The truth is our fathers have all disappointed us in one way or another. Some dads have tragically broken our hearts and left us bruised, bitter or broken, and other dads, pretty decent dads, have let us down in small, but memorable ways.
The father who can’t connect emotionally. The father who broke your heart because he broke your family with his cheating. The father who provided a good home, but was never there. The father who left his family in financial shambles. The father who left the church and made you drag his baggage with him. The father who withheld physical affection. The father who hit you with fists or with words. The father who was there, but just didn’t seem all that interested in being there.
It’s not easy to honor our parents when anger, pain, distance and confusion stand in the way. The natural tendency is to run and hide, or defend, and blame.
And yet, God calls us to honor our parents. Why?
Well, for one thing it's good for you. Honoring your mother and father comes with a blessing, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Living with bitterness and resentment is hard on a body and mind. You suffer the damage from it, and in turn, those in your world suffer from it as well.
So how can we faithfully obey the fifth commandment, even if he doesn’t deserve it?
*Forgive him. Forgiveness means that you choose to wipe away the debt he owes you. Did you know that people who practice conditional forgiveness – in other words, people who can only forgive if others say sorry first or promise not to do the transgression again — may be more likely to die earlier according to a a 2011 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine? (Can we pause for a moment and notice the connection between the science and the blessing)
*Extend mercy. Guess what? We are all flawed and in need of mercy. It breaks my heart to think my kids have memorable ways in which I have harmed them. But, they do. My hope is that they are practicing forgiveness and extending me mercy and being blessed in return.
*Appreciate the good things. We all have wonderful qualities. What are your dad's? I asked some of my friends who shared their hurts with me what goodness they remember about their dad and all were quick to remember and name them. "Unbridled encouragement" "He was always fun to be around" "He came to every recital and competition I had." "He taught me that the glass is always more than half full." Maybe you get your athleticism for him, your gift of music, your ability to tell a good story…. The gifts from him are there.
Happy Father’s Day Dads. We forgive you, love you and are grateful for the gifts you have given us.
~my dad sent me one of his prized golf hats last summer when my hair fell out. Notice the note. My dad is clever and quick and a wonderful story teller. Thanks Dad.~ Xooxoxxo
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."