Celebrating Father’s Day When You Don’t Want to Celebrate

For years, I have been able to ignore Father’s Day.

The way I have celebrated this day in the past has been by writing a few words and then watching the final round of the U.S. Open. Hiding from the day always seemed to be the best medicine to treat the pain that came from not being able to celebrate. While everyone else has been able to celebrate their fathers, I have had the ability. Father’s Day is my least favorite day of the year, because it brings out the pain of not knowing my biological father and reminds me of the neglect and abuse I felt from my step-father.

However, this year I will not able to hide from Father’s Day. It stares me in the face as a pastor of two congregations. Just as we celebrated women in May on Mother’s Day, we are called to do the same for the men of the church on Sunday. As a pastor, you cannot hide from this day and act like it doesn’t exist, even if you want to just run and hide.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I am OK with the fact that I cannot hide from Father’s Day. I am excited about celebrating this day with our two congregations on Sunday. There are men in the church who have raised some amazing families and have given of themselves to their children They are worthy of being honored and celebrated.

This doesn’t mean I am not aware of the pain many bring in on this day. Unfortunately, Father’s Day is a painful time for many. It brings with it the realization that many fathers have not been there for their children. Too many people have either not known their father or have had a difficult relationship with them. Our church, and our world, are filled with these painful stories.

On a day of celebration, their pain can be overlooked by a church that is desperately wanting to celebrate the fathers who are there. We should celebrate and give thanks to God to those fathers. However, we must be willing to balance our celebrations by also being listening to the painful stories of those who would rather not have a celebration for fathers.

How do we balance this?

My suggestion is to simply be mindful of the pain that some might bring in to church. That is often the best you can do. Pastoral sensitives to be aware that some might be dreading this day is important. It allows a pastor to feel the pain that some might be feeling.

The pain can come in many varieties. Some will carry with them the pain of not knowing their father. That is the most obvious pain. Others will carry with them their pain of not being a father, whether it is by the fact that they have no children or the fact that they were not the father their children needed them to be.

This shouldn’t prevent us from celebrating Father’s Day, but I hope we will be aware, as with any day, that our congregations are filled with people who have many issues and stories. We must be willing to balance our celebrations with our need to offer pastoral care to those who find Father’s Day hard to celebrate.