Happy Holy Trinity Father’s Day

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday – a day set aside by liturgical Christian churches to dwell on the mystery that is the Trinity.  In our congregation as in many others, we’ll recite the third and least well known (and least liked!) of the three Ecumenical Creeds that lay the framework for what a Christian believes based on Holy Scripture.  While the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed are recited more frequently, the Athanasian Creed is not.  It’s long, it’s cumbersome, and it sounds repetitive.  

Today is also Father’s Day.  So it’s interesting to dwell on the concept of the Trinity and the relationship particularly between God the Father and God the Son.  This is the way that both God the Father and God the Son describe their relationship with one another.  It’s unlike any other father-son relationship in all of existence.  In part because it’s eternal – there was never a time when the Father was without the Son (else He wouldn’t have been the Father at that point!) – and it’s perfect.  God the Father and God the Son work in perfect unity of purpose.  They also work in perfect harmony.  While both are coequal, coeternal, and due the exact same honor and glory as equal aspects of the Triune God, the Son is subordinate to the Father in function (not in essence).  
That’s a tall order for any relationship.  Perfectly equal, perfectly aligned in purpose and intent.  Impossible for human relationships in the here and now.  Though I have hopes that someday we’ll experience that perfection of our relationships.  
The eternal aspect of God the Father may be the most helpful of the three.  There was never a time when the Father was without the Son (or the Holy Spirit, but that’s not my focus here).  God the Father didn’t ever have to learn how to be a father, because He never wasn’t one.  But among us folk, fatherhood is something that occurs for some at a point in life, after a period of life where they weren’t fathers.  Fatherhood is something that is acquired (intentionally or otherwise), it isn’t a fundamental aspect of maleness.  Some guys are fathers.  Some aren’t.  Some fathers don’t have kids.  Some guys who aren’t fathers have kids.  In any event though, fatherhood is something that has to be learned.  It’s a status that can arrive relatively instantly, but it’s a skill that has to be developed.  
I never took any classes for fatherhood.  Maybe if they had offered those sorts of electives at some level of my schooling, I would  have taken them.  But probably not.  And even if I had, you can’t really adequately prep someone for the responsibility of fatherhood (or motherhood, of course).  You can talk about specific aspects of the role.  You can provide some rules of thumb.  You can provide handouts and Power Points and toll-free numbers and web sites to provide support.  But at the end of the day (or the end of life), you either figured it out or you didn’t.
I don’t know many dads who feel as though they’ve done a good job in that role.  There are always regrets.  Always curiosities of the male psyche that cause us to do and say things that we spend a lot of time regretting afterwards and wishing we could undue.  We’re wired for action, and there’s a lot about fatherhood that isn’t action oriented.  It’s just being.  Being patient.  Being present.  Being understanding.  Being supportive.  And of course, being a father in the many senses of that word.  Provider.  Sustainer.  
Traditionally,  the father is the creator of the family unit.  The man approached the woman’s father with the marriage proposal and related arrangements.  The man was responsible for doing whatever was expected of a husband and future father – providing a place to live, providing an income, providing protection.  It was a lot of responsibility, and I’m pretty sure they offered even fewer courses on it throughout history than they probably do today.  Just as we confess that God the Father is the creator, the one who sets all of creation into motion through his Word, earthly fathers generally have been tasked with that same role at the family level.  That’s a huge responsibility if you can’t take a class or read a book on it.
However speaking in broad terms, if there weren’t formal classes in being a father, there was the opportunity of watching others do the job.  While it’s not popular to talk about out loud these days, the role of a father is not one that can be swapped out, because only a man can be a father, and only a man can demonstrate what it means to be a father.  For better, for worse.  With all of the regrets as well as those memories of shining moments when we really felt like we were doing what we were supposed to, when we were who we were supposed to.  You can’t reassign that example out to a robot or a woman or a nanny or a school teacher or anyone else.  Despite the best intentions or the cruelty of necessity.  It’s never the same.
I learned a lot about what it means to be a father from watching my dad.  It wasn’t a quick and simple process.  As a son, you aren’t watching your dad to learn dad techniques for a majority of those formative younger years.  You watch to learn how to be a man, or how to be a different man, but you don’t think about the father aspect until later.  Perhaps not until you have kids of your own.  Then you have the flashbacks, the moments of insight where you understand why something was said or done or not said or done.  What once seemed at best an inconvenience or an example of foolishness or being out of touch of reality or whatever kids call it these days suddenly takes on a different perspective.  Like rotating a gem so that a new facet comes into view and alters the light and suddenly the whole gem looks different.  Not perfect.  Not fully comprehensible, but different, and oftentimes, beautiful.
I’m sure there are plenty of sons who make these realizations too late.  Who never have the chance to say thanks.  Or I’m sorry I made it so hard.  Or how in the world did you do this, day in and day out for decades and decades?  Or any number of other things they might like to say.  Those who do have the opportunity still are often hampered by the very fact that they and their dad are both guys, and guys don’t make a big fuss about those sorts of things.  
God the Father in his wisdom modeled human families and relationships off of his own relationship with God the Son.  Our relationships are marred by sin and brokenness and rebellion and all manner of other interference.  But I believe that at the core, the echoes of that perfect relationship that we were intended to have with one another and with our God resonate through our relationships with one another.  And as I and other men have watched their dads to learn what it means to be a father, God the Father and God the Son model what that looks like in perfection – the Father rejoicing in the obedient Son who brings glory to his Father in the very act of obedience.  
It’s beautiful.  And I know I’ll never have that perfect relationship with my children or grandchildren or father because I’m not perfect, and I won’t be until after those relationships take on a whole new dimension and meaning that I have no way of fully grasping now.  But in the meantime, I give thanks for the model of God the Father and God the Son.  And I give thanks for my own father and how he modeled – and continues to model – who a father is.  

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