Father’s Day was earlier this month and, like many of you, I attended church and heard another variation of a Father’s Day sermon. Over the years my father and I have joked about these messages, because we often feel they do not adequately portray his particular type of fathering. In fact, my dad often feels like Mother’s Day sermons are more geared to him. As a stay-at-home dad during most of my early years and as the parent most at home with my brother and me during childhood, my dad has been the cooker, cleaner, washer, and what some would call “nurturer” in the family dynamics. As a little girl, I never thought much of this. He was just my dad, and I often saw him giving his gifts and talents to our family in selfless and caring ways. Yet, as I grew up, the greater culture and even the church often proposed some pretty narrow definitions of fatherhood, one that my dear old dad just never quite fit into. The two of us never seemed to mind, but as I think of my dad and his more “unconventional” gifts, I am reminded of my heavenly Father and the way he cares for us.
It was Pentecost Sunday a few weeks ago, and, on that day, the pastor at my church spoke about the Holy Spirit. One of the passages she highlighted was in 1 Corinthians where the apostle Paul talks about the Spirit giving special gifts to different people: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (12:4-6, TNIV). The Spirit gives some people the message of wisdom, to others the gifts of healing. The Spirit gives some people the gift of prophecy, while others are given the gift of tongues, or the gift of interpretation of these tongues (vs. 7-11), but “all these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (v. 11, emphasis mine). The Holy Spirit gives rich and unique gifts to each and every person. And nowhere is it mentioned that men receive certain gifts and women receive others. Yet, in our celebrations of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or when discussing parenting in general, we can quickly fall into the trap of focusing on the more culturally-prevalent ways men and women raise their children and give to their families. In doing so, we overlook the many unique and sometimes countercultural gifts God gives individuals who serve their churches, families, and communities. God gives us each unique gifts because he truly does know us best and loves and cares for us deeply. Let us then celebrate together in the beauty and wonder of God’s love and uplift the gifts of those who surround us.
And Dad, I know it is a little late, but Happy Father’s Day. And thank you for always giving your gifts to our family, even when those around us voiced dissent. In many ways, I am passionate about working for gender equality because of you.