Fatherhood is a journey that few men would have begun if they had bothered to read the fine print at the bottom of the contract before making the commitment. The physical responsibilities are sobering, but the frightening part of fatherhood is the spiritual, moral, and emotional demands it places on a man.
Early childhood isn’t too bad. Mom, frankly, carries most of the load. Dads learn to change diapers and to haul baby equipment, but there are almost no intellectual requirements. The young family appears to be on auto-pilot, and we begin to think fatherhood is not as perplexing as we have been led to believe.
One day, a small cloud appears on the horizon of our ignorant paradise. Junior discovers the joys of redecorating the house with applesauce and toilet paper. Or maybe your sweet daughter decides to give her brother a Mohawk, or tie a belt around his ankle and drag him through the back yard.
The sky darkens considerably over the next few years. We discover our “innocent” children are skilled in the arts of selfishness, defiance, anger, hatred, and even cruelty. Ultimately, the storm crashes around us, and we envision a future filled with liability lawsuits, 911 calls, visits from law enforcement officials, and humiliating exposure of family secrets on daytime television.
Finally, we have shed our naïve ideas about fatherhood, and our Heavenly Father now has our attention (which, we eventually realize, was His plan all along). The real problem, we discover, is that our children are just like us.
God gave us children because He expects us to grow up. He wants us to wrestle with the knowledge that Christ is more than a slogan on a banner—He is the only hope of fallen man held to account by a Holy Creator. Our children’s actions and attitudes serve as powerful reminders of that truth. There is no hope of redemption from within the heart of man. He must look outside of himself.
Our culture withholds certain vital information early in the fatherhood journey, and we are willing accomplices in this conspiracy of ignorance. It’s appealing to buy into the lie that fatherhood is not vital to the emotional and spiritual integrity of children. It relieves us of the need to examine our own hearts, and it feeds the voracious hunger of fallen men and women to be “freed” from sexual morality. Shirking the duties of fatherhood makes lots of people happy. The only problem is that it ultimately makes us miserable.
Fatherhood is vital. Loving, purposeful fathers are essential to the proper development of spiritually mature children. How tragic that the culture denies the importance of fatherhood, and how sad that so many in the Church have been willing to buy into such foolishness!
What does God have to say about fatherhood? God’s proclamations—surprise, surprise!—have not changed. He has not revised His position on the authoritarian, antiquated, ridiculous, and terribly inconvenient fact that fatherhood is important. That’s not His way. His positions on important issues, it seems, were so well conceived that He never has to change course in order to accommodate recent studies, polls, observations, or whims. All our arguments carry zero weight in the great heavenly court of Truth. There is no shadow of turning with Him.
Here’s the Official Position on Fatherhood:
Fathers must teach their children about God.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children … Deuteronomy 6:4-6
Fathers must teach their children about self-restraint.
In that day I will perform against Eli all [things] which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 1 Samuel 3:12-13
We must teach our children about the goodness of the Heavenly Father.
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if [he ask] a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:11-13
We must nurture, admonish, and encourage, but never provoke.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged. Colossians 3:21
We must be prepared to chasten our children.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? Hebrews 12:7
The truth is that fathers are leaders whose actions, words, attitudes, choices, voice inflections, preferences, and gestures all have great impact on their children. If you are a father, you will influence your children’s personality and values. Good fathers influence for good; Bad fathers produce bad fruit; and absent fathers leave a void which the child will fill with any influence he can find. Today, we see a small number of fathers depositing good things into the hearts of their children, overshadowed by a multitude of fathers who have chosen to abandon their children, in one way or another, and to allow less desirable influences to prey upon them.
Recently, I read a fascinating opinion piece by Jason Whitlock, a sports columnist, about the character qualities of quarterbacks in professional football. Whitlock had the courage to suggest that character really counts, especially to franchise owners who must invest millions of dollars in their quarterbacks. The logic is fairly simple. Talented young quarterbacks who developed their self-worth and value system under the influence of a stable, two-parent family are safer investments than those of equal talent whose negligent upbringing leaves them unable to adapt under pressure, receive criticism, work as part of a team, and focus on long-term goals.
Such moments of clarity are rare in the secular culture—and not well-received. To articulate such observations is to threaten the philosophical foundation of a culture that has rejected God and His truths. Truth, however, is never the enemy of God’s people—it is our hope and refuge.
Dads, your children need you. God appointed you to shape, love, and prepare them. They need you to direct every facet of their upbringing. You may not think you’re a very good candidate for the job. God obviously disagrees. He uses unworthy vessels. And in the process of using you to become a positive influence in the lives of your children, He will also be transforming you into the image of His Son.
And Dads, when you have the opportunity to encourage another dad, or to befriend a child who needs a father, or to help guide a home school support group, or to tell your wife that she’s doing a great job, please do. Your words and actions are more powerful than you realize.