Father’s Day, for me, is a reminder. A reminder that relationships can change and even be restored.
Growing up, I did not have the best relationship with my dad. We seemed to have lived in parallel universes. I liked sports. He couldn’t care less about sports. He liked working on cars and trucks. To this day I hate working on even a toy car or truck. He liked analyzing everything and teaching people whenever he had the chance. I liked….well, ok, we have that in common.
Early on my dad was involved in my life. He was a coach on my t-ball team. He was my Tiger Cub leader, my Cub Scout Den leader, and then one of my Assistant Scout Masters. He was the one who pushed me to finish well and become an Eagle Scout (I am very thankful for that).
But as I grew older we grew further apart, partly because my dad was hard to be around. He had mood swings, and bursts of anger. He worked late and was less and less involved with the family. He was unstable, unpredictable, and oftentimes irrational.
In my teens years I really, really, did not like him. And once I left for college, I expected to see him even less. And the truth was, at that time, I was fine with that.
But a funny thing happened.
Through a series of fortunate events, I came to find out that my dad was not so much a bad man as he was a weak man. What I didn’t know growing up (and neither did my dad) was that he was suffering. My dad had severe sleep apnea which was causing him to lose more than 80% of his oxygen when he slept, and he was bi-polar.
I remember coming home from college one weekend and, unbeknownst to me, my dad had made some changes. He had begun using an air machine to help him breathe at night, and he had started taking medication to help control his mood. He was a totally different person.
He was kind. He was loving. When he saw me, he gave me a hug (a really big bear hug). And as I stood, trapped in the arms of my father, I thought, who is this?
Things were going to be different.
In my own heart there was still much anger and much pain from the wounds of the past. There was still confusion, and an extreme reluctance to take a step forward toward this new, unknown relationship. But the seed of healing had been dropped into the ground of our relationship. Over time it would blossom.
Over the next decade there would be many conversations, and many confessions (from both of us). There would be tears, understanding, and eventually forgiveness. And, to my surprise, there has been, is now, and always will be friendship.
This gives me hope.
I often wonder how my own three kids, as they grow up, will perceive me. I wonder how a decade (or two) from now they will describe me to their friends. Will they remember the laughs we had? Or will they remember the times I yelled at them? (Hopefully they’ll remember the times I apologized).
I don’t know which of my faults and weaknesses will drive stakes into their memories. But I do know this: That even if, for a time, they remember me as a terrible dad (I hope not); even if there is a time they want nothing to do with me (I really hope not); even if (hypothetically) I make every mistake imaginable… there is still hope of redemption and reconciliation.
My dad’s relationship to me is a testimony that Jesus Christ is bigger than our brokenness. That no matter how bad certain seasons of life are, there is always the possibility of things getting better.
I love my dad. I consider him a true friend, and a person I desperately want in my life and the life of my kids.
When I was a teenager I could not have imagined wanting such things. But that is the power of Christ. Through Christ we have found the power to be honest about our shortcomings, the power to forgive, and the power to move toward reconciliation and healing. Through Christ we have found the power to love again.
In Christ there is hope— there is always hope.
Father’s Day is a reminder of that hope. A hope my dad and I both share.