Happy Father’s day weekend to the Lawrence Family Promise network! What a gift and an immense responsibility it is to be a father. As a mom, I always think that dads get a bit of a rip off on father’s day, as mother’s day seems to gather more media and attention. Cards, flowers, sentiments appear to be more easily directed at the moms in this country. Plus, it seems that dads always get to spend the day grilling out (love of meat I guess), where as for those of us who are moms – we usually get taken out for brunch! But dads out there – you are just as important, just as loving and such a tremendous influence on your children which is so critical and vital to them now as well as formation of the adults they will become. So, long way around it to simply say, “Dads ROCK!”
It is interesting this year on Father’s day we currently have 2 families in the program, both are single dads and their kids. So this year, I am looking at father’s day through a bit of a different lens. The lens this year is the selfless love, dedication, and energy that is required of dads. Especially of those who are going it alone without another parent to support them.
It appears to me to be much more difficult for men to be in the program – for the dads, whether single or a two parent family. Moms seem to be able to ask for help so much more easily than the dads do. The old, “who will stop and ask for directions question”, perhaps? Is this cultural, biological, genetics, or how we are just created differently? “…in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV). Likely all of the above, but I have observed, especially upon intake into the LFP program, how much more difficult it appears for a man, to come in and ask for help for his family.
Once in the program, with a couple of rotations behind them, there is this beautiful transformation that occurs. The men begin to open up, they seem to believe in themselves again, they have hope. This can be seen in the women as well, of course, but the changes I have observed in men have been so dramatic in my short 10 months in this job.
What I observe is that the dads often come in grudgingly, as a last resort. They have come to a realization that they can’t go this alone, and currently are not able to have safe shelter for their families – so something has to change. With that huge hurdle behind them, and the initial couple of weeks into the discomfort of the program, they display a bit more of themselves both in the day center and in meetings with staff and goals, but also in the churches, sharing meals with others, with the other guests, and a remarkable ability to really dream for a different reality their family. I believe this is because of the love shown by those first 2 – 3 congregations in the network. Strangers, opening up hospitality to people they had not met before. Pain is acknowledged, and strangers become a place of support. Relationships begin to be built. Fellowship occurs. There is interest given to each family member, and healing begins to take place.
I listened to a graduate dad from the program speak last night at a training, and he mentioned he was never one to open up and talk much, because he felt people would always judge him. Coming into the LFP program changed that for him. This dad now walks with a different confidence in his step. He looks people in the eye, he smiles. His lovely wife says she is amazed at the transformation. God is so good and sharing his love really does change lives.
So this father’s day, with 2 single dads, and between the two families, 7 children, I find I am so grateful for you dads out there. I am grateful and humbled by the love these two fathers have for their children, in doing whatever it takes to get back on stable ground. I am amazed at the strength of dads that are willing to put in all the hours it takes to work, to listen to their children, teach their children, to attend as many school events as possible, help with homework, coaching, correcting and disciplining, loving… and all the while rotating around the Lawrence congregations and meeting new people every night, sleeping on cots, waking up early … and daring to dream big for their families.
God’s abundant blessings to all dads!
” May God arise…Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the Lord and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing…” Ps 68:1-6 (NIV)