A sermon delivered by Dr. Randy K. Hammer, June 18, 2017
Luke 15:11-32 ESV
As fathers, and husbands, we hear a lot of words from our children and our spouses through the years. Some words that we hear make us happy, and others make us very sad. Some words make us proud of the person we are, and others may cause us to be ashamed. Some words are words of praise for the person we are and the good that we do, while other words may be words of judgment that call us to account for our weaknesses. Some words that come to us cause us to celebrate (as in the case of “You have a healthy baby girl or healthy baby boy”), while other words that come to us bring us great sadness (as in the case of “Your grandbaby will be born with a rare disorder”).
As I have thought about the approach of Father’s Day these past few weeks, I have spent some time reflecting on words that I as a father, grandfather, and husband have heard over the years. As with all fathers, grandfathers, and husbands, it is a mixed bag of words, happy and sad, joyous and regretful.
But then I began to focus on some words that dads, granddads, and husbands are not likely to hear, not very often, anyway; but some words that all of us would do well to consider.
For instance, “You should spend more time at the office” are some words most men are not likely to hear. There are exceptions, of course. Most men, I conjecture, are tempted to spend more time in their job and less quality time with their family than they should, and thus, are unlikely to be accused of not spending enough time at the office or on the job.
It is a balancing act, to be sure. Being a husband and father brings responsibilities and pressures to provide, get ahead, and maybe work a little extra so as to make possible special things like nice Christmas gifts or a nice summer vacation or some other family activity, or working extra so as to put away money for college. So we may sacrifice time with family to provide for family. But the key is walking that fine line and finding that ideal balance between work time and family time.
Which leads us to the words, “You spend too much time with me,” that most men are not likely to hear. These words could apply to one’s spouse as well as to one’s kids or grandkids. I dare say that any of us have been accused of spending too much time with our kids, grandkids or spouse.
I once read the results of a survey that asked kids if they had the choice of getting more material stuff – toys, electronic gadgets, and such – or getting to spend more time with their dads, which would they choose? Most kids would choose more time with their dads. Many wives might say the same thing.
Most men aren’t likely to hear the words, “You help out around the house too much.” There once was a time, I guess, when virtually no men helped out around the house by cooking, doing laundry, vacuuming, ironing, caring for the kids, washing dishes, and so on. It was that way in the community where I grew up, anyway. But times are a’changin’ as they say. A greater sense of equality is evident, and more men are sharing household responsibilities than ever before.
Another survey revealed that many wives see husbands sharing the household chores as a romantic thing.
How about the words, “You say ‘I love you’ way too often”? Are these words that any of us have ever heard – “You say ‘I love you’ way too often”? It is easy for us to just take for granted that our kids, grandkids, or spouse know we love them, so we don’t have to say it so often; right?
Now, I suppose that one could let saying “I love you” become an obsession, so that you feel you need to say it to someone 50 times a day. If that were the case, then one might very well hear the words, “You say you love me too much.” But I imagine that very few of us could be found guilty of using the “L” word too often.
But all of us need and want to hear the words “I love you” from those close to us. And I would say we should hear it and say it at least a couple times a day. To know that we are loved by those important to us, and to actually hear it rather than having to wonder whether we are really loved, is important affirmation that contributes to our self-esteem and well-being.
How about the words, “You smile at me too often”? I am often the recipient of just the opposite words: “Why don’t you smile more?” Some people seem to have the gift of a wonderful, beautiful, pleasant smile that brings joy to everyone they encounter. Others of us tend to be more reserved – maybe even considered to be solemn – and would do well to make a point to smile more often.
Again, smiling at someone we love is a form of affirmation, acceptance, and maybe even a demonstration of love. And I am betting that few of us have ever been accused of smiling at our kids, grandkids, and spouses more than we should have.
Then how many of us have heard the words, “You hug me too much”? Just as all of us are better off for hearing a loved one say “I love you” at least daily or a few times daily even, all of us are better off for being hugged and giving hugs every day. I once read another report that noted that hugs are not only emotionally good for us, but they are physically good for us as well, causing the release of healthy hormones in the body that boost good health and resistance to illness and disease.
Recently our grandson spent a few days with us, and as he was getting ready to go to bed, he said, “I need to be sure and get in my seven hugs for today,” which I thought was a pretty neat thing for him, a 10-year-old, to say.
One of the daily funnies I read religiously is “Family Circus.” If you Google “Family Circus” cartoons on hugging, dozens come up that have been published over the years. This past Sunday’s “Family Circus” hit the nail on the head again when it showed several pictures of various family members hugging and the little girl saying, “God invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.”
Well, when it comes to stories having to do with fathers, the truth is there are not a lot of positive ones to be found in the Bible. There are a lot of biblical stories about fathers who missed the mark or downright failed, and we certainly can learn from their mistakes. But there are very few stories or examples of good fathers in the Bible to be emulated, I am sorry to say. But then there is the story of the Prodigal Son and his father. I think the father of the Prodigal comes about as close to being a good father as we will find in the entire Bible. Granted, there is a lot of theological meaning buried in this story that Jesus and Luke had in mind for their own day, much deeper than the surface story itself.
But as Jesus portrays him, I picture the father of the Prodigal seeing his wayward son walking down the path toward home in the distance. And the good father takes off running toward his son, with open arms and a big smile upon his face, and as they meet, the father embraces the son with a big hug, smiles at him and says, “I love you; welcome home!” If I have to choose any image from the Bible for this Father’s Day, that is the image I want to choose to reflect upon.
So, fathers, grandfathers and husbands, do we stand guilty today? Could we be found guilty of spending too much time with our kids or significant others, guilty of being too helpful around the house, guilty of saying “I love you” way too often, or guilty of smiling at and hugging our loved ones too much? I certainly hope so. But if not, we can always change our ways. May it be so. Amen.