Rite of Passage: Father’s Day
Father’s Day is almost here—the holiday I dreaded most as a child. There is a huge difference between buying a gift for your mother and for your dad.
When it comes to Mother’s Day, there are no bad choices. No matter what your mom receives, when she looks into your eyes, you know you have bought the world’s most perfect gift. She doesn’t have to speak a word; her expression says it all. And as you stand before her, grinning from ear to ear, she gives you a hug of appreciation.
Sure, your perfect present may be a toilet plunger with a fuzzy cover and rhinestone-studded handle, but your mother lets you know you hit the gift-selection jackpot. Mothers make givers feel important because they value every gift. If I had given my dad the fuzzy bejeweled plunger, I can only imagine his reaction. No eye contact, no hug of appreciation, just an immediate demand for an explanation.
As I was growing up, I always sensed a disparity between what I wanted to give my dad and what I could afford. I longed to buy him one of those rolling Craftsman tool boxes. You know the type: tall, red, with 50 slide-out trays and gleaming wheels that let it glide smoothly across the shop floor. Dad was a mechanic, and he often mentioned how he could use a gift like that.
Every year as Father’s Day approached, Sears marked down the price of these rolling wonders by hundreds of dollars. But even with the deep discounts, I couldn’t afford to buy one for my dad. Since I couldn’t get him what he wanted, I ended up purchasing something I thought was kind of cheesy like a pair of socks, a necktie or a box of handkerchiefs. My dad could have guessed every gift in advance and been 100 percent correct.
As a child, I wanted to please my dad more than anyone else in my life. And of course, I wanted him to like the gifts I chose. This theme continued into my adult life and many of yours, too. Every child wants Daddy’s approval—whether you give him a fuzzy toilet plunger or one in a long series of ugly neckties.
When I turned 15, I wanted to buy a car and Dad wanted to get rid of his old one. This car was a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere, otherwise known as “the tank.” It was the ugliest car ever produced, sporting a three-speed shift on its steering column and a steering wheel as wide as Texas. Another one of its special features was a headliner that kept coming unglued. When the speedometer hit 40 miles an hour, that headliner flapped around like Superman’s cape. The Belvedere’s front bench seat was as wide as any pew in our church, but . . . it was a car. And a 15-year-old boy never cares what his first car looks like. He just wants wheels.
I approached my dad to make a deal. For his Plymouth monstrosity, I would trade him a Sears Craftsman rolling tool box with more drawers than he had tools. Instantly, he stretched out his hand. We had a deal. Striking that bargain gave me a strange satisfaction. It was one of those rare moments when Dad and I approached one another man-to-man.
Did you know the last words of the Old Testament talk about fathers and children? “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6a). One day, there will be a real Father’s Day when God’s Spirit will turn fathers away from building cities, kingdoms and empires and toward building the Kingdom of God within their children. Then, and only then, will the children turn their hearts back to their fathers.
All of us want the heart of our fathers turned toward us. When we don’t receive it, our longing becomes the theme of every movie and every life. And what we don’t get, we will take. Every son sets out to prove his value and worth to his father. After all, if we have a nice house and more possessions than our father, he will have to recognize us, won’t he? Most of the time, though, he doesn’t recognize us at all. And what do we do? We become the same type of dad to our children who in turn have to prove their worth to . . . us.
This Father’s Day, may the gift come not from your children to you but from you to them. Allow your heavenly Father to give you the gift of a changed life. And remember—a changed life changes lives.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827.