With summer upon us, many traditions come with it. It is the time of the year for fireworks and lightning bug hunts, for road trips and lazy days at the pool, and for cookouts and cornhole. And every so often, there’s the other time-honored tradition that we all participate in: the family reunion. It’s not just our chance to see relatives we might not have seen in ages, but it’s also the opportunity for young children to learn about their family tree. Sure, today we have software for doing genealogy research and DNA testing and all that, but is it really that much different than family crests and Scotsmen and their kilts? Who we’re related to is important to every family, and it has been since Genesis. From the beginning, family ties and a family’s lineage were so important that the most important ones are recorded in the Bible, with whole chapters recording for posterity an account of what man was father to which son.
To each one of us, our father is important for reasons as varied and unique as the last name he gave us. Maybe your father is the embodiment of the phrase “the man, the myth, the legend”, maybe he’s the kind of character who inspired Johnny Cash to write “A Boy Named Sue,” but most likely he’s somewhere in between. Regardless what kind of man your father might be, regardless what he did or did not do, no matter his successes or failings, presence or absence, every man’s father leaves an indelible imprint upon his son’s life.
Each of us has our own story about our father’s influence on our lives. For every successful man who has a father who pushed and supported his son, there is also a successful man who’s father was abusive, an alcoholic, or completely absent. For every man who was raised and guided by his father, there’s a man who was raised and guided by his stepfather or grandfather or uncle. For every man who learned his faith from his father, there’s a man who learned his faith from his Godfather. For every man who strived to be as great of a man as his father, there’s another man who always felt like he lived in his father’s shadow.
So what then is the common thread in the lives of all men? What makes men in idleness feel compelled to get up and go find a hill to climb? Whether we act upon that feeling or not, we all feel it, don’t we? That restless sense that we need to go and do, go and accomplish, go and make our mark upon the world, even if that mark is visible to no one but ourselves. But why? Where does that drive, that yearning come from?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t do these things because we want thanks and appreciation. Most of our efforts and sacrifices go unknown and unappreciated. Yet we do these things because they need done, or maybe simply because they’re there, a challenge to overcome. And deep down we know that we don’t do the difficult things because of fame or money. Many challenges we undertake have no trophies, no one is taking our picture for the cover of a magazine, and there is no one handing us an oversized check when we’re done. Yet there on our hearts is the desire to go and do these things anyway, even if no one is watching.
So if we are to be totally honest with ourselves, we realize where that drive comes from: our heart. We do these things because inscribed on the heart of every man is the desire to have his father be proud of him and his accomplishments. It is why we are never satisfied with what we’ve done. It’s why we are quick to point out every flaw in each of our accomplishments, no matter how great. We are each driven to be a better man because we want our father to look upon what we do and what we’ve done and proudly exclaim to his friends, “That’s my son!” Whether we ever hear our father say those words or not, it doesn’t matter. We are all after the same thing: to make our father proud.
Ultimately it is not our earthly fathers that put the desire for personal greatness on our hearts, but our Heavenly Father, who knows each of us by a different name, the name He gave to us. We are all called to go and do the Divine Will of the Father; we are all equipped with the innate sense of right and wrong; we have all we need to be great men, for God our Father has given us what we need from the moment of our creation. As we honor our earthly fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, and Godfathers this month for all they have done for us in our lives, let us listen to the call of our hearts, to go and do. And on our last day when we attend the largest of all family reunions, let our earthly father as well as our Heavenly Father exclaim with pride, “That’s my son!”