Recently, one of my favorite Christian websites Mockingbird (mbird.com), posted a new article called “Working for Dad”. It tells the story of a young man who is invited to work alongside his father for a summer in between going to Bible College. The young man needed the money, and the father said that he needed the help over the summer. So the two of them went to work together, day in and day out. The father taught the young man how to do the simple things that the father could have done himself at least twice as fast as teaching his son, and without the inevitable amateur mistakes that the son would make. My own father did this for me at about the same time in my life.
At the end of their time together, the son reflected back on his time with the father. The father probably lost money, time, and a few other valuable commodities. On top of that, he was paying his son. “Why did you let me work with you?” the son asked.
“I just wanted to spend time with you,” was the only response from the father.
That answer is pure grace. The father was willing to pay in a manifest number of ways just to grab some hours and minutes from his son’s life, just so he could spend time with him.
I can think back to my own father and the father figures in my life. They taught me to do a lot of stuff. They taught me to be competent and efficient in number of things (and saw as I failed to become competent and efficient in dozens of other things). And yet, the best thing they did for me was this – they had a desire to spend time with me, and they followed that desire so that it was a grace to me.
This Father’s Day, that is the reminder to me, to desire greatly to spend time with my girls and to pay whatever price is necessary to do so. Additionally, I need to show that I have that same desire for my wife, so that my girls know what it looks like and can recognize it in the young man who will be their husband, and God willing, the father of their children.
We live in a world where the classical sense of fatherhood is becoming more and more alien. Perhaps some of that is good and corrective. Perhaps we allowed misogyny and inflexibility to creep into what it meant to be a father. Perhaps we are currently allowing staggering permissiveness and narcissistic self love into that picture. Our cultural view of fatherhood will shift with every generation of fathers, after all. It can only do so. We only learn what fatherhood is from our fathers, and if our fathers are absent, from those brave men who step into the gap by becoming our father figures.
Yet in all of time. In all of the fluctuations of what “fatherhood” may mean in our culture and any human culture, I hope that we never lose track of this fatherly grace. It is the fatherly grace that is shown to us, if not by our human fathers or father figures, by our heavenly Father. He so greatly desires to spend time with us that He spent the life of Jesus Christ – His own Life and Blood – so that we could spend time, even eternity with Him.
And when we arrive at eternity and ask Him about all that He spent on us, He will simply respond:
“I just wanted to spend time with you.”