Father’s Day – 2010
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
I have known many fathers in my years. Each is unique. Each brings his own special gifts to his family, friends, and associates. Some fathers love to hunt and fish. Others are gardeners. Some come home and watch TV. Others get lost in a book. Some pack up their families and go traipsing around the country every chance they get. Others are content to stay in their own community, considering a picnic at the park a fine outing.
Regardless of the particulars of each man’s habits and preferences, there are some characteristics that I think are common among fathers. Probably the first is that they really had no idea what they were getting into by fathering a child. (I must say that in my experience, mothers don’t know this bit of reality in advance either!) Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of men have willingly entered into the path of fatherhood. And then the adventure began …
Fatherhood requires a willingness to be more than the progenitor of another human being. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable and to learn as you go. Parenthood brings out the best and the worst in each of us. We learn as we go along – making mistakes, making amends when possible and doing some things right the first time (even if by accident). We find out what deep darkness can lurk within us. We also find out what depths of patience and love can be tapped, especially if we remember to call for help from the Father of us all. We delight in watching our children discover the world and their own identities. We sorrow with them when they fall and help them get back up and try again. We grieve with them when something precious ends and can’t be regained.
To a child, the father is a powerful figure. He stands so tall and is so strong. He picks us up and twirls us around and the world whirls too. He comes home happy and the household sings. He comes home frustrated and tired and the household … Well, we hope the household reaches out to reassure and comfort him. Doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the ideal. Sometimes he gets angry. Sometimes he laughs when he feels like crying. Sometimes he picks a flower to say, “I love you.” Sometimes he just lets his child crawl all over him and pull at his chin whiskers and ears.
Fathers come in many sizes and shapes. Some are old. Some are young. Once a man becomes a father, he never stops being a father, even if his children move far away or are estranged from him.
Being a father means being vulnerable. Vulnerable to love. Vulnerable to having your heart broken. Vulnerable to losing a precious person. Vulnerable to finding precious meaning in small, everyday ordinary activities.
Vulnerability is not necessarily a bad thing. Only hearts that are open and unshielded can receive the gift of love that is pouring into the world each day, keeping all in existence.
So as we approach Father’s Day and celebrate the lives of the men in our lives who have given their lives to us in so many ways – those who have physically given us life and those who have given us faith, hope and encouragement as “father-figures” or teachers or godfathers – let us be grateful and supportive of them. They have learned and continue to learn the great secret that by opening themselves and becoming vulnerable, they receive the greatest blessings of this life – the love and wonder of sharing in the work of creation with our Father.
Thank you to all of you men who have accepted the joys and challenges of being fathers to your children and to those who have come to you in need of a father’s guidance. May the Lord’s rich blessings be always yours as you do your best to share what you’ve learned and help the next generation along on their journey as well.
Happy Fathers Day!