I am the father of two children, and being a dad is one of the most important things in my life. Each of my children is a great blessing to me, and to my wife, as I’m sure is the case with other fathers and mothers.But on this Father’s Day weekend, I have been struck somewhat by the contrast between the way that many people in this world view the role of a father, and the understanding that I have about being a father, mostly through my own religion and value-system.
Some of this occurred to me I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion on Saturday. Our family enjoys listening to this together. I won’t say that there wasn’t anything funny about the broadcast’s humorous sketches about what makes a father. Still, they were mighty extensive in their description of what makes a father — namely, the act of procreation.
When put in such terms, of course, there is no contest: mothers make an extraordinary biological sacrifice for their children that fathers — as merely “fathers” — never have to. And seen in this light, Father’s Day is pale imitation in comparison to Mother’s Day: a kind of laughable afterthought to the main event, the main person that brings a child into life.
I was thinking about all of this – about Mother’s Day last month, and Father’s Day this morning – when I was struck at church by this hymn by Eliza R. Snow, “Oh, My Father.” A discussion of our Heavenly Parents, this poem so beautifully captures the essential and eternal togetherness of fatherhood and motherhood.
“Oh, My Father”
By Eliza R. Snow
O my Father, thou that dwellest
In the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence,
And again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation,
Did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood,
Was I nurtured near thy side?
I had learned to call thee Father,
Through thy Spirit from on high;
But until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single?
No; the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.