A Rose By Any Other Name

by Joanie Butman

On Father’s Day it is only fitting to share a story about my dad. There’s no shortage of them, that’s for sure. He’s quite a character. In fact, when I was in elementary school and had to have a parent sign my assignments, he was a different character each time: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Sleepy, Popeye, you name it.

When I called him recently, I greeted him with the usual, “Hey Dad, it’s me, Joanie.” I added my name to avoid the compulsory, “Me who?” because he claims my three sisters and I all sound alike on the phone. I then asked, “How are you doing?” to which he responded, “Well, I woke up this morning and there wasn’t a tag on my toe, so pretty good!” It’s a familiar line he’s been using for a while now.

I was planning a visit and decided right then to play a joke on him. I made a tag that said “Welcome!” on one side, “Just Kidding” on the reverse, and had my mom tie it to his toe while he slept. I was expecting one of his notoriously loud reactions the next morning and was disappointed when my mom told me he didn’t even notice it, and she’d been forced to point it out. Actually, I shouldn’t have been surprised. That sounds exactly like him. He can be more than a little oblivious, which is how he survived the chaos of seven children.

I can’t say that I have totally avoided the oblivious gene, but I think two of the best things my dad passed down to me are his sense of fun and his godly example of a life lived out in faith. Did he get it perfect? Far from it, but his walk with Christ has never faltered. I suppose he taught me that Christianity is not about perfection but perseverance. Our humanity prevents perfection, but God’s love, grace and mercy are new everyday, and it’s our choice whether or not to avail ourselves of them.

That said, I didn’t always appreciate his sense of humor or his faith, but teenagers are like that. Minus those lost years, which I hated probably more than he did, his influence in my life is something I treasure. Come to think of it, I did then as well, but was too ornery to admit it. Bless his heart though, because he always welcomed me home with open arms, as did my mom – so like God.  I am convinced God included the commandment “Honor thy father and mother” specifically for teenagers. They were probably just as difficult for Moses. I don’t care if you are in the middle of the desert, if there’s a party, they'll find it!

After he retired from the law profession, my father became a Eucharistic minister and at 88 continues to deliver communion to housebound individuals. His unique combination of faith and humor has endeared him to many of his ‘patients.’ Some he’s ministered to for ten years or more. I hope I can say the same someday about this blog – my own little ministry of sorts. It’s funny, people who would be otherwise opposed to hearing about God, find it more palatable when served with a healthy dose of humor. Why do people think He’s so serious? Have they never seen an aardvark, a platypus or some of his other more bizarre creations? It is no coincidence I ended up with the surname Butman. It was simply God’s humorous payback for all those crank phone calls I made to the Lipshits when I was a tween.

My gratitude for my father and the importance of fathers was brought home to me recently when a new acquaintance confided that the biggest hurdle she faces in her spiritual life is being able to trust God because she’s never had a trustworthy male figure in her life. My heart broke for her and the countless numbers of others who have suffered the same fate. It is crippling in so many ways.

The tragedy is not everyone enjoys a healthy paternal presence in their earthly life, but the beauty is EVERYONE can have access to one through Christ. Like my father, God is called by many names, but His trustworthy character remains the same. Abba, Jehovah, Yeshua, I AM, Alpha and the Omega, Elohim, El-Shaddai, Adonai, King of Kings or Lord of Lords. Regardless of what you call Him, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. On that you can depend. I may not have listened to everything my parents taught me, but that truth has been the foundation on which I have built my life.

If you want to read a story about my spiritual Father, there’s no shortage of them either. You can only choose to trust Him by learning about His character. The Bible is overflowing with stories that illustrate his loving nature, sovereignty, provision, protection and grace. Love letters to you from your heavenly Father. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Father’s day – especially for those who have never experienced one.

This one’s for you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.