One of my favorite movie characters of all time is Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. His transition from child slave, to Jedi Apprentice, then Jedi
Master knight, and ultimately Dark Lord of the Sith plays out the way I think it would happen to many people who discover they have the ability to force choke anyone that annoys them. But seriously, I love the tragic story of a son who just wanted to protect his mother and when he couldn’t, started down a path where he ultimately lost everything. He lost the love of his life, he disappointed and failed the man who turned him to the dark side, and he futilely attempted to get his son to join him in conquering the galaxy for “order and control”.
As far as being a movie watcher goes, *Spoiler Alert* Vader’s last minute sacrifice in Return of the Jedi to save his son that ends in his own death is a satisfying redemption to complete Anakin’s story arc. It is made even more beautiful by John Williams’ Jedi Theme that plays in the background of the father and son’s final conversation to show that Anakin has allegedly brought balance to the force and has come back to the light side. But as a Dad, I am always struck by that last conversation:
Anakin Skywalker: Luke, help me take this mask off.
Luke: But you’ll die!
Anakin: Nothing can stop that now. Just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes. Now…go, my son. Leave me.
Luke: No, you’re coming with me. I won’t leave you here. I’ve got to save you!
Anakin: You already have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me… Tell your sister… you were right…
Luke: Father… I won’t leave you.
As Anakin (no longer Vader) is dying, all he wants is to look at his son’s face and affirm that his son was right about him. All of the poor choices, all of the violence and destruction Vader caused brought Anakin nothing. But looking at his son and knowing his son believed in him, that there truly was, “still good in him” is all that matters.
I know, I know. It’s Star Wars and I should enjoy the moments and just let the 2nd Death Star explode without a tear in my eye, but come on!
Every year on Father’s Day my wife (I think some of my students actually got me my first one!) gets me one of Jeffrey Brown’s delightful books that imagine Darth Vader as a father to Luke and Leia when they were children (my kids are going to be SO confused when they get older). I have spent many evenings sitting on the couch with the kids flipping through the three that we have.
They are silly and poke fun lovingly at characters and tropes from the saga, but it is a great way for me to introduce my love of Star Wars to my little people without showing them Darth Maul getting sliced in half!
Father’s Day has come and gone, and I am again reminded of the impact I have on my kids. This year they bought me a Hot Wheels race track set with cars to use. So not only do the kids know what I like, but the little geniuses got me a present so they could play with it! My kids know what I like and don’t like. They like things because I do. They don’t like things because I don’t.
As we continue to grow and change as a family, I am thrilled that Cora, Hank, and even Walt have started enjoying things because I do. They love Star Wars and even have favorite characters (Cora loves Leia, Hank loves all of the droids – he wants to love Vader but I think he is picking up on the fact that he is a bad guy, Walt loves the music). Hank loves to use ketchup with his food because I do. Hank loves Ninja Turtles because I gave him on of my stuffed animals from when I was his age. Cora loves music and wants to be a rockstar. Cora loves to play video games with me (that a girl!). Cora does NOT like ketchup though (she gets that craziness from her mom!). Walt loves to make funny noises and listen to music. Walt also loves to dance. They all have their own likes and dislikes but I love seeing them light up about things I light up about.
So as they grow, I hope more than just my love of Star Wars, ketchup, music, and video games is passed on. I hope they know how much I love my family and would do anything for them, and hopefully they will love their family the same way. I hope they see how much the Kingdom of God means to me, and they will also work hard to build a more peaceful, loving world. I want them to know that in the midst of darkness, chaos, and fear that we are called to be light and take care of those around us.
The world is big and they have so much to learn. But I hope to be right there alongside them as they do.
I will sit on the couch and read them books every night. I will pray with them and sing songs every night at bed time. I will put down my phone to have dance parties. I will wear the baby in the baby sling when we go places. I will snuggle them in the night when they have a nightmare. I will sleep in the rocking chair holding them when they just need someone to comfort them. I will spray them with the hose in the backyard even when they aren’t in swim suits because hey, it’s summer! I will teach them how to use a lawnmower and take care of their home. I will take them with me when we go to visit people from our church. I will hopefully show them how to have a pretty darn good marriage. I will love them unconditionally even when it hurts. I am completely and totally dad.
Even though driving in Lubbock makes me want to fully embrace the dark side most days (I really do mean because of the drivers…we love Lubbock!), I don’t want my kids to have to hope that there is still some good in me. I am not trying to be a picture perfect dad. I am just fully embracing the dad life and hoping my kiddos pick up on some of the beauty in this world so they will share it with others.
Happy Father’s day, friends.
May the force be with you.