Away on Father’s Day

My dear kids, thanks for making me a dad.

I’ve been a father for 19 years now, thanks to you, and this is the first Father’s Day that I’ve had to be away from you. It’s lame but necessary. But like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day isn’t about a day on a calendar, it’s about pausing to consider what this fathering thing is really all about.

I hope you know that if there is no ideal dad out there. There’re lots of good ones. You’ve seen some quality dads when hanging out with your friends. I’m glad that you’ve seen that there’s more to this than what I’ve offered. I’ve been trying my best to do this Dad thing well, but, my take on it has had all kinds of imperfections mixed with good intentions.

As your dad, I changed a lot of diapers. I have gotten up in the middle of the night (even recently) and have done all kinds of things previous generations considered mom work. And I’m grateful I had the chance to do them all. It has been my joy to serve you.

Like many dads, I taught you to ride bikes and throw balls. I’ve coached many of your soccer and volleyball and basketball teams (until you outgrew my coaching skills). I showed you how to put up tents and start campfires. I’ve schooled you in the art of puns and jokes to amuse every audience. I’ve helped you with homework and demanded housework. (You’ll thank me for the last part some day.)

I’ve loved watching you grow and learn and, in many cases, become better at so many things that I am. You each have skills that blow me away. May your hearts grow to exceed mine as well.

I wish I were a better husband, so that you, my sons, would know better how to treat your future wives; so that you, my daughter, would know how your future husband ought to treat you. Being a spouse, like being a parent, is about giving your life away. I hope you remember the times I’ve done that and chalk up my selfishnesses as negative lessons, showing you what not to do.

But if there’s anything I hope I’ve done well, I hope that it’s been pointing you to a much better Father.

I hope my many failings highlight our heavenly Father’s perfections. My lack of patience and kindness, his eternal mercies and grace; my weaknesses and limitations, his strength and sufficiency.

I hope that the imperfections in my faith may not turn you away from our Father, shaking your heads at my hypocrisies (and you are quite aware of the gaps between my words and my deeds). Rather, I hope it shows you that if our Lord can love and use a flawed one such as me, he certainly loves you in your own flaws and has purposes for you that go beyond your failures.

In my smallness, I hope you see the Father’s vastness. In my humiliations, his glory.

In my stuttering, tripping way, I have tried to love each of you differently — in ways that match the unique people God has made each one of you, not in some mechanical one-size-fits-all approach. From the outside, that may look like favoritism at times, but that’s OK. Each one of you is my favorite when I am alone with you and all my attention is focused on being there and with you. The words I’ve said and the gifts I’ve given have been for you and you alone.

I hope you each know my particular devotion to you that is unduplicated with anyone else. You are unmatched in this world.

Emett, Lydia, Josiah, Matthias. I love you fiercely. I wish I were with you today, but that’s OK. There’s nowhere you can go that will take you outside the reach of my love.