Father’s Day 2006 was the most memorable one I’ve ever experienced. Having recently moved from the Chicago area to accept the call as the lead pastor in suburban Seattle, I asked my retired pastor-dad to preach.
Because he was battling terminal cancer, I knew it would likely be the last time he’d give a sermon. It was a poignant morning. Dad preached like there was no tomorrow (perhaps because he wasn’t sure how many tomorrows he had left).
Before getting up to deliver one of his favorite messages (about Jesus turning the water into wine), Dad called my brother and me forward. In front of the entire congregation, our dying father reached out and placed a hand on each of our heads and gave us his blessing. At the conclusion of the prayer, he handed us a framed copy of the words he had carefully chosen.
My dad had frequently told me he loved me, but this time was different. With carefully chosen words he verbalized his unconditional acceptance and called on our Heavenly Father to fill our lives with a sense of His presence and holy purpose. I fought to hold back tears. Although my dad passed away in 2008, the framed blessing — now displayed prominently in my office — is a constant reminder that my dad affirmed my gifts and calling.
Have you been the recipient of your father’s blessing? If you’re a father, have you found a meaningful way to communicate to your children the pride and pleasure they bring you? A formal ceremony isn’t necessary, but a creative expression might make such a declaration more memorable.
Both Jewish and Christian traditions celebrate the significance of “the blessing.” In the Old Testament, Abraham blessed Isaac. Isaac blessed Jacob. On Jacob’s deathbed, a feeble patriarch strained to sit up to speak a blessing over each of his 12 sons.
The New Testament makes clear that even Jesus needed (and received) His Father’s blessing. At the beginning of His public ministry when He was baptized in the Jordan River, Jesus heard a voice from above saying, “You are My much-loved Son in whom I am well-pleased” (Mark 1:11).
Much-loved. Well-pleased. There is something about those words falling from a father’s lips that cause you to stand a little taller and try a little harder. Every person who has ever lived longs to hear their dad say there is nothing they could ever do (no matter how good or bad) that would cause him to love them any less than he already does.
Father’s Day is obviously a perfect time for kids to honor their dads. It is also a great occasion for fathers to be reminded of how critical their affirmation is to the long-term well-being of those who call them Dad. As such, Father’s Day is equally important for dads, as well as daughters and sons, to contemplate the unique relationship they enjoy with each other. It’s a day to communicate love while we still can.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is a Wenatchee native living on Mercer Island, where he is the Faith/Values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter.