There is a photo of me with my father taken when I was a small child. We are on George St. in Sydney at night, probably a Saturday. My parents had taken me into the city, I am told, because I liked the city lights. I have a vague recollection: all the brightness and bustle was somewhat overwhelming, but I was secure. Daddy had my hand.
That is something we want from ‘fathers’ – the encouragement to enter into bigger, exciting, more challenging experiences, while experiencing the support we need to face the unknown. To achieve this is one of the great balancing acts of parenting: encouraging a child (or adolescent or adult) to grow through new experiences yet offering support that does not stifle.
God as ‘Father’ is one of the primary images of our Christian faith. Too often, this image just presents God as a caring, supportive figure. But God also challenges us and often with a sharp jolt, which leads to the complaint, “Why has God done this to me?” Because God wants us to grow up. If we make the radical mental shift and start asking what is positive in the situations we perceive as negative, our lives will become richer and more loving. By asking, ‘What can I learn from this?’, we allow God to take us by the hand and help us transform the dark places of our lives with life-giving light.
Loving God, as I face the challenges that come to me, accepting your support, may I learn how to teach my child/ren to face difficulties with courage and creativity. May your Spirit inspire us to the fullness of life Jesus offers. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Mark Webber, a former Formula One driver, stated that he wouldn’t become a father while he pursued his passion for racing as that would have been too unfair to his children. My father, a petrolhead and excellent rally driver, would have understood that. But he chose the kids. As he watched the cars roar round the track, he would moan ‘I could have been an F1 champion’. And we believed him (of course we did, we were his kids.) And Mum would put him down with: “or dead,” (of course she did, she was his wife). Great as Dad’s passion was, we knew we were more important. I know many men who have given up pursuing passions because it wouldn’t be good for their families. That is part of the sacrifice and discipline of being a father.
Dad had other passions to share: his love of the surf he passed on to every one of us; his love of the bush, his work ethic. Finding another passion that can be shared with your children is part of the sacrifice and discipline of being a father.
Passion, discipline, sacrifice – they sound like great words and they are – they are three of the important qualities of being a father. But when they are lived out they can look very ordinary, like Dad’s moan that he ‘could have been the champion’. Fathers’ love, like God’s love, usually works very quietly, hidden under the routines of daily life. This Father’s Day let us take time to recognise and celebrate not just our fathers but all the men who show their passion in simple, ordinary ways.
God our Father, send us your Spirit that we may recognise the people through whom you show your love. Give our fathers passion, discipline and a spirit of sacrifice that they can truly mirror your love to us. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb