The Father’s Day Drama at the Kitchen Door

2901132111_0c8127ab04_mWhile pastoring in Western Canada in the second half of the 1950s I often went out in the afternoon to visit shut-ins, hospital patients, or newcomers to our growing church.

In 1956 our children were ages eight, five, three and one. Kathleen was home with the two younger children during the day and as the older two arrived home from school mid-afternoon she was there to receive them.

When my afternoon calls were coming to an end, and I was ready to start for home, I would use the nearest phone to tell Kathleen my approximate time of arrival.

For that arrival she had a ritual she practiced with the children. She would turn from the phone and say to them with excitement, “Daddy’s coming home! Daddy’s coming home!” The children would go into a dance of joy and be at the door to greet me when they heard the car in the driveway. Being treated with such enthusiasm was a father’s joy.

This tale is really a very thin slice of our family life. It may scarcely seem worth recalling, but in retrospect, with two of those four children now grandparents whose children are raising their own children. I get pleasure from reliving such a thin slice of life.

It seems to me that Kathleen’s ritual nourished in the minds of our young children respect and appreciation for their father. After all, children should get their first prompts on how they should feel about one parent from the other parent.

I know that life is much more complicated now than during the 1950s. For one thing mother may not be at home, and to get there she may have to leave from work and go first to the daycare to pick up the youngest child. And she may have to carry out this errand as a single parent.

Or a father may not have the luxury of coming home every day or at the same time every day. And when they do, both parents may arrive home frazzled and under pressure to meet the basic needs of a hungry child or two. What parent in such circumstances has time for the niceties?

But I recall that back then in the 1950s we too had our frazzled moments. Four young children are a handful in any home. In our case, the youngest had special needs that demanded great and constant attention.

Moreover, we lived next door to the church building and at times the parsonage could seem like an extension of the church. As well, both of us were greatly involved in the activities of church life. I worked many evening and weekend hours at pastoral tasks; my wife sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and often served meals to visiting speakers or other guests.

So Kathleen carried out this ritual greeting for my homecoming because it was too important to her to neglect. She and I both now think there was something in it that strengthened parent-child bonds on into adulthood, however slight the exercise might seem in the telling.

The memory of that kitchen door greeting comes to mind because Father’s Day cards are being selected in the stores and great numbers of wives and children are wondering what sort of gift to buy for father as June 19 approaches. That search is all to the good. A well-chosen card or a little gift can speak volumes, too.

But Father’s Day is a good time to review the rituals we incorporate intentionally into family life to enrich relationships, quell storms, and reinforce with the vitamins of caring whatever family laws we have.

For the little ones, a ritual like the drama my wife enacted at the door made father’s home-coming both surprising and precious. Even such a simple spontaneous exercise can strengthen bonds between parents and growing children.

So, happy Father’s Day to all fathers who read this. If your children are young, may they greet you not only on Father’s Day but often at the door with a ritual family dance of joy! But, whatever the children’s age, may this day renew your precious family connections.

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Photo credit: Ryan McCullah (via flickr.com)
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3 thoughts on “The Father’s Day Drama at the Kitchen Door

  1. I smiled as I read your account of a grand welcome home. Our schedule was one of a truck driver who slept days and headed out to work at 10 at night. I am reminded by pictures taken of a little one sleeping next to their Dad for their naps. When our youngest would see him coming with his suit case for his days sleep, the little fellow would say, nap time, nap time. When their DAD would wake up, he was rested to have the evening meal, have a time of play, and Bible stories and off to bed for the night for the children. Wonderful memories of happy evenings
    even now as we have reach 85 and 90 years of age.
    Thanks for your words each Monday.
    .

  2. Ecclesiastically ,a pastor is the leader of a Christian congregation.The word pastor derives from the Latin word for shepherd : L ‘pastor’ ,a shepherd.

    Calling the leader of a church congregation pastor , is apt , since Jesus is called the Good Shepherd .He is also called the Lamb of God. Pastoral imagery pervades the Christian faith.

