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.


“Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers”

June 19, 2015

The book, The Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers by Ken Canfield, suggest seven “secrets” or aspects of a father’s role. Effective fathers raise spiritually and emotionally mature children. If we want to be effective fathers we need to think about these and act on them.

  1. Commitment. Fathers need to commit to the role of husband and father and recognize its importance. Our society faces a great deal of fatherlessness. In 1950, 3.9% of all births were by unmarried women. In 2005, that number has risen to 36.8%. 70% of juvenile delinquents are from fatherless homes. In a practical way, fathers must plan time with the family and balance busy priorities.
  2. Know your child. We need to know developmental stages of children, but we also need to know our children as individuals. Who are their friends? What are their interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their days like? We do this to protect them, encourage them, and show affection to them.
  3. Be Consistent. Children need to see strong character in their father. He should practice what he preaches. He should demonstrate emotional maturity being able to govern his own moods and behavior. He should be consistent in his word. In other words, he keeps the promises that he makes.
  4. Protect and Provide. If there is a noise in the middle of the night, who gets up to check on it and who stays under the covers by the phone? I suspect that in most two-parent homes, Dad is the one who gets up to check, and protection is a good masculine trait. Providing for our families is an important spiritual truth. Consider the following passages: Genesis 2:5, 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Matthew 7:9-11 (an analogy between human fathers and our Heavenly Father).
  5. Love Their Mother. Paul stresses the importance of husbands loving their wives. The husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. He should love and care for his wife as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-33).
  6. Listen Actively. Children want attention from their father. Misbehavior sometimes is directed at getting attention any way they can. Fathers need to be reminded to listen actively. We need to put down our phone or tablet, turn off the TV, and rid ourselves of distractions so that we can listen.
  7. Equip Spiritually. Bringing a life into the world is a big responsibility, but it pales in comparison to the fact that this life also has an eternal destination. Fathers should be spiritual leaders equipping their children spiritually. See Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Psalm 78:1-8, and Ephesians 6:4.

Being There

June 13, 2014

Fatherhood! It is the most challenging and rewarding role that a man can have. I suspect that none of us ever feel adequate to the task. After all, it is on the job training, and we carry our own relationship with our fathers around with us with all of its help and its own set of inadequacies.

The story is told of a young preacher who had a sermon entitled “The Ten Commandments of Parenthood.” Of course, it was written before he became a father. As his children became older, the sermon was re-titled, “The Ten Principles of Parenthood.” The reality of rearing children made him a little less sure of himself. By the time his children became teenagers, the sermon was entitled “The Ten Suggestions That May or May Not Work.” The feeling of inadequacy may just be part of the territory.

Despite such feelings, I’m now the proud father of adult children. It is hard for me to believe. It is trite to say that time flies. When your kids are squabbling with one another in the backseat of the car, it’s hard to believe that this will ever pass by quickly. But it does. So what wisdom have I learned?

The world needs fathers – not just perfect fathers, if such a species exists. And one of the most important job qualifications is being there. Children need a lap to climb into for a story to be read. They need Dad to wrestle with them on the floor. They need to be tucked into bed. Someone needs to go to school conferences and programs, ball games and concerts. They need someone to take them to Bible class and worship. They need someone who is active in the life of the church, so that they will be too.

That is the rub, isn’t it? We must somehow balance job and activities with family time. I’ve had lots of evening meetings through the years, so I know how it can be. None of us are perfectly available. But we must communicate to our children that they are important by our presence. Our participation in their lives matters!

Being with our children is a vital part of communicating our values. Discipline and instruction occur with interaction from parents. One researcher found that feelings of closeness and high levels of time spent together are vital to sharing our values. They are three times more likely to reproduce our values in our children than parental emphasis on those values alone. We have to walk the walk with our children, and that takes being there.

That shouldn’t surprise us. It is the picture of parenthood in Deuteronomy 6.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7, ESV

Christian, spiritual children do not happen by accident. Our participation is vital. One of the most important things you can do as a Dad is being there.


Fatherhood Is Important

June 14, 2013

Fatherhood is on-the-job training. To drive a car, I went through driver’s training and had to pass a test to receive a license. I must confess there are times when I see or read about certain cases, that I think this person shouldn’t have been allowed to procreate without passing a test. But real life doesn’t work that way. We become fathers and then muddle through with on-the-job training.

Resources, however, do exist to aid us. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful examples of Christian manhood and fatherhood. We learn a great deal from seeing it done well. (I suspect that some of the cases in the previous paragraph that I wish had needed a license lacked good role models in their lives.) There is a place for the older to train the younger, to share with the younger.

Books and magazine articles can also help. As a young man, I learned a lot about fatherhood from the books of James Dobson as many of my generation did. The books giving the developmental stages of childhood were also very helpful. It helps to know what to expect at 6 months, a year, and so on. But the greatest help, if we will let it, is the Bible. It contains wisdom: wisdom for being a father, wisdom for life, and wisdom for salvation.

Fatherhood is not always perfect, but it should be principled. I learned there were times I needed to apologize to my children. I’m sure there were a lot of things I could have done better, but I hope there were some principles reflected in my imperfect portrayal of a father. The principle to provide for and protect my family. The principle to love my wife, their mother, as Christ loved the church. The principle to raise our children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord. The need to love my children and be there for them.

Fatherhood is a time sensitive role. Yes, it involves on-the-job training, but there is a real need that we get it together for our children. They are only with us for a short time. Eighteen years seems like a long time until you are in the midst of it. First tooth, first word, first step, first day of school, and all those other firsts pass quickly. Much of what we teach about morality is learned in the first six years. Much of what we teach about spirituality is learned in the first twelve years. Fatherhood is time sensitive.

Fatherhood is a life long role. If you have done your job reasonably well, the relationship with your adult children is a wonderful and rewarding season of life. In most cases, it also leads to a new role: grandfather. May God bless the fathers among us. Fatherhood is important.


The Transgenerational Father

June 15, 2012

It is easy to recognize that a father influences his child. That’s one generation influencing the next, but a grandfather or great-grandfather also influences his grandchildren or great-grandchildren either directly or indirectly. The power of fatherhood is transgenerational.

A grandfather or great-grandfather may have an opportunity to directly influence his grandchild or great-grandchild, but regardless, he has had a powerful influence indirectly, because he has helped raise the grandchild’s father or mother or the great-grandchild’s grandfather or grandmother.

As a father’s influence becomes more indirect, it also becomes more widely felt. There is a reason we call genealogies a family tree. From two people come many branches — that is the widening of influence. Families grow by multiplication not simple addition.

The Bible recognizes this influence of one generation upon another.

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Psalm 78:5–8, ESV)

Psalm 78 recognizes the transgenerational power of fatherhood. This influence may be for better or worse. The psalm advocates the influence for the better, but it illustrates the influence for the worse.

Stu Weber in his book, Tender Warrior, quantifies a father’s spiritual influence.

When the father is an active believer, there is about a seventy-five percent likelihood that the children will also become active believers. But if only the mother is a believer, this likelihood is dramatically reduced to fifteen percent.*

What kind of influence do you want to have on the generations to come?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)

*Stu Weber, Tender Warrior, p. 143.