Striving for the Ideal Father

June 14, 2019

Our society gives mixed messages on fatherhood. The American Psychological Association in an article called “Deconstructing the Essential Father” asserts that fathers do not make a “unique and essential contribution to child development.” Their purpose is to influence public policy by legitimizing a variety of family structures—unmarried parents, gay parents, and single moms.

Yet the empirical evidence supports a conclusion that God’s plan for a family is really best. 70% of juvenile delinquents come from fatherless homes. Sixty percent of rapists and 72% of adolescent murderers come from homes where they have not known or lived with their fathers. Even the mother-child bond is weakened by an absent father.

In the midst of so much brokenness, we need to capture a vision of the ideal father and strive towards it.

God wants fathers to be leaders in their homes. Paul taught “…the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23, NASB). No doubt Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 was counter cultural to the first century with his emphasis on a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife. Yet it is also counter cultural to feminism and political correctness. The leadership Paul taught is not tyrannical, but the servant leadership that is taught elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 20:25-28). It is a call to sacrificial love and spiritual leadership. Too frequently wives have no spiritual support from their husbands.

God wants fathers to love their wives. Although men often like to point to the words “Wives, be subject to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22, NASB), Paul wrote more to husbands in this section of Ephesians than to wives. The constant refrain is “love” (the word is used 6 times in Eph. 5:25-33). Love your wives as Christ loves the church—that is sacrificially. Love your wives as you do your own bodies. Love your wives as yourself, which echoes the second greatest commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, NASB). Our culture emphasizes the feelings of love. I suspect that if we followed the New Testament’s emphasis on the deeds of love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) we would have less trouble maintaining the feelings of love.

God wants fathers to instruct and discipline their children. Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NASB). We will need to know the instruction of the Lord before we can pass it along to the next generation. Teaching and discipline require involvement and time. God has given us a responsibility that we must not shirk.

Few of us would feel like the ideal father, and regrettably, some boys may have to learn to be fathers without ever experiencing as a son what a father should be. But the only answer for the brokenness of our culture is to strive for God’s ideal.


The Best Job

June 15, 2018

We often ask a little boy or girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My childhood answers included cowboy and fireman. As you get older, it is easy to entertain many job and career paths, but we eventually choose. Work is honorable and God-given. Work existed even in the Garden of Eden. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, ESV).

When I was making career choices, my thoughts were not on fatherhood. In the back of mind, of course, there was the idea that someday I would marry, and we would have children. I even took a college course, “Marriage and the Christian Home,” just in case. But job was foremost in my mind.

Work is rewarding. At the bare minimum, there is a paycheck. We may feel satisfaction in creating, producing, growing, or problem solving. (And yes, every job has its drudgery. It is part of the curse on the ground, Genesis 3: 17-19). Employers may reward years of service or ideas to a suggestion box. Although I have personally found work satisfying, how do the rewards compare to fatherhood?

Certainly, fatherhood like everything in life has aspects that don’t seem quite like reward: dirty diapers, crying children in the middle of the night, a defiant three-year-old, or an angry teenager. Yet despite some of the drudgery and struggles that life always brings, I reflect on fatherhood (and now being a grandfather) as the best job in the world.

I’ve witnessed two, wondrous births. Wonder is the right word for it. The stress of labor gives way to those first breaths and that little cry that announces to the world, “I’ve arrived.” A newborn is so small and helpless. You feel the responsibility but also the joy.

I’ve experienced the thrill of first steps and first words. The child begins to stand up alongside chairs and sofas, and then there are those first halting steps. Before you know it, you are racing to keep up. We repeat “Momma” and “Dada” hoping they will be first words. But there is even greater joy when hearing from your child for the first time: “I love you.”

Proud moments are found in sporting events, graduations, and first jobs. Joy is shared in weddings and the birth of grandchildren. But one of the most important and moving moments for me was my children’s baptisms.

Job is important. We spend a lot of time at work. But I’m convinced the best job of all is father and grandfather. It has the greatest joys. We live in a world that sometimes disparages the role of father. We have too many absent fathers. The world needs fatherhood as God intends. We need such fatherhood modeled. Much of society’s ills would find solution in fathers and mothers as God desires. Men need to catch this vision of fatherhood. It’s the best job in the world.

P.S. Yes, I know that mothers have the best job too.


