Writing an article about Father’s Day is much easier than writing an article about Mother’s Day. I have personal experience with fathering. And I was blessed to have a father in my life that I remember fondly.
Theologically, the word “Father” is loaded with meaning. Which means the word is loaded with preconceptions. We don’t all agree on what this word means. Although, biologically, we all have a father, for a lot of us, when we think of father, we are not thinking about the person who contributed to our DNA.
Throughout history, children have been raised by a single parent or guardian. This person filled both ambiguous roles of father and mother. Yet they are only one person. And remarkably, the children they rear are often remarkable themselves. How do they do it? How does one person, male or female, manage to combine the necessary ingredients to accomplish two, often opposing roles?
Created by a Master Chef
We are like a soup made up of available ingredients. The starter is our DNA, which is made up of tiny pieces of organic building blocks. The ingredients are then combined in our mother’s womb by a Master Chef, the God who created us. Referring to God as Father confuses the subject all the more.
But God, the Master Chef, also invites amateurs into the kitchen. These amateurs chefs, you and I, are the caregivers who not only stir the pot but season this concoction that may someday be a starter for their own soup. The result is a creative explosion of culinary experiences. The result is a child who becomes an adult, and often an amateur chef.
We are also cocktails of hormones with various degrees and levels of each ingredient. The hormone that we usually associate with male attributes is called testosterone. The hormone that offers more feminine traits is called estrogen. Although these hormones are more closely linked to the two primary roles of the reproductive process, each of us has a combination of both ingredients.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them
This information suggests an interesting interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. The appearance of “and” means that what comes before and after the conjunction is a part of the recipe. If the recipe tells us to add salt and pepper, we combine both ingredients. Verse 27 reads, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them.”
So did God create each human using both “male and female” ingredients. Or did God create male humans and female humans? The more common interpretation, theologically, is the second idea. But our experience, backed up by science, points to the first interpretation. Since none of us really know the mind of God, we choose to believe what we want to believe. And the recipe that turned us into who we are is the lens that we use to observe and interpret.
Father’s Day, traditionally, honored men. This is an issue for persons whose only parent or guardian is a woman. Yet, as a father myself, I refuse to minimize my role to the point that the part of a father is optional.
Again, I turn back to the common attributes that we associate with maleness while realizing that living examples of these attributes are found in all genders. This is one of the most significant drawbacks of equating God with the characteristics of a father. And this helps to explain why, in scripture, God has the attributes of all genders.
For example, we traditionally think of defending the family as a male attribute. Yet, throughout nature, a mother who gives birth to young, often protect their offspring, sacrificing their own life if necessary. Defending the family is not wholly the domain of the male gender. A desire to protect the people we love is shared by all genders.
Another example is the traditional role of the male to provide for their family. This tradition belongs more to the genre of fairytales than reality. The same can be said about hunter versus gatherer. The various roles of rearing children are functional and not gender-specific.
There are two distinct genders when it comes to reproduction. But these are functional roles that should not be confused with the participants’ gender.
Every Mother’s Day, I make sure that I recognize persons of all genders who participate in raising children and perform the roles traditionally associated with motherhood. But I don’t try to name those roles. Although I often point to examples of men whose families recognize and celebrate them for taking on roles that they consider mothering.
Likewise, for Father’s Day, I celebrate all persons who take on whatever roles we associate with fathering children. Whether they are best in class or just doing what they can. Whether their function was biological or more of an amateur in the kitchen.
I celebrate my own father’s memory, who I often compare to the aggregate of the fictional characters played by the late John Wayne. Yet some of my fondest memories of my father have little to do with traditional roles of fathering. For example, I recall my father shelling pecans and cutting up fruit for a family dinner. I still enjoy pecans with fruit and remember my father’s fruit salad.
So much as been written, said, and demonstrated about the strengths of diversity that diversity should be a given. Sadly, pushback and biases that restrict diversity in the workplace and even in houses of worship continue.
Speaking of soup, one of my favorite metaphors from scripture is the table. A table is a place where people come together to share in a practice that we all share in common. And we each come with our own preferences and different experiences.
When Cyndi and I married, we hosted a potluck after the wedding. Instead of traditional wedding gifts, we encouraged our guests to bring a dish to pass. Not enough for everyone coming. Just enough for a few people. The result was a culinary delight, not because there was enough of any particular dish. Instead, the diversity of dishes meant that the serving table reflected how much our tastes vary.
As in life, we didn’t all experience every dish. We each chose as we filled our plates, based on the selections in front of us, and our aptitude for adventure in selecting dishes that we wanted to know better. The feedback from our guests was consistent. The food was better than catered meals. The diversity of selection won the day.
The table is a metaphor for the coming together of diverse people. God sets the table, but we are each a unique dish created in different kitchens. The table is a potluck of variety. The selections depend upon who is invited and who shows up.
Like pot luck, few of us enjoy every dish. Different ingredients mix well with other ingredients differently. But we are invited to experience new combinations of ingredients and be delighted.
During the past few months, I discovered that I enjoy peanut butter, maple syrup, pecans, salt, and apples. Learning that I enjoy this combination evolved over a lifetime of experiences. I still remember my mom using Karo syrup to make pecan pie. And I often ate peanut butter as a child. And later on, I learned that I enjoy pecans on pancakes. I’m not a fan of tart apples, but I love apple pie. I also learned that it was the flavor of maple that made syrup more enjoyable.
Different ingredients mix well with other ingredients differently. But we are invited to experience new combinations of ingredients and be delighted.
My recent discovery for an evening snack was only possible because I was blessed to experience diversity in new combinations.
I am a father, and in my role as a father, I add to the recipe that is my children. And to a lesser extent, their children. It is my hope that my children remember my softer side after I am gone. I’m not known for my fruit salad. But I love color, and texture, and movies with good endings that make me cry. And I love words.
The sweetness of the maple counters the lack of sugar in the peanut butter that we choose for our pantry. The crunchiness of the pecans and my memories of my dad’s fruit salad, embellish my snack. The flavor of apple combines well with the taste of peanuts. The salt is optional.
Happy Father’s Day to all amateur chefs who have a role in rearing children. Whether you are a model dad or missed out on an opportunity to be one, I celebrate fathers everywhere.
We often refer to God as Father. For a few of us, we may lean upon God’s power to protect us from harm. But I suspect in times when we are most vulnerable, we consider the softer, perhaps more feminine attributes of God the Father. For me, I love God’s creativity with colors, flavors, and textures.
This month, our focus is on claiming a new normal for ourselves. We aren’t interested in going back to the way things were with systems of injustice and segregation. For more information our series, Live, see the article, Coming up in worship on our website.
I invite you to join us each Sunday. We plan to be live via webinar, through Facebook live, or you can call (929) 436-2866 and enter the meeting number — 324 841 204. We go live at 10:30 am. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to info@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.