One of the major changes when we moved to Virginia has been the bus stop. In New York, my daughter was one of two kids who were at the same bus stop. Now, there are easily 20-25 kids who board the bus. That means I get to see all kinds of family dynamics. Parents who have to work, and so entrust a grandparent or nanny to accompany their child. Children of divorce, whose parents take turns waiting at the bus stop. Parents who wait in the car so they can jet off to the next obligation, and parents who walk with their kids. What I have especially liked about the bus stop is watching the dads with their children. So often, dads get a bad rep. Historically, the role of fathers was to be the primary income-earner of families. Whatever time or energy was left to be hands-on with the kids was limited. But that is not the case with the dads at this bus stop. I see high-fives, big hugs, and kisses. I hear pep talks about good behavior, and the words, “I love you.” There is even one young boy who regularly jumps out of the bus line to run back to his dad for one more hug and an “I love you,” before getting back in line. I have even seen this same kid shout from the top of the steps a warm, “I love you, Dad!!”
Watching the boys with their dads has really shaken up my concept of what fatherhood can look like (not that I do not have examples of that kind of affection in my own circle – I just do not always see it in other circles). The challenge is that not everyone gets that kind of dad. That is probably why Father’s Day is so hard for me. I do not dislike the holiday because I have ill feelings toward my own father. In fact, that relationship has been quite positive. I have even added similarly positive relationships with a step-father, father-in-law, and my husband, who is now a father too. But being a pastor means I am fully aware of the pastoral implications of such holidays – those for whom Father’s Day this Sunday will be quite difficult. Whether your father was absent or abusive, your father died recently, or whether you always wanted to be a father but did not get the opportunity, Father’s Day can be a painful day of reminder instead of an occasion for joy. It can be a reminder of all the times you wanted to say or hear, “I love you,” and were denied the opportunity.
For those of you for whom Father’s Day is a mishmash of emotions, I offer you this prayer. May it be a source of comfort, encouragement, and compliment. May love find its way to you this Sunday.
A Pastoral Prayer for Father’s Day[i]
Loving and Merciful God, whose power is beyond our scope and whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, we turn to you in faith assured that you know our every emotion and are aware of our every need. Our thoughts and prayers today are turned towards our fathers.
For those whose fathers have increased the joy in their lives, we give you thanks.
For those whose father’s presence is greatly missed may we take time to gratefully recall all they have given to us, providing for us in our growing.
For those who have recently lost or who are facing the imminent loss of their own fathers, may they find comfort in their grief, hope in their despair, courage in the love that their fathers have given them.
We give thanks, God, for those good men who sustain and support us in our living, who love us no matter what! What a blessing they are to all who know them!
We give thanks to you, O God, for all those whose gift for fatherhood is so strong that they have allowed their caring to spill over into the lives of others providing the guidance and stability, the nurture and the love needed.
How distressing it is for us to consider that not all fathers have been good fathers. We pray, compassionate God, for those whose father has been a source of hurt and pain, for all those for whom one or more members of their family has caused them to suffer. May their wounds be healed. May they find in you, in us, in others, the nurturing, sustaining love that is needed for their growth and well-being.
We recall with sadness fathers who are separated from their children through life choices made by them or others. Give them the insight and wisdom, the courage and perseverance to parent in whatever creative and life-giving ways are open to them. Give them the courage to make the decisions which allow their children to prevail.
We remember before you single fathers and mothers who struggle to be both parents to their children –to provide all the emotional, physical and spiritual needs without the constant support of a spouse. May they find the strength, the courage and wisdom for their task.
We pray for those fathers whose relationships with their children have been difficult or disappointing. We pray, too, for those who have been denied a chance to be fathers, and for those whose years of parenting have been cut short by the loss of a child. We turn to You, most holy God, knowing, trusting that you can console where consolation seems impossible. May they receive comfort for their soul and peace and hope for living, that their gifts may not be denied to others.
Finally, O God, we rejoice with you, at the many fine men, who have taken their place as fathers with open hearts, with willingness and joy.
And we join all fathers everywhere in praying that their children may be well and happy, a source of joy for years to come.
Hear our prayers this day, O God, and give to us such assurance of your love that your love may spill from us into the lives of others. Amen.
[i] The Rev. Jenny Sprong, June 13, 2016, as found at http://dentalmethodist.blogspot.com/2013/06/pastoral-prayer-for-fathers-day.html on June 15, 2016.