Fathers. What do you say? First, there is the Father in heaven. The creator of all life. The one we pray to. The one we fear. The one we love. The one we count on for protection, guidance, support, approval. The one we count on for eternal care and shelter. In this one being we see the hope of all things. We see his love in the provision he made in sending his son to provide the bridge to all this contentment and hope. We knew his justice and wrath would have to be expressed and satisfied at some point. Yet, his love is so strong and his paternal character desires that none should perish, even though the consequences would dictate doom. But, he is not soft, passing over heinous crimes, transgressions, and lies. He is firm in his justice, but in true fatherhood looks for ways to satisfy justice and still save the child. So, he laid down his life for us. Like a father rushing to spare his child, as happened this week when a man saved his daughter from a vicious dog and lost his life in sparing hers, God the father laid down his life in the form of his son, sparing us eternal death.
Then there are fathers. This breed of father is only interested in the rush of lust and the accidental impregnation of a woman whether he cares or not. This breed of father is purely a biological function akin to breeding horses or cattle. There is no obligation, love, connection, nor care. This kind of father walks away, denies involvement, shirks responsibility. This kind refuses to support, pay support, or give the child any attention. This kind of father, if they take minimal responsibility, is abusive, hurtful, verbally destructive, and distant.
Then there are fathers. They marry the one they love. They have children, but have no sense of the needs of the child. They can be emotionally disengaged. They can be consumed with their career or work. They can be chasing fame, money, or power. Their excuses for the distance seem to be logical, defensible on the basis of “making a living.” So, the child grows with a father in the house, but also with an emotionally absentee father. Later in life, the child has difficulty with the whole concept and feeling of father.
Then there are fathers. They marry the one they love. They have children, but they realize the role of father is extremely important. They seek to engage with the child from birth. They are involved in the day to day of life for the child, the children. They see their role as stewardship to God. They really try to mentor the child in areas of life including character, manners, responsibility. They teach. They play. They advise. They discipline. They love. Also, they try to direct their child toward the Father in heaven. The fathers who admit their mistakes, ask forgiveness when wrong, are the ones that the child will come to year after year.
Being a father of four, I have been blessed. I have failed, succeeded, fell short, made the grade, stumbled, blundered, been soft, been harsh, lenient, and strict. It has been a journey of trial and error and the kids have been the objects of that trial and error. I found that no two are alike. Discipline changes with the child. What works for one does not do well for the other. Through it all I have loved my kids and my greatest project was to come to the place that, in their adulthood, they would be close friends. I feel I have achieved that. My wife has been a great help in this process. She has done much in training me to be a good father. She has tempered my discipline, led me to remain affectionate and pointed out factors that I did not think about.
Probably one of the greatest miracles is that even though they grew up in a preacher's home; they all love the Lord and are following after him. When I hear some of the stories they tell of how they were treated and bullied for being my kids, I cringe and I feel deeply sad they were treated that way because of me being a preacher.
However, the goal of the father should be to bring a child up in the admonition of the Lord. Understanding the stewardship entrusted to parents is a serious calling. Having served in ministry for many years now, I have seen the correlation of how fathers treated their kids and their ability to relate to God the father. Many struggled with eternity because of earthly fathers who did not love. Paul Young's book, The Shack, relates this situation in a novel of personal hurt and redemption.
Thankfully, I am enjoying the lifelong friendship and companionship of my children. Thank you Father in heaven.