By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
I remember when I lost my voice for 18 months back in 1980. I will never forget resigning my job, going on sick leave, driving to the Government Employment office only to find out that my company did not have any long-term disability insurance. In the midst of those devastating experiences, my strongest feeling was that I was disappointing my father. However my dad was not feeling that way at all. He was just concerned that I recover my voice and get back on track. Deep within most of us is this inexpressible desire to please our fathers.
In the early 1980’s, I spent almost five years in Abbotsford, during which time we had our second child. Each week I went to visit the sick in the local hospital. While visiting the psychiatric ward, I met a man who had Anglican and Roman Catholic parents. He said to me that he hadn’t seen a priest in thirty years. Out of the blue, he told me that he never prayed to God. ‘God was too angry’, he said. ‘You just couldn’t talk to him. He would always blow up.’ The man went on to say that he only prayed to the Virgin Mary. ‘She was kind, loving, gentle, and would always listen’, he said.
I said to the man, ‘Does God ever remind you of your earthly father?’. ‘Funny you should say that’, he said. ‘ They are just the same. They never listen and they always blow up at me.’ I went on to say, ‘What about your own mother? Does she remind you of the Virgin Mary?’ His eyes brightened up, and he said to me, ‘You must know my parents. My mother is just like the Virgin Mary. She always listens to me’.
I said to the man, ‘Your problem is not with God. It is with your earthly father. If you are willing to deal with the pain of your relationship to your dad, you will find that you will be able to talk to God.’ A week later, a local psychiatrist phoned me up and informed me that this patient had experienced a major breakthrough in his counseling as a result.
In A.A., they say that you are as sick as your secrets. I would agree, but also add that we are as healthy as our relationship with our fathers. So many men nowadays are caught in painful ambivalence and confusion, because they have never really felt affirmed and blessed by their own fathers. The gift of a healthy father is the gift of courage. The gift of a healthy father is the gift of being willing to lay down our lives, if necessary, for our families. In this age of compromise, I give thanks for my own father who has not been afraid to stand up for his family and his convictions.
Without a father who believes in you, it may be very hard as a teenager to feel that you are going to make it through. They say that teenagers experience most things far more intensely than many adults. Their highs are twice as high and their lows are twice as low. That is why premature sexual intimacy and the usual relational breakups are so deeply devastating for our teenagers. A courageous father does more than just give a condom to his kid. He explains to him the real risk of broken hearts and diseased bodies, as well of the benefits of waiting for real commitment. By our faithfulness to our wives, despite the ups and down of life, we give our children courage to believe that they too can enter faithful lasting relationships. The concept of future marriage for many teenagers and young adults has become filled with so much fear and uncertainty. Yet as Dr. Laura put it, ‘Without commitment, there is no future.’ Courageous fathers give to their sons and daughters the courage to commit to the unknown future.
One of the things I love the most about the North Shore is the beautiful trails that are woven throughout our area. Recently I encountered a neighbour walking his dog. Out of the blue, I said, ‘What is a courageous father?’ He said, ‘Someone who holds down a job and cares for his children’. Simple words, but very true. In this age of compromise, in this pressure-cooker world, so many fathers are tempted to run away from it all. The stress just becomes too much.
I thank God for my own father who never ran from our family during good times and bad, during sickness and health, for better or for worse. I thank God for being the father of the fatherless, the one who gives me courage to not run from stress, who gives me the courage to stand my ground when everything else is falling apart, to stand for truth when many seem to be compromising.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
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