I’m writing this in Moscow as I prepare to speak here three times over the weekend. I recall an incident that moved me deeply when I was here three years ago. It was at the break of dawn as I was getting my bags packed to leave for the airport. There was a knock on the door. Rather mystified, I called my colleague to come and check who it could be at that hour. A man who felt quite convicted the night before wanted a few minutes of my time before I left. He said two things.
First, he had a small bag of food. “I knew you were leaving early and wouldn’t have time for breakfast, so I prepared some breakfast for you to eat in the car.” An amazing gesture. I gave him a hug. But then came his story. I had shared in my message that I’d had a troubled relationship with my dad. But God had changed my life and my father’s life, and God saw fit that I was the last one with him before he passed away at the age of 67. We were at peace for what God had done in healing our hearts.
This man told me that he had the same issue, except he was the father. He had wronged his son. Hearing God’s voice the night before, he was heading straight to his son’s house to ask for forgiveness and rebuild that relationship.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching
That took a lot of courage to admit. The restoration of a relationship is a miracle God offers. Few things in life are as beautiful as that. Going through a valley together makes the mountain air more inspiring. Being a father is not easy. Every one of us has a dad. We all need that arm of fatherly encouragement and motherly nurture. Life has a balance of disposition providing for our every need.
Proverbs chapter 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The next verse says, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”
These two beautiful verses take you from teaching to worship, from knowledge to the adornment of a life. It is always in that sequence, from the head to the heart. Inner worship must precede outer splendour.
Seeing that verse afresh reminded me of a prominent leader in our country who said that when he was young, he wanted so much to be like his youth pastor who wore a cross around his neck. He kept asking the pastor to get him one. One day, he got a most fitting reply. “You must have it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” That changed the young man’s life.
The heart is the bedrock to all adornment. The cross is the most beautiful gift we can offer our children. When the cross has conquered the heart, the heartbeat connects to the father’s rhythm. In a world dizzy with hate and confusion, the last hope we have is the home.
In our home in Delhi, we had a plaque on the wall that read,
Christ is the head of this home,
The unseen guest at every meal,
The silent listener to every conversation.
As a Hindu friend of mine kept looking at it, he said, “That is not quite right. If he is the head of the home, he can’t be a guest. It should say, ‘The unseen host at every meal.’” He was right.
May God on this Father’s Day move from being a guest to the host in our homes. The father of our fathers. We must teach our children to whom we really belong.
Two very unique persons showed me a father’s heart before they passed away. Nick Charles, the first sports anchor on CNN (in 1980), was a dear and special friend. I officiated at his wedding. Suddenly stricken with cancer, he died in 2011, five days shy of his 65th birthday. As we had our last dinner together in Santa Fe, New Mexico, his biggest concern was his daughter who was just five years old at that time. He was in anguish as to how she would make it. The same concern was expressed by my colleague Nabeel Qureshi. He died at age 34 while his only child, a daughter, was still a little one. In the last lunch we had in Houston before his passing, his biggest heartache was how his daughter would do without her father.
A father’s heart is often not as transparent as a mother’s. But when life hits its last milestone, the father can no longer mask any emotion.
This is a reminder of life and of how much we need our heavenly Father. On this Father’s Day, may I call upon all dads to love our heavenly Father and to love our children and their offspring as our heavenly Father would have us love them. Only in the gospel do we have both the Father and the Son working together to bring us into God’s family through the power of the Holy Spirit. That miracle reflects the splendor of why we exist and how a relationship with God is at the heart of God’s call.
The Welsh poet R.S. Thomas said it best in “The Coming”:
And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.
The songwriter, almost in response, says,
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
Our heavenly Father’s invitation to us is to receive the Son He sent to us to rule in our hearts. From the beginning, God was and is a Being in relationship. That is how He has made us to be. It’s time for fathers to take a stand and be counted as those in a God-ordained relationship. That is their defining identity.
Happy Father’s Day.