Here’s a Father’s Day riddle for all you dads out there…Question: What do fathers and farmers have in common? Answer: They both began with Adam.
Cultivating God’s Garden
When God made man, He gave him the job of cultivating or “keeping” the garden. From a practical perspective, this might mean that God told Adam – and all fathers after him – to provide for his family’s needs, whether that’s planting a garden, farming the land, or working a job that brings home an income.
Fathering from the Heart
But the Hebrew word for “tending the garden” also means to guard, keep, or preserve life, and for the man after God’s heart, this also involves tending to the emotional life of his wife and children. In his address to the World Meeting of Families in 2015, Dr. Scott Hahn pointed out that it was Adam’s duty to protect his wife, not just the garden. And since the wife is the heart of the home, this includes protecting her heart, and the hearts of his children as well.
A father is created to reflect the love of God, so he can share the Father’s Heart with his family. But having the heart of a father can be a real challenge for dads whose hearts are already burdened by the cares of the day, old family wounds, or barriers in communication. And trying to provide for a family in today’s world can be a huge added stressor.
Our Technical World
The truth of the matter is that we live in a techne world, as Cardinal Ratzinger would say. In his book, Introduction to Christianity the future Pope Benedict wrote that man is a personal gift to the world, but too often he’s measured by how useful he is or how much he can make or produce. Fathers face a lot of pressure to make more money, earn more status, and secure more rungs up the working ladder. And when there’s an imbalance between product and process – between doing and being – fathers can end up feeling depleted, unappreciated, and incomplete.
Are you a Fix-It Man?
But, given the world’s obsession with “doing,” it’s not surprising that a dad’s focus is often on what he can produce, accomplish, or fix in his own little corner of Eden. As head of the family, a father’s default when things go wrong can be to go into “fix-it” mode. Moms are certainly thankful for this bent, especially when the tap is leaking, or the grass needs cutting, or those little mysteries of creation are raising Cain in the living room. So, it can be confusing for dads when they attempt to fix things in the middle of an emotional tsunami and are met with, “Dad, you don’t care about me!” or “You just don’t get it!” or (the worst blow), “I’m gonna go talk to Mom.”
Or maybe it’s your wife who’s threatened to go home to Mom! Let’s face it…most wives and mothers have a honey-do list that is often so long that it’s hard to get things from to-do to done. So, it seems a no-brainer that when there’s trouble in paradise, the best thing to do is knock off something on the to-do list.
Well, guys, I’ve got a tip for you…If you find yourself striking out by trying to fix the problem when there are feelings involved, chances are it’s not about the nail. (Do check out this YouTube video! ?)
Doing vs. Being
Perhaps what the Adams of the world need is to balance out the Peter and John in their lives. Certainly, there’s a place for the Peter in you as you take care of your family. You know…catching fish, feeding sheep, or even brandishing a sword and cutting off an ear or two. But there’s also a need to spend some time in “John mode,” pondering the Word, resting with the Lord, or even sleeping in the garden while Jesus goes to battle and sweats blood for you. Just being with the Lord – being in the Presence – can help you unplug from the rat race and be emotionally present to your own children when they need you most.
For busy dads, that might mean slowing life down and chilling with your little disciples. Just. Doin’. Nuthin’. …Watching a bug on the sidewalk, reading a book, finding animals in the clouds, or swinging on the swing to the rhythm of pint-sized chatter. It might also mean just listening when your loved ones share their feelings, and holding your tongue on the fixing thing.
Tools in Your Toolbox
So, dads…whether you’re planting crops, tending livestock, or raising a family, here are some resources to help you take care of yourself and your family emotionally and grow a Father’s heart in the middle of this busy world:
? Got a farm? Got stress? Explore the mental health resources listed at Ontario Pork or email The Do More Agricultural Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org for emotional wellness support – for farmers, by farmers.
? Read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart) to learn how St. Joseph fulfilled his role as father to the holiest family on earth.
? Adopt St. Joseph as your foster father with Fr. Don Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph.
? Dive into the book, What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work for the ultimate set of emotion coaching tools.
? Tap into the wisdom and expertise of pastoral counsellor, Dr. Gregory Popcak, in his book, The Be-DAD-itudes: 8 Ways to Be an Awesome Dad.
? Explore everything Dad on dads.org for resources and tips, products and podcasts, on faith, family, finances, schooling, counselling, relationships, and so much more…
? And finally, for those fathers who need some affirmation, follow this link to The Father’s Love Letter and find out what your Heavenly Abba really thinks of you.