The Best of Fatherhood

June 16, 2017

We often ask a little boy or girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My childhood answers included cowboy and fireman. As you get older, it is easy to entertain many job and career paths. I thought about teaching, psychology, and computer science in my teen years to name a few. We gain a lot of our identity from what we do. Meet someone new for the first time and likely the question after “What is your name?” and “Where are you from?” will be “What do you do?”

When I was making career choices, my thoughts were not on fatherhood. In the back of mind, of course, there was the idea that someday I would marry, and we would have children. I even took a college course, “Marriage and the Christian Home,” just in case. We spend a lot of time at work, it could easily reach half of our waking hours. Work that is honorable is good. I’ve found satisfaction in work, but over time I’ve concluded, fatherhood is the best job in the world!

Work is rewarding. At the bare minimum, there is a paycheck. We may feel satisfaction in creating, producing, growing, or problem solving. (And yes, every job has its drudgery. It is part of the curse on the ground, Genesis 3: 17-19). Employers may reward years of service or ideas to a suggestion box. Although I have personally found work satisfying, how do the rewards compare to fatherhood?

As a father, I’ve witnessed two births. I’ve experienced the thrill of first steps and first words. I’ve felt the joy of hearing for the first time, “I love you.” (Yes, your child will probably say, “I hate you,” at some point in the growing up. It is the risk of free will after all, but the moments of bluster pass away when your relationship is healthy.) There are proud moments of sporting events, graduations, and first jobs. Grown children whom you love and enjoy are a great blessing which includes the joy of adult and even spiritual conversation with them. I have found fatherhood is the most rewarding job in the world!

Most of the things we work at won’t last. Goods produced wear out. Buildings constructed may someday be torn down. Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is temporary, “all is vapor” and “a time to break down, and a time to build up.”* Yet, when we were expecting our children, one thought struck me: we were bringing a life into the world who has an eternal destiny. It is an awesome responsibility. Fathers if they are spiritually aware recognize that we are raising for eternity. I cannot but help admire Joshua as a father:

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, ESV)

Joshua drew a line in the sand and made a spiritual commitment to his family. He recognized fatherhood is a job with an eternal impact!

I know that I’m prejudiced because I’m a father, but it is the best, most rewarding job in the world. Happy Father’s Day!

*“Vapor” is a literal translation of the Hebrew hebel in “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 1:14, 2:17, 3:19, 12:8) and the other line is from Ecclesiastes 3:3.


Fatherhood Truths

June 17, 2016

Truth #1. Christian fatherhood (as all fatherhood) is on the job training. I didn’t have to pass a test to become a father. No classroom work followed by apprenticeship before doing the real thing. We may wish it were that way at times, but it is not. No user manual was twisty-tied to the umbilical cord at any of my children’s births. I have tons of user manuals for various consumer products with special readme sections before you dare try using this product, but fatherhood is on the job training.

Fortunately, we have probably learned some things about being a parent from our own family of origin. (Hopefully, that is more good than bad.) The Bible is in many ways the owner’s manual for living. If we let it, it can be a great source for learning about family. I’ve also known some great Christian men who have modeled family life for me. I read baby books as a young father which instructed me what to expect at various ages, and I read some good books on being a Christian father (focusonthefamily.org is a great source for some ideas).

Truth #2. Christian fatherhood is not always perfect but should be principled. We juggle the work-a-day world and other issues of life all while being a father. Few (if any) of us would claim to be perfect fathers. We make mistakes. We are always adjusting the balance under the pressures of life’s demands. But there should always be principles guiding the Christian father. We are pointing our children beyond ourselves to God and his word.

I think the reality is that Christian morality works. If you follow the Bible’s teachings, I believe you will be happier, better adjusted, and lead a more productive life. If we instill Christian principles in our children, they will be better prepared for life and will also be prepared for eternity. You will dramatically reduce the chance of your children living in poverty, if you get them to do the following in the right order: education/preparation for a job, marriage, sex, and children.

Truth #3. Christian fatherhood (as all fatherhood) is a time sensitive role. Older people will tell you how quickly time passes, and you may not believe it until you are an older person telling the younger generation how quickly time passes. Life is like that. Children will not wait. Enjoy your moments with them now because time is fleeting. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord now, because later may be too late. Discipline problems as children, if not dealt with, can grow into great headaches and heartaches when they are teenagers. The time for Christian fathers to be fathers is now. It is a time sensitive role.