qualities in the here and now.
In the shaping of the lives of children there is little that we can do about the heredity aspect. That is fixed. That has already been determined. But there is much we can do about the environment.
The father should be a provider. Although a great many families now have a father and mother both working to provide income, the role of the father carries a basic responsibility to provide material sustenance.
The father should be a hero. He may not elect this role, but it is forced on him by his children in their earlier years. His conduct, affection, and counsel should be of such a nature that he will continue to be hero and mode.
The father should be a teacher. By precept and example he should lead his children so that their lives will be meaningful, significant, happy, and contributing. He should not expect the intellectual, moral, or spiritual development of the children to be left solely in the hands of the mother; he should be a leader in these areas, too.
And so on Father’s Day, take a moment to remember the past, either in expression to a living father or in grateful memory for one who is no longer with you. And examine the present. If there are children in your home, share with them your time, your ideals, and your dreams for their lives. The blessings will be yours and theirs!
Dr. Fred Andrea is the pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church.