given on June 20, 2010
Here it is Fathers Day and the summer days are upon us. This is one of those holidays that following traditional expectations which we have grown up following makes it hard to think a bit differently. Fathers Day can also be a difficult day for many, also. If we were doing a word association drill, we would say, “What comes to mind when you hear ‘Fathers Day’?” I know that my list includes tie, barbeque, family dinners, cards, napping, and fishing.
The NOOMA video presents some of the toughest decisions we make as parents. The kids ask for more and more, yet we cannot provide for every wish, nor should we. But that relationship, a son dependent upon a dad—or parent—can also be an analogy, or a comparison, to our relationship with God.
This Fathers Day, since most of us have raised our kids and even grandchildren, let’s reflect on God, our Father. Are we in a child-father relationship with God? Are we learning from our Father as our children learned from us? Are we rebelling against God just like our teenagers rebelled against us? Are we old enough now to reflect on our life lessons and evaluate how God was a part of that lesson?
While we raised our kids, we know exactly what Rob Bell experienced as he walked the mall with his son. All the exciting toys, clothes, videos, and candy are so alluring, but we knew our kids should not have everything they wanted right then and there. As parents, we know we have to teach our kids that immediate gratification of a want or desire is not always the best decision. Sometimes waiting or working for something increases the value, too. And, there are the times, when parents know that a painful no now will not be an issue the next morning and the impulse to buy will be gone.
God knows our needs. God is with us each and every step of our personal journeys. We are his kids, even as adults. Look at our own parental roles. We give birth—or adopt—our kids. We work hard to protect them, nurture them, teach them, and prepare them for independent adult lives. Yet even when they are grown, they are our kids. Unconditional love continues to keep you connected. Parental instincts keep you concerned and checking in with them. And even though the kids are grown with families of their own, we still reach out to them in a protective, concerned way.
God does not desert us, yet as parents ourselves, we know that we can never impose our decisions on our grown children. God must sense that same pain that we feel when our children turn their backs on our advice. Each year, Fathers Day shows up on the calendar, and when that day comes and our children are too busy to check in, don’t you know that God is just as disappointed when we do not check in with him on Sundays? Just like we are eager to hear from our kids on the phone or through an email or snail mail, God waits to hear from us.
In the video, Kickball, Bell’s son does not understand his refusal to buy the toy. He keeps crying out for his dad to hear, but the answer remains no. He refuses to follow him down the mall; but Dad knows best, picks him up and continues out to the car. God may not be carrying us out of the mall, but God does not always give in to our every cry. Neither does he walk away without us. Instead, we walk away without him.
What are we to do? Remember how you learned to fish? As kids we are taken out to the pond and are given a pole, my first one was a cane pole with a hook and a red-and-white bobber (if we were going frogging it was a piece of red bandana handkerchief).–Oddly it was Mom, not Dad, that worked to teach me how to catch those little perch in the pond behind the house. But that does not matter, does it. On Fathers Day, fishing is one of those traditional images that come racing into our minds whether the connection is about learning to fish, fishing with our dads, or Fathers’ Day gifts for fishing. Maybe the connection is how we were taught with a cane pole knowing the rod and reel only came when we gained enough knowledge.
In our relationship with God, our Father, how do we learn to go fishing? Traditionally, clear back to the 1950s or earlier, we took our kids to Sunday school while attending our own class or teaching a class. Everybody did it. The immediate family, the aunts and uncles, grandparents, neighbors, classmates–everybody it seemed–got up on Sunday morning, went to church and then home to relax for the remainder of the day. That was our Sundays. Is that how we learned? Is that how our children and grandchildren learning about our Father today?
Bell’s son learned that waiting and then getting a kickball was a delight. The kickball was a true prize. It was something so valuable that it deserved a mighty march out of the store. The joy is complete. Dad is pleased to see his son learned not to want what he did not get earlier in the mall. Dad knew the kickball was a much better, much safer toy.
Learning to fish as a kid may seem insignificant to us at the time. But we enjoyed the time with our parents, out on the pond bank, in the sunshine, and we did learn. For those of us sitting here in the sanctuary, we learned as kids—more often than not—about God, Jesus, and our faith from the same routine as our parents because they took us to church and continued to practice their faith. It was just like learning to fish. For some of us, fishing has turned into a lifetime skill and even a passion.
Has your faith been learned and then skilled to a lifelong faith? Has your fishing become a passion? God has been trying to teach you. He has not given up just like you have never given up on your kids. Have you known what is best for your kids? Have you lost your kids? God may not always give us what we want nor when we want it, but if we are willing to learn how to fish for our faith, we can celebrate Fathers’ Day a bit differently—celebrate God’s love for us, his concern for us, and his patience with us.
Check out the scriptures again. Bell’s references in the video clearly outline that God knows what is best for each one of us. The scriptures guide us into understanding that we do not always know what is best for us, nor when God will answer. If we continue to follow our Father’s words, talk and listen to him in prayer, then we can be assured that he will provide all that we need when we need it. We will have learned how to fish and be ready to share our skills with others.
Are you ready to go fishing? Dads all around are just itching to get out there and cast a few. Dads today know that all the work they do for their kids and grandkids is just a small part of what God does for us. As you go out to the pond, the lake, or the river, use the time to reflect on what you have learned about God, about dads, and about fishing. Put it all together and then consider how you want your kids to learn fishing for faith.
This week I learned of a new Christian program called All Pro Dads that provides suggestions, tools, and support for all dads in today’s society. The website for All Pro Dads can be a great tool for our newest generation of dads who may need different ways of learning to be positive dads. Many of our young people have not had direct teaching on parenting and this website may be a key to training future fathers.
Learning how to fish, how to parent, or how to grow in our own faith much less teach others about faith takes work. The tools we have used in the past need to meet the learning and communication styles of today’s generations. Just like learning to fish today probably begins with a Wii rather than a cane pole, so teaching our kids and grandkids about God probably begins with videos.
Again, are you ready to go fishing? Do you have the right rod and reel? Have you been practicing? Have you gone to the experts for advice? Have you watched the fishing videos on TV or on line? Have you asked the kids to come along with you? How about your neighbor? I know it is hot and humid, but I think today is a great day to start. Let’s go fishing for our faith, but let’s also teach the others about fishing for faith, too.
Bell ends his video Kickball with this statement: “…when you find yourself standing at the kiosk (are sitting on the pond bank), asking “Why can’t I have what I want?” may you believe that God is good, and that right across the street he has something better.”
We have not always been obedient children, but we know that you love us unconditionally. We have learned that we do not always get what we want or when we want it, but we try to understand why. We ask that you hear our cries and help us to hear you as we learn how to fish for our faith. Then, as we begin to reel in that deeper understanding of your grace, help us teach others how to fish for their faith. –Amen