Two Pastors, Two Fathers, Two Sons

A Father’s Day Tribute to Fathers

In 1957 Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father’s Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years and singling out only one parent, mothers, for honor.  President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.  In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed it into law as a permanent holiday.


Father’s Day has an interesting history in America.  Its celebration was first held in 1910 at the Spokane, Washington YMCA.  Sonora Smart Dodd, a member of Old Centenary Presbyterian Church, first proposed it.  Hearing about Mother’s Day in a Methodist Episcopal Church sermon, she told her pastor fathers should have a similar day of honor.  Her father, a Civil War veteran, raised his six children as a single parent following her mother’s death in childbirth.

However, a day to honor fathers had a hard way to go and struggle to be accepted elsewhere and finally nationally.  In 1957 Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father’s Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years and singling out only one parent, mothers, for honor.  President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.  In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed it into law as a permanent holiday.  It’s noteworthy the Catholic Church celebrated fatherhood on St. Joseph’s Day going back to the late 14th century.  It is also celebrated around the world in different nations.

Looking back, we might harshly judge those in the past of unwillingness to honor fathers; but look where we are today.  Men and fathers, specifically, appear to be in a freefall from a place of honor as various factors, e.g., radical feminism, the #MeToo movement, and other forces tend to be in an attack mode on males and fathers by focusing mainly on failures of some or by dismissing their need, place, or role.  The percentage of homes without a father’s influence or presence is quite high—too high!

For many of us of a certain age, we have fond memories of our fathers, retaining a love and respect for them.  The role and responsibility of a father to his children is important to God and to children.  Fathers are particularly important in the healthy development of their sons.  They’re important to daughters too.  As a Daddy’s girl, I’ll forever be grateful for the man, the father whose character was sterling in many ways and his love and affection genuinely apparent whom I remember as my Daddy.  Nonetheless, he played perhaps a more prominent role in the life of his son, my brother.

Fathers and sons have a special bond and relationship.  It is one that has consequences for their sons later in life and result in how they will one day be as husbands and fathers.  They tend to repeat what their father model for and to them.

This brings me to two men and their sons and two incidents that speak volumes of a beautiful bond, affection, and respect the boys have for their fathers.  The two men are pastors of my church.  Both are fathers.  Both have a daughter and a son or sons.

One Sunday last fall, our senior pastor, Clay Smith, was at the door greeting people as they were leaving the worship service.  He has one son and one daughter—both adopted.  All of a sudden, his son, Isaiah, ran up to him from behind and gave him the strongest hug.  Observing this display of great affection, I was struck by how much Isaiah loved his father and was unembarrassed to show him enormous affection—even publicly.  Isaiah now 12 years old was 11 then.  Isaiah is a beautiful African-American young man.  His father is Caucasian.

Several Sundays ago, I sat two or three pews behind another pastor and father, Ben Tzeng.  Ben and his family are Chinese-American.  He has two sons and one daughter.  Ben was holding his lively four-year old, Titus, who couldn’t sit still in his lap.  All of a sudden little Titus grabbed his father’s head with evident affection and began kissing his father on the head.  Such love of a small child for his father!  Titus is another beautiful boy.  I couldn’t help smiling at such love and affection of a son for his father.

Umberto Eco, an Italian novelist said: “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments when they aren’t trying to teach us.  We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” An American writer, Clarence Budington Kelland, wrote: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

These two beautiful and stout boys, Isaiah and Titus, are watching and learning from their fathers how to one day be a man and perhaps a father too.  For me personally, I witnessed two very special, beautiful relationships between two fathers and their sons—such delightful experiences.

Fathers are very important, and those who lovingly and responsibly balance their work, obligations, and other relationships to be the father their children need are truly worthy of honor not just one day—but throughout the year.  And not to take away from these wonderful earthly fathers, we all—children and adults—have a heavenly Father who loves us deeply and desires our communication, honor, adoration, and affection.  Seeing these two sons grab their fathers’ bodies with evident love and affection is a picture of what our heavenly Father might desire of us—not just honor, but our genuine love and affection in return.  After all, hasn’t He provided for us, loved us, perhaps disciplined us in love for our good—and, above all, provided for our redemption and eternal life through the gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ?

An expert in the law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus asked him what is written in the law, and he replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind . . .” Father’s Day is an appropriate day to also remember our heavenly Father.

Back to earthly fathers; while our culture and society may be diminishing their importance, necessity, and role in the lives of their children, we need to resist that trend, that downgrading of one of the highest callings in life for a man.  We have an official national holiday to honor the men who often sacrifice some of their own ambitions to be the loving, caring, affectionate, and providing fathers that children innately and desperately need.  Many provide not only sustenance, financial and physical needs—they provide emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs, too.

God bless you, fathers, and Happy Father’s Day.  You deserve the honor you have earned.  May your beautiful children give to you the love and affection Isaiah and Titus (Aren’t those beautiful biblical names?) openly and publicly gave to their fathers.  This Daddy’s girl, though now up in years, remains affectionately thankful to Houston Beverly Herndon, Sr. for the “life he lived.”

Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.