How We Pray on Father’s Day, and Other True Jokes.

Early on in my days as a Father, I started to notice something, and continue to find really funny: namely that there’s a difference in how churches treat parents on their special days of honor.

Here’s a slightly dramatized version to highlight the difference:

Mother’s Day prayer:

“O Lord we thank you for the perfection that is our mothers. And we pray for all women everywhere regardless of if they are mothers or not. Protect the women! We Fathers have done a pretty bad job of doing that. Amen.”

Your pastor (probably)

Father’s Day prayer:

“Lord, thankfully we’ve got you as a Father, because these jackwagons on earth have failed in lots of extravagant ways. Forgive us for being such bad fathers, and not living up to the calling you’ve given us. Amen.”

Same pastor (most likely)

Did you notice it, or should I circle back and slather on a few more layers?

First off, it started as (and remains) mostly a joke to point this out, but the more I got to thinking through it, the more I think there’s something true there that makes the joke funny as opposed to making the preacher cowardly.

That’s right: I think these are appropriate and Biblical ways to highlight that men and women are different, created by God to glorify each other in different ways. Of course, my hyperbole above might be problematic, but what I’ve actually seen in churches (my own and others) is generally not crass or flippant.

Are there certain instances of pastors over-placating women and mothers, and not appropriately calling them to repent, or to do better? Conversely: do pastors sometimes over-emphasize the failings of men and fathers when they could be more encouraging? Almost certainly. It would be foolish to try and argue otherwise.

But here’s the thing: our culture and world does those two things (berate moms and placate dads) without ceasing, and by default.

Women are constantly being berated (mostly by other women) to do more, be more, and do better. In my (albeit limited) view, there’s essentially an internal voice for moms in our culture that they are failing and their kid is going to resent them and they should do more.

Men (and particularly fathers) on the other hand have a comically low bar set for them. I get praised just for the act of showing up. “You’re such a good dad” they say when they see me do literally the base level of making sure my kids don’t die.

My wife left for a work-related trip and had to reassure everyone who asked that I was perfectly capable of watching the kids for 3 days. I was a hero despite doing very little more than driving to and from the school two more times per day.

Men and women are different, and are treated differently.

As a note: this article is talking about parenthood from the perspective of a two-parent family, and I’m not here to argue or really discuss the particulars of how single-parenthood applies, but I will note that in general what I’m saying holds true in those situations, too. Men are given a cultural pass and pat on the back and women are… not.

The Bible has entered the chat…

In the very beginning of the Bible, there are specific and distinct curses given to both the original man and the original woman when they sinned against him. Here’s a list, taken from Genesis 3:

To the Woman

(she didn’t have a name yet, in the flow of the story!)

  • Pain is multiplied in her childbirth
  • She has sorrow over her children
  • Her desire is contrary to her husband’s
  • Her husband rules over her

To Adam

  • The ground is cursed
  • In pain he will cultivate it
  • Vegans are a thing (I’m kidding… I think)
  • Briars and thistles mixed w/ fruit
  • He has to sweat to eat/provide

I notice two sides of the curses: all the curses for the woman are family-based while all the curses for Adam are vocation-based. The man got the economic curses, and the woman got the relational ones.

Here’s my point: the gospel is good news that directly addresses the bad news of the curses in Genesis 3. The gospel “un-curses” those in Christ.

There’s a definite “already-but-not-yet” to the gospel promises that undoes the curses.

Moms still have pain in childbirth, and sorrow over children, and a sinful nature that produces desires contrary to her husband (and a bonus curse that the husband has a bent toward authoritarianism instead of partnership!)

Dads still have work that is both physically hard and emotionally hard. There are still “briars” mixed in with the “fruit” and his role of provider and protector is more difficult.

But the more they are in Christ, the more those curses are being turned inside-out. There’s blessing where there was only pain. There’s an expiration date.

So when your pastor prays for moms, encouraging them that they are walking toward the curse expiration date, that’s gospel.

And when that same pastor prays for dads in a way that challenges them to step up, and acknowledge the ways that they are falling short, and to reject a passive attitude toward their family and calling, that’s gospel.

Men and women are different. Our culture denies it with their lips, but can’t stop acting like it’s true in their actions. Here’s a thought experiment to prove that point: take church out of it and let’s start a viral campaign on “Moms are failures” and/or “Dads are perfect” and see how each is received.

My wager is that few will find the joke funny, yet we’ve got decades of evidence from Everybody loves Raymond to Caillou that have essentially that exact character arch and plot line (with the characters of course reversed) and it’s genuine comedy.

I for one am here for bearing the brunt of jokes and being bluntly told the truth: because the gospel is true, all of us moms and dads are being sanctified just as surely as we were justified. In Christ there is grace and truth.

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