I read this to the men in my congregation today. It’s not a statement to fathers only but for men in general.
What We Need From You
We need you to pay attention to God and to you and to others—though not necessarily in that order. We need you to wake up in the morning and to spend your days doing what will contribute to your block, community, neighborhood, and world. We need you not to be convinced by advertisements and commercials and publicity which say that you must have something or someone else other than what God has placed in front of you today. We need you to communicate your fears and the things that keep you awake. We need you to take your work seriously, to take your city seriously, to take your own health seriously. We need you to cultivate an ear, not just for God and for others, but for yourself because the ability to hear others is tied and twisted with the ability to listen well to ourselves.
We need you to stop making excuses and to give yourself to God. We need you to realize that God gives grace to the humble and that humility is simply seeing you for who you really are and the Divine for who God really is.
We need your life to matter for something other than how much you make, how many women you’ve loved, and how many babies you’ve had. We need you to look again at numbers altogether and to turn upside-down the notions you’ve attached to them. We need you to build wealth but in more areas than you first thought or have often been told. We need you to give yourself to some hobby, some way of playing, some way of re-creating so that you can stay sane. We need you to build and to create and to draw and to envision and to breathe deeply when you see something fantastic and unmistakably amazing. We need to draw away even when you want to keep talking. We need to pull a part so that you can be counseled by other voices. We need to find times of silence daily and to lock yourself into the rhythm of Sabbath, keeping the command made for you.
We need you to love our children, particularly when they aren’t your own, because nobody else may love them. We need you to, a year from reading this list, know at least one child’s name, one child’s family, one child’s story, and one child’s pain. We need you to cultivate a relationship with a person who will live longer than you. So that you can hear their fears and concerns and spend all the days you have left addressing them by God’s grace. We need you to find a family whether or not they look like you and to give yourselves to them in big and small ways. To make sure that the parents feel supported even if you know nothing about parenting. To make the children feel encouraged even though children may scare you. To make sure that some figure in that family unit is a reminder that there is great love and possibility and integrity present.
We need you to commit to our sisters, to our women, and to treat them as precious, powerful gifts whose purpose is to please God. We need you to respect them and to cherish them, especially when they aren’t your wives because they don’t get enough respect. We need you to listen to them and to befriend them for no other reason than that. We need you to hear their pains without another motive. We need you to take their burdens upon your shoulders and to carry their problems with them so that they can feel a community around them consisting of more than other women. We need you to pray for our sisters more than you pray for yourselves. We need you to question the men claiming to love them and to make sure that their relationships aren’t destructive but life-giving. We need you to be faithful to your wives if you’re married, holding them up as significant gifts. We need you to remind them of your love for them and tell them through word and deed what they mean to you.
We need many things from you, more than what I’ve named.
So will you, by God’s help, be greater than your station in life, than your present situation, or than your status at this point? You are more than a box that you’ve checked, more than an unemployed or very employed person. You are more than some unknown because we know you. We know you to be a beautiful man. We know you to be a strong man. We know you to be a man of God. We know you to be these things. We need you to be these things.
Happy Father’s Day.