June 18, 2015

Thoughts for Father’s Day, and After

by Donald G. Mashburn

The love of a father is often described as unwavering, gentle and wise, firm but tender. It may be painted in emotional, subjective, adjective-laden phrases driven by a hero-worship devotion, or a long-held resentment. But almost always, the term “a father’s love” is used without explaining what it is, where it came from, and why most children develop an attachment to a father, or a father figure.

Lacking a description for it, it’s just referred to and embraced as a natural and wonderful thing we all fondly remember – or wish we could – as a “father’s love”. For most normal people a father’s love – and to love a father – is an important part of their lives.

A father’s love is not just a genetic trait, inherited like physical size, or the color of eyes or hair. Love had to have a beginning, a source, and purpose and reason for being.

Much of my almost 85 years on this planet has been spent trying to figure out where things come from, why they are as they are, and how they affect or involve me, if they do. As to the love thing, I’m convinced that Man, with all his conceits and wrongheaded notions of how he has accomplished so much, and takes credit for so much “good” – but isn’t so quick to take blame for the bad – is not the source of love in its purest and noblest forms.

If God grants me “another extension” until this coming November 6, He will have blessed me with 85 full years in this life, which is enough time to figure out a few things by paying attention to what He has to say, what He has done, and getting to know Him through His word and Holy Spirit. The result is that I’m convinced love is not manmade, but is of divine origin.

Love comes from God, our Creator, our Heavenly Father. The Bible, which serious Christians accept as God’s revealed word, gives us a clear statement of God and love in I John 4:8: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

That seems to be pretty good starting point for a discussion of love being a gift from the One Who is the source of all love. The One who is love, and who endowed us with the ability to love one another. This God, this divine source of all love, taught us early on that love was a special thing to be shared among us. Way back during the Exodus, He gave us the idea for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and told us that parents were special and were worthy of honor, after He Himself carved in stone the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land …” (Exodus 20:12 NKJV).

Several centuries later He restated that commandment through His servant Paul the Apostle, who wrote: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise.”

My five children grew up in a home where they had no reason not to love their mother and father, both of whom loved their children with a deep and tender love that should have provided a good pattern for the children when they became adults, and especially for those who became parents.

But in looking back at the not always sure-footed path their mother and I traveled in trying to be the best parents possible, I often wonder what we missed. For the well-behaved, loving children, who then grew into well-balanced, loving adults, have not all, in recent times, been diligent in practicing kindness and honoring their father.

Their mother and I always tried to teach our children certain basic character traits such as truthfulness, honesty, and kindness, and to love God and family, and to honor their father and mother. Later, as a helpful reference I worked these into Rules: Be Truthful, Be Honest, Be Fair, Be Kind, Love God, Love your Family, Love and Honor your Father and Mother, Love Yourself, Don’t Demean Others, and Forgiveness is the Noblest Form of Love.

My late wife (who went to be with the Lord more than 6 years ago), who was surely the sweetest, gentlest, most loving wife and mother a family could have asked for, and I both worked hard to impart our special values to our children. Unfortunately, some of my children no longer bother staying in contact with their father. And that grieves me deeply, since we once had such a close-knit and loving family.

I still try to reach out to them on occasions like birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, to assure them that I love them as much as ever, unconditionally and forgivingly. I’ve tried to be a living example that each one of us should be what God wants us to be, not allow someone else to make us less than that.

I would be elated if the Be Fair and Be Kind rules were applied regularly to their father by all of my children. But whatever they choose to be, I will continue to reach out to them in love on special occasions to wish them “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas,” and say “I love you!” I’ll try to also remind them that as their heavenly Father loves them unconditionally, so does their earthly father.

Every Christian parent realizes that it take a divine miracle from God to steer a child through life, to faith in a loving God and His Son whom He sent to be our Savior. But miracles are possible with God, not with parents.

Still, kindly treated or not, the Godly father will continue to love his children, and to be what his Creator made him to be.

A father, or anyone, can decide not to let the actions or words of others define him down to less than the person he is willing to be. He can choose the standard of God, not Man, to be both the kind of person and the kind of father he chooses to be. He’s willing to allow God to do the shaping and transforming instead of being conformed by others whose standards fall far short of those acceptable to a holy God.

I have made that choice, because my faith in God’s standards is infinitely greater than any confidence in the standards set by Man.

In my almost 85 years I have seen, photographed, traveled, and written of the world’s seven continents, its oceans, nations, cities, villages, and its peoples. I have found that, almost without exception, the world can provide little in the way of guidance and help in ways that are helpful to me. I have found God’s Word, and His Way through His Son Jesus Christ, to be reliable, true, and a great “help in time of trouble.”

I don’t hold myself out to be so wise that I think “my” way is the only way. But I do think God has allowed me to compare things and people enough, and analyze behavior and its results enough, to make choices and judgments without compromise to my integrity. Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24 NKJV).

So on this Father’s Day, I will do the usual: By telephone, email, or in person if I should be so blessed, I will, God willing, let my children know that I love them. I will let them know that love is unconditional and unchanging. And although they are now in their fifties and sixties, they should know that when they read or hear the words, “I love you very much,” signed “Your loving father,” the love is as deep and as “fatherly’ as it was when they were all young, believing, loving and kind.

I cannot guide them, hold their hands, encourage them, or teach them as I once tried to do. I can’t offer much that they haven’t heard, but I can again share with them and all my readers the following Words for Father’s Day, and After:

Love God,

Honor your Father and Mother,

Love your Family,

Love Yourself,

Forgiveness is Love in its Noblest Form

Be Truthful,

Be Honest,

Be Kind,

Be Fair.

Don’t Demean Anyone

The Rules above provide light and guidance to steer by whether you are in the low valleys of life or on the mountaintops. Applied in faith and with a right heart, they can help transform you into what God intended you to be – and you’ll like the transformation. The alternative is to be conformed to the ways of the world, and you won’t like the shape you’ll be in.