Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1842, William Jackson Smart was, at first, a soldier in the Confederate Army, where he drove a supply truck. But when he was captured at the Battle of Pea Ridge, he switched sides to fight for the Union.
And just as soon as the war was over, he married and started a family. In time, he and his wife would raise five children. But when she died in 1878, he not only became a widower--he was a single dad. So he married again. But eleven years later, his second wife died too, leaving him to care for a family of fourteen children, including a sixteen-year-old girl named Sonora.
Now Sonora loved her father and admired him for everything he did to be both father and mother, and hold their family together.
So in May of 1909, as they sat in church listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, she began to wonder--since there’s a day to celebrate mothers, why not create a day for dads? One year later, with the help of her local churches, storeowners and politicians, her idea caught on. So today, more than a hundred years later, thanks to Sonora Smart Dodd, we’ve been celebrating Father’s Day ever since.
And it’s good that we do that, because fathers and fatherhood is far different than it’s ever been before. Turn on the TV and watch just about any channel on any given night, and a particularly sad pattern begins to emerge. While everyone else on the show seems smarter and more mature, the “dad” figure is often portrayed as wimpy, ignorant and stupid.
Even Huggies diapers once ran an ad that said, “To prove that Huggies can handle just about anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days.” As if we wouldn’t know what to do!
And the unmistakable message behind it all is that since dads are so foolish and irresponsible, they’re disposable. After all, they don’t really contribute much to the family anyway.
As one author put it: “He’s clever at times, but he’s usually not very smart. He has no idea that shortcuts make long delays. He’s lazy, gluttonous and has miscellaneous glaring vices. His children may love him, but they don’t respect him. And the only way he can show love and loyalty for his family is by fixing problems he caused himself.”
But is that really the case? Not at all. In fact, since there’s a father absence in America, there’s a father crisis in America.
Let me give you some numbers--according to the 2020 census, there are as many as 18 ½ million children in America, that’s one in four, that are living without a biological father, step-father, or adoptive-father in the home.
And since there’s no father in the home, researchers tell us that the mother and children are far more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and commit a crime, four times more likely to live in poverty, and twice as likely to drop out of high school.
Without a doubt, we need men. We need fathers in the home.
Think of Erma Bombeck. In her book, Family--The Ties that Bind and Gag!, she writes that one morning her father didn’t get up and go to work like he usually did. Instead, he went to the hospital and died the next day.
Up until then, she hadn’t thought much about him before. He was just someone who left and came home and seemed glad to see everyone at night. He opened the jar of pickles when no one else could. He was the only one in the house who wasn’t afraid to go into the basement by himself. He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got too excited about it.
It was understood that, when it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door. When anyone was sick, he went out to get the prescription filled. He took lots of pictures, but was never in any of them.
And whenever she played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. But she never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so she had him say, “I’m going off to work now,” and threw him under the bed.
When he died, the funeral was in their living room, and a lot of people came and brought all kinds of good food and cakes. They had never had so much company before.
And as the gathering settled down and family and friends started to leave, she went to her room and felt for her daddy doll under the bed. When she found him, she dusted him off and put him on her bed.
She had no idea that his leaving would hurt so much.
Without a doubt, we need men. We need fathers in the home.
That’s why the apostle Paul once wrote in his letter to the Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her…cleansing her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
In the words of Paul Harvey, “A father is a thing that’s forced to endure childbirth, without an anesthetic. He growls when he feels good, and laughs out loud when he’s scared half to death. He never feels entirely worthy of worship in his child’s eyes. He never is quite the hero his daughter thinks, and never quite the man his son believes him to be. And since it worries him sometimes, he works too hard to try and smooth the rough places in the road for those of his own who will follow him.
“Fathers grow old faster than other people. And while mothers can cry where it shows, fathers stand there and beam on the outside, but die on the inside. Fathers have very stout hearts, so they have to be broken sometimes or no one would know what’s inside. Fathers give daughters away to other men who aren’t nearly good enough, so they can have grandchildren who are smarter than anybody’s.
“Fathers fight dragons daily. They hurry away from the breakfast table, off to the arena which is sometimes called an office or a workshop, where they tackle the dragon with three heads--weariness, work and monotony.”
