It’s Father’s Day, June 18, 2017! I have the privilege of being at home to enjoy this beautiful June Sunday. Though none of our children or grand-children are with us on this day, it’s good to hear from them, and to have some quiet time to reflect on the meaning of fatherhood.
First, of course, there is the memory of my own dad. He has been gone for over 12 years, but I think of him often and the legacy that he left us. Though he was a man of quiet disposition my dad, William Drewlo, truly left his mark upon the lives of many people, especially his four boys — of which I was the third. Dad was serious about life and about the faith in Christ that defined him, but he was also practical and playful. He was a handyman, a trait that each of my brothers and I happily inherited, to fix things around the house. I thought of him the other night as I was installing a new kitchen faucet. And he liked order — everything in its place.
One of the earliest memories of my dad was his construction of some miniature farm implements he made for us on our farm in Manitoba. In particular, I remember a small hay-stacker and a snow-plow for the front of a two-wheeled axle-affair with a long handle that we could push on the foot-paths in the winter time. Dad loved to play ball with us, and take us to Silver Bay (not far from our farm) to swim, and sometimes to fish on the lake. One of the things I appreciated most about my dad was the opportunities he gave us early in our lives to ride a horse, to work machines, and to drive the tractor. I think I was less than 10 years old when I learned how to drive the tractor. He loved the thrill of showing us how to do things despite some measure of risk.
When I became a dad more than 42 years ago, to say the least, I was thrilled beyond words. I can still remember seeing my big-eyed daughter shortly after she was born, hardly believing that it was possible. Though I was a busy person with the work of the church, my pride and joy has always been our four beautiful children — three very talented daughters and an equally talented son. Each of them had their unique personalities, even at a young age, and brought different blessings and challenges into our lives. Like my dad, I liked the opportunity to teach each of them new things, to have new experiences, and special privileges as they grew older. For example, I took it upon myself to teach each of them to drive the car, getting them ready as best I could for their license exam.
Of course, as I reflect on my experience of being a dad, I realize that I was far from being the perfect dad that I had envisioned. Sometimes I wasn’t as available as I should have been, leaving much of the actual child-rearing to their most devoted mother, while I was off putting in extra time to serve people of the church. There were other times when I was impatient because they didn’t respond to my expectations of orderliness or service. All of us dads, I think, have the best of intentions but when it gets right down to it, we fail in so many ways. Despite our aspirations we aren’t always consistent in the practical ways in which we demonstrate love or apply discipline. And the fact is that at varying times some personalities are more challenging, sometimes pushing us further than we have the capacity to bear. It’s not long before we recognize that we need God’s grace in all kinds of ways to be the dads God wants us to be.
All in all, however, fatherhood is a very special experience — having a small part in being part of our children’s creation, seeing how they reflect our own personalities and characteristics, and having the opportunity to care for them and to help mould their lives so that they can find their place of independence and meaningful service in the world.
As I think of the significance of this kind of day in my life, I am deeply humbled for the privilege God gave me of being the father of our children, and so proud in the proper sense of the word of who they have become and what they are doing. So many times I have been blessed by their love and care, even though I know there have been times when I let them down or disappointed them. The experience of being a dad can’t help but point us to the One who is called, Our Father in heaven. As the perfect Father, He continues to model what it means to be a good father to our own children as long as our lives shall last. Despite my failures, my constant hope and prayer is that my children will regard me as a father who tried to emulate as well as possible the very life of our heavenly Father.