“Did you check the plugs?”
Whenever my school car wasn’t running right, I could count on that question of mechanical wisdom from my dad. Nevermind that I couldn’t find the spark plugs under the hood of my car, let alone “check” them — whatever that means.
I still don’t know how to check the plugs but I do have countless “Monte-isms” sparking in the engine of my long-term memory. Most of them pop up in group texts between me and my siblings. We cherish those sayings because every one of them tells the story of our father.
My eyes usually rolled when he trotted out the old spark-plug chestnut but dadgummit if he wasn’t right more often than not.
We had plenty of disagreements. Oftentimes I didn’t understand what he was doing or appreciate his perspective. I saw him as old fashioned and tight with money.
You might say his ways were not my ways.
Over the years, I’ve grown to see his perspective was balanced. His old fashioned habits were formed by experience. His frugality was fatherly.
You can’t always see those things when you’re a kid. Adolescence tends to make those qualities even more invisible. But as you get out into the world and start to “adult” on your own, you realize that maybe, just maybe, dad wasn’t as out-of-touch as you once thought he was.
My brother and sister would testify with me that our earthly father is a gift from our heavenly Father.
But not everyone has good fatherly feelings. Abuse, addictions, affairs, abandonment, and everything else in between have created some serious dad disillusionment.
And, of course, there is death, which takes dads both good and bad and leaves a lingering loss.
Our trauma is real. For many of us, the pain throbs even deeper around this time of year, when marketing strategists tell us to celebrate fathers on the third Sunday of June.
Some of us may be disillusioned, and rightfully so, but we haven’t pulled the plug just yet. Father’s Day is still a lucrative holiday because whatever memories you might have about your dad, we still long for loving fathers — and mothers, for that matter.
Could it be that we were created with the craving?
CS Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
So, if we find in ourselves a daddy desire that no earthly father can fully satisfy, then is the most probable explanation that there is a Father from another world?
Some people call that sanctified superstition. The Bible calls him God. Powerful enough to create a universe yet personal enough to be called Father.
Whatever your relationship with your earthly father, the desire for a dad can be filled in God. He’s a dad for the disillusioned, because God isn’t merely “my” Father. As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, God is “Our Father, who art in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9) The pronoun is communal, not individual.
Only three people can call my dad, “father.” Only eight grandkids can call him “Papa.”
But anyone is eligible to call God “Father.” Any grandchild who can form the word on her lips can call him, “Abba.”
And this Abba will never abuse His kids. He will never leave us or forsake us. Death will never steal Him from us. He may not be the father we want. But He is the Father we all need.
— Gregg Madsen is the Lead Pastor of Steadfast Gretna. Reach him at gmad firstname.lastname@example.org.