Fathers. King of the Hill. Top Dog. El Supremo. The Godfather.
Informal titles carry almost no weight, but there’s an implied gravitas that attaches, depending on whether they’re bestowed in jest or in sincerity.
This is “the week.” In the next few days, preparations for Sunday’s annual focus on fathers will go from casual (Monday-Friday) to desperate (Saturday). Some will easily avoid the formalities; for them, dad was never part of their life, or – if he was – they’d just as soon forget him, at the advice of their friends or therapist.
For others, father was a figure who “did his best,” but his performance was – at best – amateur status. Dedicated to high-levels of achievement in career or recreation, dad earned his chops in non-family pursuits, but never seemed to rise to the world-class level around the dinner table. He gets the annual necktie – or, Starbucks card – but the Hallmark card that comes with it has no handwritten affirmations…
The few – more likely humble than rightly proud – are the men who embraced the assignment given to them by the all-time leader of the category, who goes by the name “Heavenly Father.” His commission to earthly dads: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
An announcement by a father
Phil Mickelson shook up the golf ghetto with his announcement that he’s missing this weekend’s tournament – the U.S. Open, the only major tournament he’s never won, though finishing in second place on six occasions – because of his daughter’s high school graduation.
In the culture of the culture, that excuse doesn’t warrant a pass. Something else must be “up,” in the minds of the success-at-all-costs American ethos. “She’s the school president; she’ll be giving the commencement speech” falls on deaf ears…
“Obviously, the U.S. Open is the tournament that I want to win the most, and the only way to win is if you play. But this is one of those moments where you look back on life, and you just don’t want to miss it. I’ll be really glad that I was there (at his daughter’s graduation).”
Is Phil a Christian? Through 25 years as a PGA professional, he’s managed to keep his personal faith positions out of public view. He and his wife, Amy, have been a rock-solid picture of commitment. It hasn’t cost Phil his golf prominence: he’s spent over 700 weeks in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012. He acts the part… including father.
There’s something about acquiring trophies and titles that stirs the heart of men; most of those achievements happen away from the homestead, out of view of the generations who operate outside the view of paparazzi and adoring crowds. Fans are fickle, and tend to drift from today’s champion to tomorrow’s contender pretty quickly; who are the folks who will be around to tell the story of long-term impact and consistent encouragement?
Families are paramount; they can also be virtual: “But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again – but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20).
Dads like Phil are wise when they see their family – their progeny – as the source of their “hope or crown – glory and joy” when the Lord Jesus comes back to award the trophies for what mattered most…