One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.
My wife left me today.
She hates when I do that. I took her to the airport in the middle of the night and said goodbye as she left for a two-week visit to see her parents and attend to her father as he recovers from hip-replacement surgery early this week. I’m actually exceptionally excited that she is spending this time with them. But I get ahead of myself.
Ordinarily, we would mark this day by buying some premium steaks and enjoying a family meal with my parents. This year, however, with my wife traveling, and my mother just coming off a two-week hospitalization, it just seemed best to put off the steaks. You see, it’s not really about the specific day, it’s about spending time together (plus, the steaks are really good!). This is not a new thing in our family. My birthday is perilously close to Mother’s Day, and we have been extremely flexible about when certain things are celebrated.
I’m not a big fan of celebrations. When we were first married, I suddenly found Valentine’s Day approaching, and decided that I should be proactive and set the bar low. I suggested to my wife that there is no reason why one day of the year should be considered “the” day to express love, just because the greeting card companies want to turn a buck. Surprisingly, she bought in to the idea. In fact, I had her so convinced that when I actually gave her a gift, it took a while before she realized what was happening.
I feel the same way about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I love my parents. I even like them. I certainly respect them. But they are at a stage of life where they don’t need me to give them any gifts. So what is the point of singling out one day of special honor?
Dr. Gary Chapman’s seminal work, “The 5 Love Languages” has had a profound effect on my understanding of giving and receiving love. It has helped me in my marriage to identify that my wife and I speak different languages, and it takes additional effort to speak in the other’s native expression. I don’t care that much about gifts. Nor am I overly attached to my family. If I were a Star Trek species, I’d probably be Klingon (the Worf kind, with human honor and dignity, rather than the villainous Klingons of Kirk’s era).
Somehow, God gave me a daughter who is all about family and gifts and such, and she takes special delight in finding and presenting the ideal gift to the people she cares about. I spent some time video calling her so she could watch me open the perfect gift she found for Father’s Day (great job, Bekah).
But when God said, “Honor your father and mother,” I have to think that it goes a bit deeper than just sending a card or a gift once a year. I saw this demonstrated by a couple of different men in ways that have made an indelible impression on me.
We were at a small church being pastored by a man not much older than I. His father had come to be his assistant pastor (a remarkable gift in itself; how many men can take a back seat to their son?), and he and his wife quickly because dearly loved by the congregation. Then one day, he announced his resignation because he said that they needed to be with his wife’s parents. He felt an obligation to care for them in their final days. Something about that (would you quit your job for YOUR in-laws?) just cried out “honor” to me, and I filed it away in the back of my mind.
Later, I watched my own father commute across the state of Texas (remember, everything is bigger in Texas, including the drives) to give his mother dignity as she lost her final battle to bone cancer. She died in her home, thanks to a wonderful friend and doctor who made house calls, and several others who provided terminal care. After the funeral, I watched him help his father make the transition to a retirement community nearby. He continued to commute across the state to care for his father for several more years until his death.
If there is one word to describe my father, it is “duty” … and “honor”. The two words that describe my dad are “duty” and “honor” … and “dignity”. Three words to describe my father are “duty”, “honor”, and “dignity” … and “faithful” … (enough of the Monty Python homage).
Now, I am nothing if not my father’s son. So my disdain for celebration is inherited, if not learned. The key thing is not the day, but the honor. Consequently, I have made a conscious decision to intentionally be engaged with my parents. I have to, because otherwise I would let life drive me along and fill my days with other stuff and suddenly I’d find that I had no time for them. Other people may not have a problem with that. Perhaps you are one who calls your parents every day. That’s great, but it’s not me. I asked each of my parents leading up to their respective days how they would like to be honored, and they both said that they already feel honored. I guess I must be doing something right.
In this same vein, I am anxious for my wife to be able to give her parents the gift of her presence, her love, and her care during a particularly trying time. It’s difficult to be removed by significant distance, and it takes some extra effort to ensure that your parents feel honored. But there can be no higher calling. I just don’t think anyone really understands just how happy I am that my wife left me today.
So here’s the thing. If this day is a big deal to you, then make it a BIG DEAL. Show your father how much he means to you. Celebrate him, cherish him, honor him. One of my friends just recently buried his father and this day is all the more poignant to him for the freshness of the loss.
If this day isn’t a big deal to you, just another day, then show your father how much he means to you. Celebrate him, cherish him, honor him. Because our fathers (and mothers) deserve to be honored every day. At least that’s what God said, so I’m going with that.