Today is Father's Day here in Australia and it is our family custom, we will be dining somewhere with my immediate family. To feast on a special occasion is a very Chinese thing to do but the celebration of fathers should be universal. As a parent, non-father and as someone's daughter, it has become clearer to me as I grow older, that fathers play an important role in the formation and sustanence of the family unit.
Jennifer Aniston, who gained fame and fortune from her stint in the television series, "Friends", drew criticism recently for suggesting that women did not need men to have children and as there were wide-ranging options available to women. I gather she was making them in the context of her latest venture, The Switch, a rom com about a woman who elects to go for IVF after years of not finding a suitable man.
Fortunately, for most of us, we don't take our cues from Hollywood celebrities. To put it kindly, they lead lives far removed from the rest of us... in the bubble cushioned by their wealth and myriad of choices that accompany that kind of life.
Everyone who knew my mother would say that she was an immensely capable woman. She worked full-time her entire life, gave time to her neighbours, served on various church committees and raised three children with my father. But even she could not have done it all without the help of relatives. It was impossible.
Nonetheless, she is one of my heroes. She was inhumanly energetic... she pushed us when we needed pushing and she had the gift of organizing events and people. Her gift for hospitality was reknowned among colleagues, friends and fellow Christians.
From my father, however, I learnt a lot about the Bible and more importantly I learnt about how to think about the Bible. His knowledge and insights into the Bible, for a layperson, was and still is encyclopedic.
From him, I gained an appreciation of local politics, action films, Doctor Who and all other manner of science fiction television.
From my father... unbeknownst to me at the time, I was introduced to the notion of masculinity... I knew that Mum and Dad were different on a biological level but as also on existential level. Mum was nurturing and craved security... Dad was adventurous and craved challenges.
From my father, I was challenged to think for myself and to think outside the square.
From my father, I had a notion of what a decent man looked like... a picture of the kind of qualities that I needed to look for in a lifelong mate. I understood that although Dad was not perfect, he had been a good role model for his children and those who came under his spiritual care.
From my father, I came to know God... not just about God but God as a real person, alive and at work in the world.
From my father, I have always been challenged to think beyond my own four walls, to the world out there... world missions in particular... and the millions of people out there who haven't heard about the good news of Jesus.
I have noticed a trend of late to denigrate the role of fathers in traditional family groupings. It is no accident that that has come about in concert with moves in our society to redefine the family and marriage. Some suggest that fathers are optional extras or bonus additions... unnecessary in the scheme of things.
No doubt there have been irresponsible men but it seems to me from listening to different people that I know, that fathers have an enormous influence on their children... for ill or for good... conspicuous by their presence and their absence.
Sociological arguments aside, fathers are God's idea and despite all their flaws as recounted vividly and truthfully in the scriptures, God has a definite place for fathers as head of households and as, in modern parlance, life coaches for their families.