Fathers seek to be more and more like our Savior Jesus.
And who’s Jesus? He’s both a leader and a servant. He’s incredibly bold and caringly gentle. He worked hard, loved all people and never deviated from what His Father sent Him to do.
When He was just a boy, the Bible says He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” As He grew into manhood, He learned the carpentry trade and worked with His brothers and His father Joseph. When He was thirty, He became a teacher, travelling across Judea, Samaria and Galilee preaching, teaching, healing and training His disciples. He touched so many lives, John wrote that the world itself couldn’t contain the books that could be written.
And though He lived in a place and time that cared little for women, Jesus loved them and respected them. He even held them up as examples to follow.
Jesus loved children. When parents asked Him to bless them and the disciples tried to chase them away, He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and forbid them not, for of such belongs the kingdom of God.” When they were sick, He healed them.
And as He lived and worked among us, He never took the easy way or walked the path of least resistance. When Peter rebuked Him for speaking of the cross, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, for you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
And always, always, He showed the perfect balance between caring gentleness and masculine strength. He overturned tables in the temple and called Pharisees “white-washed tombs.” He comforted those who grieved.
There’s no one like our Savior Jesus.
Back in December of 1980, in an interview between Barbara Walters and Burt Reynolds, Reynolds talked about his dad. He said he was a sheriff in a small southern town, loved by everyone, but strict with his son. And though he respected him and feared him, he yearned for some sign of tenderness and approval. He said, “Our family lived by two simple rules: ‘No crying. No hugging.’” Then he said, “There’s a saying in the South that, ‘No man is a man until his father tells him he is,’ and I hadn’t yet gotten that message from my father. I kept hoping someday I’d hear it.”
In the meantime, his hopes of becoming a professional football player were destroyed by an injury, and his hopes of being an actor were growing dim. Directors told him that though he looked like Marlon Brando, he didn’t have any talent. So after a few bit parts, at the age of thirty-two, he was the best “unknown” in Hollywood.
Then when his marriage to Judy Carne hit the rocks, it made it the first divorce in his family.
He said he remembered staring at the phone, knowing he had to call home and break the news, but afraid that his dad would answer, instead of his mother. Yet, wanting more than anything to hear his father’s voice, he stood there, staring at the phone, not able to make himself pick it up and call.
But after staring at the phone for a while, dreading calling home to tell the news of his pending divorce, he finally picked it up, dialed his parents’ number with shaking hands, and got his mother on the phone.
He said, “Mom, Judy and I are getting a divorce. No, it’s final. Mom, tell him I’m sorry. Tell him I’ve failed again, and that I’m sorry.”
That’s when, all of a sudden, he heard another voice on the phone. It was his father who said, “Why don’t you come home, son, and let me tell you about the times I’ve failed in my life.”
As one author put it, “And God looked down on all He had made and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a father.
“God said, ‘I need someone to take children fishing and play catch in the backyard, someone who’s tough enough to run a chainsaw, but gentle enough to join his daughter for tea.
“I need someone who’ll keep jumper cables in his truck, just in case he needs to help a stranger, and who’ll notice practical things, like how the tread on the tires is wearing or if you need weather stripping around your front door.
“I need someone to provide for the family, who’ll get up early and stay up late and not complain, someone to provide authority and discipline, as well as love.
“I need someone who’ll listen more than he talks, who’ll stand by his family through laughter and tears, tornadoes and snowstorms, good times and bad, someone who’ll love his children, and love their mother even more.
“I need someone who’s willing to provide the love, support and strength his family so desperately needs.
“So God made a father.”
Are fathers perfect? Not a chance. Never have been and never will be. But we can lead our children to the One who is perfect—God, our heavenly Father. And by His grace, and only by His grace, we can be the fathers and the children He’s called us to be, for Jesus’ sake.
Almighty God, heavenly Father, we thank You for providing earthly fathers to care for us and to support our needs. Make us aware of the debt we owe them and help us to cherish them as precious gifts. And when life’s day is done, grant us the grace to spend eternity with You, for the sake of Jesus. Amen