    Jesus Himself ,frequently uses parables based on the imagery of a shepherd and his flock.

    Jesus is steeped in scripture and the Old Testament regularly uses imagery of the shepherd and his sheep.Psalm 23 , Jeremiah 23:18 and Ezekiel 34 are just three examples.

    In Jeremiah, God, through His prophet, warns against bad spiritual leaders.

    ‘’Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture.’’ Jeremiah 23:1 NIV

    Through Jeremiah. God goes on to assure His people that He will appoint good pastors to gather up and tend the flock.

    ‘ ‘’I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord. ‘Jeremiah 23:4 NIV

    God points to the coming of a great saviour , ‘’a righteous branch ‘’ who will save Judah and make Israel safe. This saviour, God will raise up for David.This means,I think , that this saviour or messiah,will be from King David’s line.

    The coming saviour will be called The LORD ,Our Righteous Savour. All these millenia later, we know exactly Who this Saviour is.No less than God’s own Son,God of God !

    In Ezekiel ,again God’s message is of a coming great good shepherd who will take care of God’s flock. God said that the shepherds at the time of Ezekiel only cared for themselves ,but the Son of Man is coming to strengthen the weak,heal the sick, bind up the injured,bring back the strays and search for the lost.

    God will rescue His untended flock.So the Son of Man will be God Himself.How can this be ,readers of Ezekiel must have wondered.How could a Son of Man be God Himself.

    ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.’ Ezekiel 34:11- 13 NIV.

    God continues.

    ‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Ezekiel 34 : 17

    Later in this passage from Ezekiel ,God declares the pasture is His and ,the sheep are His. God Himself is the Great Shepherd !

    ”You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’’ Ezekiel 34 :31

    Finally,in the third Old Testament passage,it is confirmed God is the Great Good Shepherd.

    ”The Lord is my shepherd ,I shall not want
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,He leads me beside still waters;
    He restores my soul.He leads me in right paths for His name sake.’’ Psalm 23 : 1-3 NRSV

    These Old Testament passages referring to a shepherd and his flock are of central importance.The image of the shepherd and his sheep are crucial to our faith.

    Two thousand years ago came the Incarnation.We now know Jesus Christ was born ,wholly man and wholly God. We know Him both as the Lamb of God and as the Good Shepherd.

    We now have the New Testament ,with the four Gospels, to guide our lives.We know of the birth, the life on earth, the death , and the resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the second Person of Triune God.

    In the Gospels, we have the very words of Jesus to comfort and guide us.Christ’s words include many guiding parables ,a form Jesus used with great skill ,to teach.

    Among His parables are many shepherd and sheep parables.Two prominent themes in Jesus’s shepherd and sheep parables ,are the good shepherd and the lost sheep.

    The thing about sheep is they wander off.We have a phrase ‘to wander off like lost sheep.’ Sheep tend to wander off and get lost,and we are no different.

    This is why a shepherd is needed.The sheep on the hills need a good shepherd to protect them ,feed them and generally look to their welfare. When the sheep wander off and get lost,the shepherd is there to restore them to the fold.

    Just so the flock of a church ,the congregation,for it is spiritually fed by it’s shepherd ,it’s pastor.

    When a congregant is sick,the pastor is there to comfort and strengthen .When a congregant strays from the path of God’s Will,the pastor is there to lead the trespasser back home to the fold.

    The job of a pastor is thus a very important and demanding one.To be the father of four chidren , eight and under, including a child with special needs,must have required great strength and energy, as well as great faith.

    God ,we have seen,is our Great Good Shepherd.and we know He is our Heavenly Father,the Father of all. Pastor ,we have seen,means shepherd. But it also suggests to me, one who is like a like a father .

    The Latin word for father,’pater’ is not too dissimilar from ‘pastor’ , the Latin word for shepherd .There seems a link . Etymology can teach us much.

