On Father's Day, Willow Creek Community Church decided to Bear down.
The South Barrington congregation held a massive Father's Day celebration featuring classic cars, free hot dogs and popcorn, and an inspirational speech by Chicago Bears great Mike Singletary.
Singletary, now coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and his wife Kim were longtime members of the church before moving out of the area. Pastor Bill Hybels officiated at their wedding - held at Willow Creek - and served as chaplain for the Bears during the Mike Ditka era.
On Sunday, Singletary, one of 10 children and the father of seven of his own, shared his most personal memories of being a father and a son.
Not all of those memories were pleasant. Singletary's father, a pastor, left his mother when he was 12. The experience left a mark on him, even after his retirement from pro football.
What set the stage for being an effective parent, he said, was forgiving his father.
"I just didn't like him. I didn't like being around him. I didn't like the way he did things. I really didn't like the way he treated Mom," he said.
But the decision to forgive him turned out to be the greatest thing he could do, he said.
"All that stuff and all that hate, I would have passed that on to my kids. Because I wouldn't have been free to give them what God was giving me for them. It is one of the greatest decisions I have ever made as a father," he said.
Singletary told the audience he had learned many lessons in his years as a father. After his first child, a daughter, was born, fatherhood seemed easy.
"(She) did everything early," including walking, talking and carrying on a conversation. We hit the jackpot. It really tricked us into having six more," he said in a speech sprinkled with Cosby-esque humor.
He even wrote a book called "Daddy's Home at Last." At a book signing, a woman asked him, "Excuse me, sir, do you have any teenagers?" When he said no, she replied, "When you get teenagers, could you write another book?"
Sure enough, when his daughter became a teenager, "All of a sudden a different personality came out," he said.
He turned to God for wisdom and guidance.
"He knows my kids. He knew them before I did. He knows how they're bent," Singletary said. "I'm always reminded, 'No, Mike, do it according to my word. Don't manipulate them. Don't make them feel guilty. Don't try to make them do it the way you would do it. They're not like you. God created them. And he knows. He has the script. And I just need to follow it."
Singletary also spoke about how important it is for men to love their wives unconditionally.
"If I can love my wife, if I can love her the way Christ loved the church, if I can love her that way and get myself out of way, that's the blueprint. Somehow, for all the things that I get wrong as a father, somehow, some way, my kids will pick it up, because of the way I treat my wife. They will get it," he said.
Once again, Singletary used humor to leaven the message, saying that this means telling his wife the food tastes good when it is burned or answering that she doesn't look fat when she is pregnant.
It's also important for fathers to realize that their job never ends.
"When our kids are out of the house, we can't just say, 'OK. That's it. I paid for this. I paid for that. Go get it. Go live life. That's when they need us the most," he said. "No, it doesn't mean we have to tell them how to live. No, it doesn't mean that we have to live their life for them. No it doesn't mean we have to live our life through them. But what it does mean is that we're there and we're constantly praying for them," he said.