In His Presence: Philip Wagner

Father's Day Solutions

Philip is the lead pastor at Oasis Church in LA, just released his third book, and, along with his son, the founder of Generosity, a non-profit working to meet clean water needs for those in developing countries around the world. I love what he shares, because he is honest that nothing is perfect. Holidays can make us feel like we have to fit wide smiles into a perfectly manicured (and cropped and edited) image for the world to see. But perfection is never the truth. Our unedited stories, even though imperfect, cracked and winding, are the truth. He offers a good idea for how to acknowledge and speak your truth, while still honoring dad. 

Being a dad is a tough job! As a father myself, I realize that what I say or do has a big impact on my kids; and it can impact them positively or negatively for years. Even what I do not do or say can carry a tremendous amount of weight. There are a lot of expectations on fathers.  Dads can end up being heroes or villains, in the life of our kids whether we realize it or not.

Father’s Day is a day to honor our dads.  Often dads get gifts like neckties, Old Spice cologne or socks. Nothing says, “Dad, you’re my hero!” like a pair of socks.  

I’ve noticed in our society, that many people do not have great feelings when we talk about dad. My guess is that about 60% or more of the people attending our church services have unresolved hurts in their life relating to their dads. So when we start talking about dad, the majority of people in a church audience feel of sadness or regret.  Many experience the feelings of hurt, loss or disappointment instead of feelings of love and honor.

One of the 10 Commandments conveys the importance of honoring our father and mother.  I think that God gave this commandment in the scriptures for a few reasons. One reason is that honoring our dad does something important inside us when we honor them and it is just as impactful for us as it is for our dads.

A second reason is in order to genuinely honor our dad it may require that we deal with some hurts inside and resolving them in order to flourish in our life.

Someone asked me, “How do I honor my dad when, to be honest, he was not a very good person?”

Others have said, “My dad was distant, angry and never showed interest in me.”  Or “My friend’s dad abused her sexually.”

So how does someone honor their dad when he was a source of pain or disappointment?

I had a love-hate relationship with my dad.  I loved him and I respected his devotion to ministry. But there was so much sadness and anger in my life experience related to the broken man I called, “Dad.”

Many years ago, when my dad was still alive, I read book entitled, The Tribute; What Every Parent Longs to Hear, by Dennis Rainey.  The book addressed what happened when adult children honor their parents, by writing a letter of tribute to them, regardless of whether the parents are alive or have passed away.

Rainey gave specific ideas of how to write “a tribute” that gives credit to what your parents got right. He didn’t expect us to ignore abuses we may have experienced but in this letter to honor them in a way that could change the focus in our life. This process helped me resolve some hurts, brought something positive in my life and freed me from some things that could have limited me for years.

Before my dad passed away in 2000 when he was 81 years old. Before he died I wrote a “Tribute Letter” to him. I honored him the best way I knew how. I didn’t use this opportunity to ‘tell him how I really felt’ about some mistakes he made.  

It took me a few months to get my soul ready.  I had to work through some issues in my heart. You may or may not be able to say some of the things I did but I wrote something like this…

Dear Dad,

I wanted to write you and let you know that I appreciate you and who you are in my life.  I want to honor you. I love you Dad.

When I think of you, I think of a man who worked hard at his job. You gave it everything you could. I see a man who loves people and genuinely desires to see them have faith in God.

You tried to be the best dad you could be to your children.  And that’s what I want to do myself; to be the best dad I can be.

I love how much you loved baseball and how enjoying baseball has impacted me. Thanks for teaching me about the game.  I enjoyed watching some of those games together.

You are a man who loves to laugh and I want you to know that I hope you have a lot of joy in your life and a lot of days of laughter ahead of you.

Love,… Philip

I encourage you to give this a try.  Maybe you are ready for this and maybe you are not. This is just one possibility of a way that might help you resolve some of your own father wounds.