    In fact, in the Roman Catholic churches , pastors are addressed as Father.In the army,at least here in Britain, regimental pastors in the camp or garrison chapels ,are called padres.Padre is another word for father.

    So ,just as God is both Father of all and Good Shepherd of all ,so the pastor is both like a shepherd to his or her local church flock ,and also like a father or mother ,a parent, to the local congregation. The one is universal,the other local.

    Kathleen’s ritual welcoming home ,with her children, the father of the family, must have been a great support ,binding the family in love and with inclusion.

    In a good family, every member is an essential ,valued part of the whole . Just as God created man and woman equal but different,so mother and father are equal,but have their own special and unique role in the family.

    Very important in a family ,is harmony,peace and love ,so to provide the perfect soil for children to grow up well in.Idealy ,every family member feels safe,valued ,respected and looked after ,each knowing his or her special part.

    Joy ,such as the joy at fathers homecoming after the day’s work ,is a special shared part of family life .Little family rituals ,like the paternal homecoming or the way a family prepares together for Christmas,can really cement a family together in love.

    It is a pleasure to hear this ‘thin slice ‘ of your family life ,Pastor Don .Thankyou for recalling it.

    Born in 1953,I spent my infancy and early childhood growing up in mid to late 50s Britain . Your recollections strike a familiar note of remembered warmth , which is most welcome.

    I do think life is more complicated now.Some new developments ,like the internet and all day and all night television , have brought great new oppurtunities ,but they have brought problems too.

    Some families, with a television and pc in each room,hardly get to spend time together.Too often,
    each family member is alone in a different room, looking at a different screen.

    Some families don’t even eat together. Jesus taught us how important it is to eat together.Think of the Lord’s supper.

    Research has shown how important it is, for children and teenagers ,to grow up eating together as a family.The family that eats together ,stays together.

    I fear , that which sociologists call alienation, is harming the members of some families.

    Furthermore, nowadays more families lack a father ,not just for weekends or long periods ,but all the time.Mother has to be both mother and father and this is too much for one person. Something often breaks.

    Work seems less regular now,too.Some people have no work while others work almost every hour of the day ,seven days a week.

    We used to have absenteeism at work.Now sociologists have identified a new problem,’presentism’.

    In ‘resentism’ workers feel the need to impress the boss so acutely , that they work all hours,hardly daring spend any time with their children and spouses. All balance is lost.

    Folk may be able to feed and clothe their children but the Bible teaches that man cannot live by bread alone.Children need family and love too.

    Of course, there must have been frazzled family moments in the fifties too .I believe material standards of living have improved since then. In Britain there seems to be more steak and less spam.We had lino and drafty windows while fitted carpets and double glazing ,the norm today,were unknown back then.

    Homes are much warmer now,I notice,even bedrooms.Labour saving devices have multiplied ,although many families still seem to have either too little time ,or, if unemployed,too little money.

    I remember the effects of the tail end of food rationing ,which in Britain was kept long after the war ended.Yet nowadays poor diet seems at least as common now ,according to government health advisors.Also, while rationing has gone,we now see food banks ,for families who don’t have enough to feed their children.

    So in many ways ,though the late fifties is often called a less exciting time,it seems a far cosier era,looking back. Perhaps I’m looking back,with romantic eyes , at times I only dimly remember .

    Certainly,Pastor, your recollections are very pleasant to me and fill me with a warm glow.
    I think people have come to seek a simpler life and look back to former times admiringly.

    Perhaps that’s why the TV programme ‘Little House on the Prairie ‘ was so popular .It made people feel good.

    Father’s Day is a good time for all the family to celebrate it’s father and recollect with happiness little moments of bygone family warmth .Each family is built on it’s past and these memories are precious.

    I hope you had a happy Fathers day Pastor Don.Thankyou for sharing your warm memories .
    Like your reader ,the father who used to work as a truck driver, I too smiled as I read your recollections, as I did while I read his own happy memories.

    Like him, I also thank you for you words of inspiration each Monday.

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