Honoring God by Honoring an Absentee Father.

When your dad has left your family behind and moved on, Father’s Day can feel a little awkward.  It’s sometimes hard to know what you should do because you may not want to do anything except maybe, well…  I’m reminded of the character Gary from the movie Parenthood (The movie starring Steve Martin, not the stupid series where everyone talks over the top of everyone else).  Gary was played by a young Joaquin Phoenix – although in the movie he’s credited as Leaf Phoenix.  Gary was about 13 and couldn’t understand why his Dad kept ignoring him and pushing him away.  Finally Gary understood that his Dad didn’t want Gary to be a part his new family.  Gary broke down and then broke into his Dad’s dentist office.  He tore the place up.  Gary did what many others have wished they could do.  Gary acted out on his deep hurt.  Most people just internalize it and let it poison them.  The hurt turns to bitterness.

I have been asked a question by some of my friends. Friends who know me pretty well. The question usually sounds like this “How can you have such a good attitude toward your Dad when he’s seemingly walked away and never looked back?”  One of my good friends who has both a son and a daughter said “As a dad, I just don’t see how a dad can walk away from his kids. I just don’t understand it at all”. My response has always been “I don’t either”.  For me personally, it’s foreign to my thinking.

When I think about myself, I think about how I try always to be a good guy. I work constantly to be a good example of what a good husband and father should be. In my life in general, my intentions are always good and I try not to do harm to anyone, ever. I try to be all the encouragement I can be. I unfortunately haven’t always been successful. I have sometimes “fleshed out” and been selfish. I have done and said things that have hurt people. I know I have. It may have been completely unintentional, or it may have been a stupid, short sightedness decision on my part that left someone else hurting, or in some cases it was intentional. I got my feelings hurt and reacted badly, saying & doing things on purpose that hurt others. It has happened. I have hurt people.

position open clearWe have a tendency to judge others by their outcome but judge ourselves by our intentions. Because of this we tend to put each other through the ringer. If I take an honest look at myself and my good intentions and I still manage to hurt people, even when I’m trying not to, then aren’t all of us are capable of hurting others?  That would include fathers, wouldn’t it?

I don’t believe for a minute that my Dad intended to hurt me or my brothers & sisters. He didn’t start his marriage off with my mom with the intention of blowing it up after a little over a decade. I am confident that he started off with boatloads of hope and a desire to build a life. He wants what we all want; to be happy. I suspect that  we were all just collateral damage in his pursuit of happiness.

As I said, I don’t believe that he intended to hurt us. That being said, I do think that he knows that he has. He doesn’t contact any of us. I’m not sure why.   I have had contact with some folks who do have contact with him though, and they say he’s a great guy. He’s well liked and influential. He’s the kind of guy that would help out someone in need. He’s a good guy. Because of that, it wouldn’t be right or honorable for me to judge him based only on my lack of experience with him.

Hugh BeaumontWe have a tendency to exalt the position of father and I don’t think that’s a mistake. I believe with all my heart that society is having many of the problems it is having primarily because of the absence of good fathers in the home. A father should be continually endeavoring to be all the father that God has created him to be. Unfortunately, we are filling these exalted positions with mere men. Mere men experience temptation, have fears, baggage, brokenness, issues, prejudices and some have an unresolved past. There was only one Ward Cleaver, and he was fiction (though I admire Hugh Beaumont quite a bit).

We have a tendency to judge others by their outcome but judge ourselves by our intentions.

Here’s what I do know.

I can’t govern myself based on how anyone does or doesn’t act toward me. I have to govern myself based on who I am. That’s really the bottom line. People have a tendency to live in a state of reaction to what others are doing. Because of this, when others aren’t particularly kind, people will retaliate or completely withdraw. People have a “You hurt me so I’m going to hurt you back” attitude without thinking that the other people are probably at least attempting to make the best decisions possible and that they may not be intentionally hurting you.

My responses to my Dad are a direct reflection, NOT of who he is, but of who I AM. If I’ve gone to God’s Word and discovered what His idea of a husband and a father is, and then I’ve conformed my life to it, then my actions should show it. If I have endeavored to be a man of honor, a man of integrity, a man of humility, a man who knows how to submit to authority, if I have become the best man I can be, then my actions should reflect only that.

Thank God that He (God) didn’t respond to us based on who we are. Instead, His actions show who He is.

Because of who He is, He loves us and gave His only begotten Son for us, all while we were yet sinners. (click here for more info).  If He can do that for us, then if we will draw near to Him and allow Him, He will build in us the character of a godly man or woman. Then we can look at a father who has not been there; a father who may have been abusive, a father who has struggled to be a father, and we can respond from what’s on the inside, Godly love and compassion.

My encouragement for you:

If your Dad is no longer with you, you can still do most of this advice.  Remember, this really comes down to you, not him and even if you have the best dad on planet Earth, you can still do this.

  • Fortify yourself. Get into God’s Word & allow God to reveal Himself to you and to build into you good, sturdy, Godly Love. This will strengthen you against hurt feelings and allow you to come into every situation from a position of strength based on God’s Love. Then only respond from that.  Remember, Honoring your Father is something you do for the rest of your life, not his.  Because honor is in the way you live. It’s a reflection of who you are more than what you do.
  • Cut him some slack. He’s a man. He’s got flaws just like you. There are no exceptions to God’s command to honor our fathers & mothers.  His behavior doesn’t let you off the hook.
  • Pray for your Dad. Get a picture of him and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Pray Colossians 1:9-11 for him every day. This is a Holy Spirit inspired prayer that Paul prayed for the Colossian church.  The reason the Holy Spirit would inspire such a prayer is because He wants to answer it.  We can have confidence that this is the will of God.  Below is this passage from the God’s Word translation. You can print it out & tape it near the picture on your mirror.  That way you’ll be reminded every day. Then continually thank God for working in your dad’s life.

Col 1:9 For this reason we have not stopped praying for you since the day we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through every kind of spiritual wisdom and insight.

Col 1:10 We ask this so that you will live the kind of lives that prove you belong to the Lord. Then you will want to please him in every way as you grow in producing every kind of good work by this knowledge about God.

Col 1:11 We ask him to strengthen you by his glorious might with all the power you need to patiently endure everything with joy.

Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Honoring God by Honoring an Absentee Father.

  1. Neil Kingsley says:

    Excellent insight and perspective from a position that would normally produce bitterness.

  2. Mary says:

    Art, this is very well written. I am so proud of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *