While I usually prefer the scripture readings of the day as the subject when it’s my turn to write this letter I find this time that it’s Father’s Day, and specifically some of what my dad taught me that are on my mind. Perhaps some of what is in the day’s readings will connect.
I’m not a perfect dad by any means, nor, in spite of my best efforts, a perfect grandfather. It turns out I wasn’t a perfect son either. For that matter – spoiler alert – my dad is also imperfect. But I remember as a young boy when my dad was with me in a challenging situation, I always felt protected. The middle part of today’s first reading has the prophet Jeremiah (after complaining about how he is mistreated as a result of his obedience to God by all who surround him) expressing complete confidence in the Lord:
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
This is how I hope those of us who are dads and grandfathers are experienced by those we try to love and nurture and protect, at least in our best moments. For those whose fathers did not give you that gift, know that Jesus, the perfect son of the perfect father grieves with you. And he asks his Father to be with you, to be your mighty champion.
One lesson my dad taught me early on was to always be the first to apologize, the first to ask forgiveness, because restoring the relationship is more important than being right. Dad didn’t just preach this, he lived it, and modeled it, time and time again.
I have tried to treat my kids and grandkids the same way (in fact, I hope I treat everyone that way). God knows I’ve had lots of opportunities to apologize and try to repair relationships. I’m grateful for my dad’s humble example as a way forward, over and over again.
But what about when I am in the right, when I am truly the one who “has the right” to be offended? I’ve found that to be hollow comfort or none at all, compared to reconciling with the other person. Often when I make the first conciliatory move, then we can talk honestly about whatever the conflict was in an atmosphere where the tension and anger have been discharged. But not always. Sometimes I, or the other person, just can’t or won’t have that conversation. In that case, I’ve been taught to pray for the other person and not that God “change” them to suit me. Then the resentment which poisons only me when I carry it can recede and I can be free. Do I do this perfectly, every time? Not at all. But it’s a path my dad (and other mentors) have taught me that I’ve found useful, so I share it with you.