Thoughts about Father’s Day and love

Western Union telegram header (circa 1941)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Over the years, I have been given many enjoyable and unique Father’s Day gifts—special breakfasts, Belgian beer, beard trimmers and always one of Tammy’s homemade craft cards. I confess though, that what has brought me the greatest joy were the times my children gave me a big hug and told me they love me (I get misty-eyed just thinking about it!).

We humans are the most sociable species on earth—we want to love and be loved. But what accounts for love? Science, in accordance with its nature, looks for strictly physical explanations. A current explanation is that love evolved as a vehicle related to the human drive to reproduce. But if that is the case, why then do parents continue to love their children after they are born? Science points to reward processing systems in the brain (pictured below) that, through biochemical reactions, fire the pleasure centers of the brain. The pleasurable feelings that result are then interpreted as “love.” Conversely, the painful feelings we experience when love is lost are the result of events that lead to the firing of the brain’s pain centers. No wonder we hold fast to the objects of love and seek to avoid the loss of love through rejection, divorce, death, etc.

The brain’s reward processing system.

The physical reactions in the brain related to our feelings of love are real. But is the physiology of love all there is to it? The answer is no. By God’s design, humans are physical-spiritual beings—the union of body and spirit. [1] Though science generally does a good job dealing with the physical (with more being learned all the time), it does not (and with its tools, cannot) enter the realm of the spirit where understanding comes not through observation or experimentation, but by revelation that comes through the words and acts of Jesus, the ministry and personal agency of the Spirit, and Holy Scripture.

In Scripture, God has revealed to us that we humans were created in the image of God (imago dei). As discussed last week, Scripture also tells us that God (who is one in Being and three in Person) is love (1 John 4:16). Thus the love we experience as humans is not merely a biochemical phenomenon—it is a reflection, through the Spirit, of God’s own spiritual-relational nature. It is God who gives us the ability to give and to receive love.

When I think about my beloved family members—my grandfathers, my dad, my father-in-law, my wife and children—I experience very pleasurable feelings! I’m aware that these feelings involve the firing of the pleasure centers within certain regions of my brain—that is what is happening physically, and I’m thankful to God, my Creator, for that! But what produces those reactions in my brain is not the need to reproduce, but the spiritually-grounded desire for good and right relationships. For that desire (and ability) I also thank my Creator, who designed us for relationship—ones that, in amazing ways, can reflect, if only dimly, God’s own kind of love for us.

I know that some of you reading this have not had a good relationship with your human father. I also know that the painful feelings of that bad relationship sometimes are projected onto God our Father. If that’s the case for you, I’ve got good news: those bad perceptions can be overcome by extending forgiveness to the human father who failed to be the kind of dad God designed him to be. Rather than remaining trapped in the past, please remember that God is in the business of healing and changing individual people and even whole families.

Here’s good news for those of you who are fathers: no matter what kind of dad you have been, God wants to make you a better one. He is a perfect Father who is faithful and can help us all become better versions of ourselves, as he works to transform us into the person he created us to be. Indeed, he who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion (see Philippians 1:6).

Just as I relish my children hugging me and telling me they love me, I know God relishes when we trust and receive his love as we hug him back in response. But it doesn’t stop there—we can be conduits of God’s love to others. When we extend love to one of God’s children, they might sense they are being hugged by God himself. Our heavenly Father is perfect love and has moved heaven and earth to have a loving relationship with all his children—those he is bringing to share in the glory of his own Son!

Happy Father’s Day to you all,
Joseph Tkach

[1] Click here for a GCI article that addresses the biblical teaching that humans are the union of body and spirit (soul).

Note: the images used in this letter are from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts about Father’s Day and love”

  1. Here’s one explanation as to how the Father’s Day tradition began to be observed in the USA.

    “There are two stories of when the first Father’s Day was celebrated. According to some accounts, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington state on June 19, 1910. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise (She would probably be displeased that Mother’s Day still gets the lion’s share of attention).

    Sonora’s dad was quite a man. William Smart, a veteran of the Civil War, was left a widower when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their small farm in Washington. To show her appreciation for all the hard work and love William gave to her and her siblings, Sonora thought there should be a day to pay homage to him and other dads like him. She initially suggested June 5th, the anniversary of her father’s death to be the designated day to celebrate Father’s Day, but due to some bad planning, the celebration in Spokane, Washington was deferred to the third Sunday in June.

    The other story of the first Father’s Day in America happened all the way on the other side of the country in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.

    While Father’s Day was celebrated locally in several communities across the country, unofficial support to make the celebration a national holiday began almost immediately. William Jennings Bryant was one of its staunchest proponents. In 1924, President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday. But no official action was taken.

    In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday”.


  2. Thank God for a church family that has so much Love and understanding. How could anyone feel alone. Thank you so much for teaching the Love of God. To be blessed and bless others as needed.

  3. It is interesting that Jesus did not mention Joseph a single time in the Gospels that I can recall. Joseph seemed to have a “bit part” in the whole account. On the return from the trip to Jerusalem, when Jesus was missed, he clearly and pointedly stated to Joseph and Mary that his Father was someone else. Humans seem to emphasize family as a biological concept and Christ seemed to have thought of it as in a spiritual perspective. Just saying.

  4. Thanks Joe for these reflections and projections that we can add to our own and project to our family, friends and acquaintances. Happy Father’s Day to all.

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