The Burden of Fatherhood

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by James Goldberg

On Sunday, we celebrate men who carry the burden of fatherhood.

But today, let us mourn over the men who let that burden drop and over the countless empty, aching spaces they leave when they go.

Let us mourn over men who were trusted and did not live up to trust. Who were needed and walked away from the needs of their own flesh and blood.

Let us mourn over men who never learned to face the shard of God in themselves, who fled from their own divinity.

It is not easy to be a father. To help build order without becoming a tyrant. To feel your imperfections against duty like scrapes against salt. To reach out to your wife and children when you yourself feel judged and alone.

It is not easy to be a father. To see your time not as property, but as a stewardship. To teach your own desires patience while teaching others persistence. To resist resentment in its thousand insistent forms.

Is there any father who’s never longed for an escape? Who hasn’t been tempted to slide out from under this weight—through blame or anger, through intoxicants or pornography, through emotional withdrawal in his home or overinvestment in his work?

What is the difference between a man still struggling to stand by his family and a man who has walked away?

Let us mourn over men whose grips grew weak when troubles came, over men who never chose firm holds to cling to when they still had that chance.

Let us mourn for the wrong they did at their departure, and for the good they cannot do in their absence. For the example they set to other fathers. For the strength they sap from the words of every human promise.

On Sunday, we celebrate men who carry the burden of fatherhood.

So pray for me in my troubles and my weaknesses. May Christ’s bread sustain me in my grace-reliant work.

About James Goldberg

James Goldberg's family is Jewish on one side, Sikh on the other, and Mormon in the middle. Goldberg co-edits the Everyday Mormon Writer literary website, teaches composition and creative writing courses at BYU, and blogs at Mormon Midrashim. His debut novel, The Five Books of Jesus, was published in September 2012.

One Response to The Burden of Fatherhood

  1. templegoer says:

    As a fatherless daughter now raising her own children, there is no end to that mourning, and the damage it leaves behind. I choose to face front, but it haunts in so many ways, most sharply in the raising of my own son. I thank God every day for the consistency and devotion of my own husband. I hope we’re moving forward.
    I do find that I have to work hard not to give in to the seductive lure of bitterness and self pity, it has a romance. Living well is ordinary in comparison. I seek the high drama of things being broken if I am not very wary. Living well is hard work, and really rather boring to those who have been raised in such high drama.

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