I had a most extraordinary experience of speaking in Church today (having members of the congregation speak is a fairly common occurrence to those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The topic was, of course, fathers. I wanted to share this talk with all of you, especially as I know my Heavenly Father guided my words.
One of my earliest memories of my father is of a night when I was
desperately sick. I don’t even recall how old I was. I simply remember the night
my door was opened, the bright light of the kitchen across the hall blinding me.
I was frightened for a moment, unsure of who the tall shadows were who boldly
walked into my room, each one looming at either side of my bed. It wasn’t until
the soft whisper of my father’s voice was heard that I became calm. I felt his
considerable hands press gently upon my fevered brow as he and a trusted friend
gave me a blessing.
Those hands have been a symbol of love, of gentleness, and of power from that day. I recall those hands gently lifting me up out of my bed on Sunday mornings, cradling me to his chest as he would rock me awake. Just like many other fathers, he worked an awful lot, and our time together was rare and precious. I loved to go on odd jobs with him, to watch those hands fixing a swamp cooler or a heater. Those hands showed me what it meant to serve my fellow men.
My father-in-law is another special man who knows what it means to use his hands in righteous works. Like my own father, most days you can find him in the home of a friend, family, or ward member who is in need of help. I can’t begin to tell you what it’s meant to watch as those hands, perhaps not so steady as the years have gone by, help to give healing to my sick children. Those hands also stand as a testament to what a good and righteous father can do for those he loves.
I recall the moment my husband took our daughter, so scrawny and gray and weird looking as she first came into this world, and with wonder in his eyes held her for the
first time. It was a miraculous moment for him, and for me as well. I remember the day our first son was born. With agony he laid his hands on his son’s head, followed by my father’s and my older brother’s, and together in a crowded hospital room, amid the sniffling and crying of doctors and nurses, they gave this precious boy a name and a blessing. My husband held this child only once that day.
Since that time two more rambunctious boys and a vivacious little girl have come to grace our home. I love to watch as each child embraces their father as he comes home from work, or takes his hand with their own, anxious to keep hold of him. I count myself as one of the most fortunate of women to have this remarkable man as the father of our children. Like both of our fathers, he is rarely able to be home as his life is spent in working to help those in need, either through his jobs or through his callings. I know my children are watching as those hands bless not only their lives, but others as well.
I believe it is in these precious moments we can witness a small portion of what it might be like to be a child of God. It is not the material gifts we present to our children, the movies we take them to, or how many times we all go to get a Slurpee. It is in the moments when the bond between children and their fathers are brought into focus.
There is a time in the life of Jesus Christ where my appreciation and love for our
Heavenly Father intensifies each time I think about it.
This beloved Son had never once sinned. Never. He could not understand what it meant to sin. Neither could he comprehend until the moment He walked into the Garden of Gethsemane what one little sin can do to a person. All at once the
realization of what He was being asked to do begins to settle upon His mind, and
He cried out, “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”
Perhaps the Father’s perfect Son is now frightened by what He is being asked. We do not know. It is only in empathizing with our elder brother, in trying to imagine just a little of what agony the weight of sin had already placed upon Him in those short moments, that we can even begin to appreciate His next words: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Up in a world of spirits stood a Father who must have been in agony himself. Have any of you thought even for a moment what watching this scene must have been like for Him? As He watched His perfect Son writhe in anguish, did He wish to call out, to bend to His Son’s wishes, to stop the pain? Was His hand stretched out, shaking, wishing He could do just that?
The Father would not stop what was happening, but He could give His Son some form of comfort. He sent an angel, perhaps one of Christ’s greatest friends, down to give Him what little support could be offered. Still, it wasn’t enough.
The time came when Christ would be asked to endure more than even He thought possible. Not only was the angel’s presence withdrawn, but the Father pulled His own Spirit and influence away as well. I cannot begin to imagine the shock this must have been to a Son who had never, in His entire life, gone without the influence of His Father. These two individuals had never known a moment like this before. How do you imagine the Father felt at that moment, knowing the intense distress He was causing His Son?
Yet what a joy it must have been for both when the Holy Spirit and influence of the Father was restored. Never does one appreciate the blessings in one’s life until those blessings have been taken away.
Surely this should have been enough. Hadn’t Christ just endured all that would be required? Could not the Father now take His Son up to Him, satisfied that all had been accomplished?
We all know it was not enough. Still the Father watched on as His Son was brutally beaten, mocked by those who simply could not comprehend, nailed to a cross, and hung. Surely the Father desired to send legions of angels to stop the cruelty, to at last allow His perfect Son to be at peace. Instead, the Father knew the mission was not complete. Once again He needed to take His influence away from His Son. Is it any wonder, after all that He had endured, Jesus the Christ yelled out in agony, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46.)
How the Father’s heart must have torn at those words. They were not a condemnation, but a desperate cry from a Son to His Father.
There is a moment I often ponder upon, as perhaps only a parent can. Christ has given up the ghost, and returned to the spirit world, where He is embraced by friends and family who have gone before. His body is no longer in pain. What do you think our Heavenly Father was thinking at that point? Was He grateful for the little time it took for the resurrection and ascension to calm His trembling hands, to wipe His tears, before finally being able to take His Son up into His arms and hold on tight? Was His voice choked as He patted His Son on the back and whispered, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “[The Father] endured what He saw because it was the only way that a saving, vicarious payment could be made for the sins of all His other children, from Adam and Eve to the end of the world. I am eternally grateful for a perfect Father and His perfect Son, neither of whom shrank from the bitter cup nor forsook the rest of us who are imperfect, who fall short and stumble, who too often miss the mark.”
As we celebrate this Father’s Day, take some time to recognize what it is our Father sacrificed that day, but don’t stop there. If you have never realized it before, it is time to recognize it now. He allowed all of this to happen because He loves each and every one of us so very much. We are not perfect. We all have sinned. We will never be asked to go through what Christ went through. Yet the Father love us so much that He sacrificed His only perfect child so that we can all come back to live with Him someday.
What a remarkable Father.