Today we celebrate two types of dads — our human fathers in all of their imperfection, and our heavenly father whose guidance and love is perfect. Between these two poles lie the journey of life, and the goal of being fathers of faith ourselves.

In the first sense, research confirms what our intuitions already tell us, that actively engaged fathers are essential to the development of healthy personal foundations.
Even from birth, children with involved dads tend to be emotionally secure, gain confidence to explore their surroundings, and develop healthy social connections as they grow up. Sigmund Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” This is all good, except that even the very best fathers fall well short of these ideals. This is where our heavenly father comes in. As we come to know God’s love, you could say it redeems and completes the foundations of our lives built by our parents. This is a bold vision of life because it doesn’t leave us in a fatalistic dead-end as unfinished products of human labor. It takes the pressure off our own dads and, through understanding and forgiveness, gives us a clear path ahead.

Our heavenly father also provides a goal for us as fathers ourselves. As we see and taste God’s love and forgiveness, we experience what we seek to pass onto our own kids — love, acceptance, protection, friendship, empathy, joy, adventure and challenge. This is the strong hope of the Christian vision. That as we journey deeper into God’s presence, we get to pick up what our fathers have handed to us, and pass onto our children something better. That’s the generational blessing of being part of God’s family and learning the rhythms of forgiveness that he offers us. In short, knowing our heavenly father puts our earthly fathers, as well as our own gift of fatherhood, into clearer perspective.

The late, great Jonny Cash sums up this bigger perspective in “A Boy Named Sue”:
I got all choked up and I threw down my gun, Called him my Pa, and he called me his son
And I come away with a different point of view,
And I think about him, now and then, Every time I try and every time I win
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him Bill or George; anything but Sue. I still hate that name!

Mark Twain puts this journey into understanding like this: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in 7 years”! So, today, we raise a toast to our dads — for all the sacrifices, for all the dangerous adventures and fun, and for all the love and protection they’ve given us. And we thank our heavenly father for his perfect love, and the vision and power he gives us to be better men and better dads.

Rev Jonny Grant