Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

I got to talk in Church today.  Me, of all people, addressing a congregation on Father's Day and speaking about a father's role.  Me, the person who's pretty much all alone in life... both my parents have passed on, I have no siblings, no husband, no really tight ties to extended family (friendly ties, yes... but tight? Not so much.).  I think I'm an odd choice to talk about family relationships.

I had some reference materials suggested, with the disclaimer that I could use any other Church produced material I wanted, and I used the 2 suggested Ensign articles to prepare my talk early in the week.  Thinking "Whew!! That's done." I metaphorically wiped my brow and went about my week.  But something just felt off whenever I thought about the talk.  So I revised.  Then I rewrote.  And then revised some more.  It still didn't feel right.  Finally, late last night I tore up all my notes and jotted down the thoughts that are in my heart and that's the talk I gave...

If we pause and take a good long hard look at the world today, we can clearly see that Satan is working overtime creating havoc with the family and trying to enslave the souls of men.  His main target, more and more often, is the family.   Sadly sometimes it looks like he is winning this battle.  We see grim facts on the news and among many families around us as increased crime, behavior disorders, poverty, drug abuse and a long long list of other societal problems.

In April 2004, Elder L. Tom Perry remarked, “It appears to me that the crosshairs of Satan’s scope are centered on husbands and fathers.”

Why would that be so?  Why would Satan specifically target the men in our lives and our relationships with them?

I personally believe it is because our relationship with our earthly father is a mirror for our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  In a sense, we, as children, learn how to relate to Heavenly Father by how our fathers relate to us.  Think about it for a moment… if you are close to your father and have an open and attentive and loving relationship with him, then it is easy to recognize and feel an open, attentive and loving relationship with Heavenly Father.  If you didn’t have that relationship with your earthly father; if it was distant or tense, for example; you’ve never learned to receive that fatherly attention.  You may want it desperately but not recognize it or know quite how react to it.

My dad... from a wedding picture. October 1962.
I would say that is true in my own situation.  My parents married late and tried right away to start a family.  I ended up their one-shot wonder... an only child. My dad was disappointed that I was a girl… he wanted a boy to teach to hunt and fish and wrestle and play football and whatever other rough and tumble things you do with boys.  And then he got me.  I know that he loved me and I’m in no way saying that he didn’t or that he was a bad man.  Quite the contrary… he was a good man who worked very hard to see that we had the things we needed but he didn’t know how to relate to all the lace and ruffles and baby dolls and teddy-bear tea parties that go with having a little girl and so he held back and left raising me mostly to my mom.  Because he wasn’t a strong presence in my younger life, I feel like I don’t know how to have a close and tender fatherly relationship.  And that sometimes leaves me feeling like Heavenly Father is distant and unconcerned with me.

That’s a lot to overcome.  Satan manipulates circumstances to reinforce that that feeling of estrangement and whispers to dismiss the times when the relationship is good and healthy and working properly as fleeting.  I wish his lies weren't so easy to believe!!

Fortunately, there are other fathers we can look to for examples.  Grandparents, uncles, friends, teachers... There are many of you right here in this room that I observe on a weekly basis caring for and loving your children.  You give me joy when I see you so involved with your little ones.  You give me hope when I see you relating in a positive and loving way with your teens and them mirroring that back to you with respect and adoration.  And in all honesty, you make me more than a little bit jealous when I see you look at your wife with love and honor and respect in your eyes.  So many of you are doing so many things right.  And, sadly, you hear so much criticism and condemnation for your role as a father.  I think it’s time we recognize, encourage and support you!

Not just on Father’s Day but every day.

In this life there are things that matter and things that don’t.  Fathers… YOU matter.

One of the reference articles Brother Embry asked me to use was by A. Theodore Tuttle and was printed in the December 1971 Ensign.  At the beginning of it, he shares the following analogy: “Some years ago, I read an editorial in the Deseret News entitled “The Mechanical Rabbit.” I quote:

“Most of our readers must have smiled the other day when they read of the greyhounds in Britain who don’t know a rabbit when they see one. So long had they chased a mechanical rabbit around the racetrack, that when a real rabbit bounded across the track, the dogs didn’t give it a second look.

“Stupid, eh? But sad too, this perverting of the natural instincts...

“We chase mechanical rabbits, too.

“We chase paychecks, and don’t give a second look to the glint of the rising sun on a snow-topped peak.

“We chase our way through the appointments of a crowded desk calendar, and fail to take time to chat with the next-door neighbor or to drop in on a sick friend.

“We chase social pleasures on a glittering noisy treadmill—and ignore the privilege of a quiet hour telling bedtime stories to an innocent-eyed child.

“We chase prestige and wealth, and don’t recognize the real opportunities for joy that cross our paths...

Wordsworth said words appropriate to this condition: “The world is too much with us: late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

“Race on, you poor, blind over-civilized hounds. You’ll never catch your rabbit until you learn to recognize a genuine one.

“But, you’ll have company in your race; the company of unnumbered men who’ll never catch the joy they chase until they, too, learn to recognize a genuine one.”

This points up our challenge: See “that the things that matter most … are not at the mercy of things that matter least.” (Ashley Montague.)

Fathers… YOU matter.  Your influence in the lives of your children, and even other children – like me, matters.  As does your loving presence.  A close relationship between father and child is high on the list of things that matter most!  Your example helps me to repair my relationship with Heavenly Father and that’s at the top of my list of things that matter most!

If you ever start to doubt that you matter, consider this quote from The First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles that's been used in articles, videos and pamphlets for at least 5 decades now:
“The title father is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as Father.”
You, fathers, have big shoes to fill.  And I give you my respect, honor, admiration and support in building these most important eternal relationships and wish you a most happy and blessed Father’s Day!

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