Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.
June 18, 2017 (Father’s Day)
Text: Ephesians 5:1, Old Testament: Psalm 145, New Testament: Ephesians 6:1-4
Today we honor our fathers. Many of us will give gifts or share a family meal remembering what your Dad is for you. Have you ever received a thank you from your father on this day? What if you did? It might sound like this:
Thank you for remembering Father’s Day. I appreciate your thoughtfulness very much. You can be sure that I will always remember your gratitude.
I know this note might come as a shock to you. I’ve not been one to express my feelings. Neither am I one for writing notes – as you know.
In fact, as I think about it, I can only remember writing something to you on one occasion. I’m sorry I haven’t written more. But, perhaps this note will explain my affection for you.
Generally, I’m used to letting other people speak for me – as I’m sure you know about your father by now. It’s not that I can’t speak for myself or don’t want to share my thoughts. You know I don’t discuss things with you too often. It’s just that I believe actions speak louder than words.
Still, I sense this is the time to tell you some of what’s been on my mind over these many, many years. Perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age.
First, let’s just say it and go on – I love you. Now I know I haven’t said that enough. I also know that you feel I’ve been away from you quite a bit. Work always seems to get in the way of family time.
I admit that when I am with you, I often seem distant. I suppose you wonder about me. I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, yesterday, today, and forever – I love you.
Even if it seems like I’m away from you, I’ve always been trying to provide for you. You see, that’s how I show my love. I know it bothers you that you’ve often felt alone to deal with your problems. You’ve been pretty angry about it too from time to time. I understand your anger.
I could tell you that it’s just the way my work is. When you’re providing for your loved ones, the task of providing gets in the way of the time for loving. But that would be hiding behind the demands of work and I’m not about to make excuses. Besides, it’s just not true.
I’m a multi-tasker. Every day I take care of problems you don’t and can’t see. Quite honestly and truthfully, even when I seem distant to you, I’m always there for you. Yes, even when you felt most alone.
In those darkest hours when you cried for me afraid I wasn’t there, I was right beside you. I remember watching you from the shadows of your room when you were an infant. You thought I wasn’t there. You couldn’t see me. Great big tears filled your frightened eyes. I could have reached for you and comforted you. You had to trust I was with you, even when you couldn’t see me. Perhaps now you know what I saw from watching you. Fear can prevent you from trusting me.
Perhaps that’s why, as you grew older, a gap seemed to develop between you and me. Certainly it wasn’t because you hated me; although at times your anger seemed that way. No, at first it seemed like you were afraid that I wouldn’t be there when you needed me.
Then, as you grew older, it seemed that you were afraid that I wouldn’t let you live your own life. You struggled – wanting freedom from what you thought was my control of your life. You wanted to walk your own path, not mine. That was an awkward time for both of us – a very painful time.
I knew you needed freedom to learn the responsibility of making decisions on your own. I gave you freedom to make your own decisions. I always try to be the best father I can be. But when you struck out on your own, you ignored much of what I tried to teach you. You didn’t trust me and what I had taught you. It was painful for me to watch you struggle as you had to experience the consequences of your decisions – both good and bad.
I was caught between trying to shield you from the pain and suffering you would endure when you made decisions against my guidance, and letting you learn from your experience the truth about poor decision-making. It was when you experienced consequences that you would learn to accept the truth in what I taught.
You wanted freedom to experience life for yourself. I wanted that for you. But you were influenced by people who didn’t have your best interest in mind. You couldn’t see it. They convinced you their advice was better than mine.
Although I couldn’t publicly say it, or haven’t ever shared this with you before, I felt betrayed.
It was hard – very, very hard. At times it seemed like we were millions of miles away from each other. At other times you struggled right before me, searching for help without asking me for help. When you realized you weren’t getting any help from the friends you thought you could trust, you got mad at me. Your eyes gave away the feelings in your heart. A father sees many things, whether or not you’re aware of it.
Maybe you tried so hard to make your own way because you didn’t feel I was home enough. You were determined to show me that if I didn’t need you, you didn’t need me.
You set out to prove that you didn’t need me or my love. That if I couldn’t express it to you or show it for you, you would make sure I wouldn’t go looking for you to show your love to me.
I take responsibility for that: that’s part of being a father.
But I hope you will always know that despite all the pain that has been between us, it doesn’t stop me from loving you. I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you.
Most of all, I forgive you.
Now that may seem like a ridiculously magnanimous remark coming from someone who has seemed so far away from you. But I say this knowing that I have offered you forgiveness for a long time. Thousands of years in fact.
Forgiveness is the well-spring of life. Life begins again for those you love when you forgive them. Forgiveness overcomes the past. It is a new beginning. If love is the first thing I’ve tried to give you by providing for you what you need, forgiveness is the second. You will never find happiness without giving and receiving forgiveness.
There were years when you thought my judgment was too severe. Yet you tried so hard to follow my rules that you began fighting with your siblings. You tried to please me by your obedience to my rules. But your undying devotion to me led you to battle with your family that you should have loved.
I invested countless years showing you how being a parent requires more than just judgment, more than just discipline and punishment. It was challenging to wait for you to learn about my love for you.
I watched you fight to gain my attention. I watched your brother, my Son, die because of your passion to do right by me. Or was it your disobedience that you were showing me?
As painful as that was, more punishment wasn’t the answer for what happened to my Son. He suffered enough punishment for everyone. It pained me that His death was needed for you to understand my forgiveness. That was, is, and will always be my judgment.
Forgiveness is the key to any true and just judgment – that is, any judgment based on love. What I want you to understand more than anything else about your father is this: being a father is more than being a judge, a ruler, condemning children to punishment. Being a father provides children what they need to live.
Being a father is to love your children who stray from your path and try over zealously to be like the judge they think their father is. Being a father is to cry with your children at their awareness of their failings. Being a father is to lift your children when they fall. Being a father is to inspire your children to begin life again with a new appreciation for how to overcome their past.
On this Father’s Day, I want to affirm again that first and foremost I love you. Second and more importantly, l forgive you. I want you to find happiness. You will find it when you love and forgive.
My love, my forgiveness, means nothing to you if you don’t or won’t share it with your brothers and sisters. Life isn’t built on fear or anger. Neither can the world be a better place when fear and anger dominate your heart. If you want your children to enjoy life, remember the lessons from your father.
Perhaps now, more than any other time I remember, my wish for you is to bless your brothers and sisters with your love. They aren’t rivals for my attention. Neither are they competitors for my blessings. I love all of you equally.
Don’t shy away from this charge to you because I want it for you. Want this for yourself because you know it to be true. The days of our “generation gap” need to end. I think we both know each other better than we once did.
Understand this – what father wants his family to destroy itself? It would be a neglectful father who idly watches his children’s relationships be devastated.
When you are squabbling with each other, remember there is great value in giving yourself for each other. Your brother showed you this long ago. He died so you would love one another. Don’t be afraid to love your siblings. Give thanks for each other continually. I’ve been with you every step of your life, even when you were blinded from my presence. You must be there for each other.
When you love your brothers and sisters, you are showing me your love. Your love for our family contributes most to my happiness.
This is a special day. Your thoughtfulness to be with me today means more than you will ever know. Love one another as you love me. What more could a father ask?
Blessings and love to you my dear children,
Your Father – forever