To Be a Father
What is a father? The dictionary definition is “a male parent” along with several other definitions in the realm of science and religion and society. The verb forms are more interesting – “to beget; to be the creator, founder, or author of; to act as a father toward; to assume as one’s own, take responsibility of, to perform the tasks and duties of a male parent.”
The verb forms started a train of thought. Most fathers have little problem with the idea of having a wife, and have few qualms about the initial thought of children. After all, it’s all part of the package, right? If my journey is at all typical, I think we all agree the idea of begetting children is rarely a mind block to us. We jump into the fathering of children with little thought of any implications. I believe that is how it should be. If we should have waited until we were financially secure and emotionally mature and spiritually complete, how many children would exist?
As children are born into our homes, we can either begin the verb form of fathering or we can statically take the noun form of the male parent. I believe all godly men want to actively father their children. We want to raise them for God. We want them to grow up to be well adjusted adults and to serve the Kingdom of Christ. But, with children come added dimensions: more money needs to be made and more bills paid, more time dealing with school issues; maybe the father is ordained while the family is young and there are more pressures to reach around to each child’s needs in addition to our wife’s needs. How can we do it and get it right? We have partnered with God and our wives and have brought eternal souls into the world. We get one shot at it. Will we hit the mark or will we miss it?
This tension is real and terrible when considered in the light of eternity. Many godly men have done well in writing books on the subject of fathering. Most are idealistic and add to the sense of futility and the specter of failure. Too many present parenting in a systematic manner and do not take into account the hundreds of variables of parent/child relationships and personalities and context. Too often they are written in a way that suggests irrevocable damage if we fail to follow the formula. What can be done? Can it be done? Let’s relax; and let’s see what the Bible says. There are only a few direct principles to raising children that we find and they are beautiful in their scope and simplicity.
The first instruction to fathers is found in Deuteronomy 6:5-7. “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, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” We see the first thing is that we as fathers love the Lord and familiarize ourselves with His law and then teach it. Techniques and methods are a side issue. Just do it. This of course assumes that we will spend adequate time with them. Proverbs 1-9 also provides a fairly comprehensive template for just what we should be teaching our children.
Proverbs 23:13 and Hebrews 12:7-11 provide the framework of discipline for wrongdoing. Discipline is a must for fathers. We should never neglect to correct wrongdoing. We have examples in the Bible of fathers who failed in this and the tragic results of wayward children. We have too many current examples also. We are responsible to partner with God in the correction of our children. If we don’t correct them, the law of sowing and reaping will accumulate to a bitter harvest both for us and our children. (see 1 Samuel 3 & 4; Eli and his sons)
The third principle of parent and child relationships is in Psalm 127:3-5. The principle here, I believe, is thankfulness for our children. They really are a blessing from God and we need to thank God for them every day.
The last principle to fathers is found in Eph. 6:4 and Col 3:21. Don’t make your children angry. Be real with them and yourself and God. The nurture and admonition of the Lord indicates a “follow me as I follow Christ” relationship. A hypocritical father who refuses to acknowledge his own faults and weakness to his children will be guilty of provoking them. This point brings us back to point one. Love God with our whole being – genuinely – and the foundation for good relationships with our children (and all relationships) is laid.
Fathering is a critical task. But as with the rest of life, the Bible has the way. It really is quite simple – teach your children about God, discipline them when needed, thank God for them, and don’t anger them – and then do it again and again.