Father’s Day 2014
Two first graders were overheard as they left Sunday School class, “Do you really believe all that stuff about the devil?” “No, I think it’s like Santa Claus. It’s really your dad.”
Last month we celebrated Mothers on Mother’s Day. Today we will follow suit and celebrate FATHERS. At that point we spelled out MOTHER. This morning, we will spell FATHER.
I want to both honor the position of fathers and paint a picture of fatherhood as I believe it should be in hopes of encouraging and exhorting my fellow fathers in this room.
Too often I believe FATHER is spelled this way:
- Frightening (have to walk on eggshells, anger could flare up)
- Absent (altogether, or even more involved in work)
- Threatening (similar to F but ungracious, uses threats to keep kids “in line” rather than loving discipline)
- Hard to please (bar is so high that nothing is ever good enough)
- Embittering (in direct opposition to Eph 6:4, provoking them to hatred or frustration)
- Ridiculing (name calling, what are you, stupid? Sissy)
Here is how I believe FATHER should be spelled.
- Actively involved
Some may disagree with me on this point and feel as though fatherhood precludes friendship and that the two are mutually exclusive, that as a father one should be seen as a superior and that being a friend to one’s child blurs the lines and makes the child feel as though the father is on the peer level instead of one that is superior, thus diminishing respect. Now that is a very real and valid concern, thus it should be done in a way that maintains the clear lines of demarcation in the relationship, allowing for no misunderstanding of the dynamics of the relationship.
For example, Abraham, is in the Bible, called God’s friend. But I don’t think in any way that by God befriending Abraham diminished Abraham’s respect for Yahweh as the Almighty God or that Jesus calling his disciples friends diminished their respect for him as Messiah.
Being a friend to one’s children, I believe, is one of the best ways to earn their trust and respect and cultivate love. Children need love.
What do friends do? They spend time with one another, play games together, talk with one another, share excitements, fears, views, thoughts and get into one anothers’ worlds and show an interest in the things their friends are interested in. There is a trend that I have seen in which at a young age children seem to love spending time with their parents but in the teen years it shifts and they would rather be with their friends than with their parents. I wonder if it is because their parents aren’t their friends. They want to be with friends. Let’s be their friends.
Time is the greatest gift that we as fathers can give to our children.
Charles Francis Adams, the 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: “Went fishing with my son today–a day wasted.” His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: “Went fishing with my father–the most wonderful day of my life!” The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time
A young man was to be sentenced to the penitentiary. The judge had known him from childhood, for he was well acquainted with his father–a famous legal scholar and the author of an exhaustive study entitled, “The Law of Trusts.” “Do you remember your father?” asked the magistrate. “I remember him well, your honor,” came the reply. Then trying to probe the offender’s conscience, the judge said, “As you are about to be sentenced and as you think of your wonderful dad, what do you remember most clearly about him?” There was a pause. Then the judge received an answer he had not expected. “I remember when I went to him for advice. He looked up at me from the book he was writing and said, ‘Run along, boy; I’m busy!’ When I went to him for companionship, he turned me away, saying “Run along, son; this book must be finished!’ Your honor, you remember him as a great lawyer. I remember him as a lost friend.” The magistrate muttered to himself, “Alas! Finished the book, but lost the boy!”
“A positive and continuous relationship to one’s father has been found to be associated with a good self-concept, higher self- esteem, higher self-confidence in personal and social interaction, higher moral maturity, reduced rates of unwed teen pregnancy, greater internal control and higher career aspirations. Fathers who are affectionate, nurturing and actively involved in child-rearing are more likely to have well- adjusted children.” -Dr. George Rekers, Homemade, vol. 11, no. 1.
Dad needs to be a man of his word. Dad needs to be careful about what he promises because when he breaks his promises to his family, there is a great chance that he is breaking the hearts of those in his family.
Dad’s word needs to be his bond. His yes needs to be yes and his no, no.
Additionally, dad needs to be trustworthy in the sense that you can trust him; you can be open and honest with him. He can be the one that you go to to seek advise, counsel, to vent, to cry, you can be vulnerable with full disclosure. You can trust that he won’t crush your spirit or strike you down with harsh judgments. He is trustworthy.
I think that deep down in all of us, there is an appreciation or perhaps a longing for a hero. There are several superhero movies out there now. I don’t know how many times you can remake superman, batman or spiderman, but as long as they keep making new ones millions of people will watch them. Even if it isn’t a superhero with superhuman powers that we admire, but a protagonist with some similar situation with which we can relate who rises above and overcomes the conflict that arises, to some degree I think we all tend to find hope and courage in their stories. Lego movie?
A great father is his children’s hero. He’s not just a guy who gets up and goes to work before they wake up and comes home after they get home, eats dinner, watches TV and then tucks them in.
A hero is the one who rescues from a perilous situation or one who overcomes in the face of adversity.
In a child’s early years, daddy is usually the hero who rescues from a perilous situation and to a young child, everything is perilous – it’s all life and death. Daddy is the hero when he climbs up into a tree to rescue her when she has climbed too high and has peed her pants out of fear. Daddy is hero when his daughter gives out a blood curdling yelp upon realizing that she is standing in an ant hill and he runs to her rescue sweeps her up, brushes all the ants off. Daddy is hero when the beloved Thomas the train has been lost and daddy searches high and low until Thomas is recovered.
In a child’s teen years, they have a better grip on what is truly perilous and can begin to see and understand the concept of a father as a hero when he overcomes adversity or when he helps the children to overcome adversity.
When he faces difficult situations at work or gets laid off or faces ridicule from his peers and handles those situations with integrity or rise above in some sense.
Often these situations aren’t fully disclosed to the children, but perhaps they have some sense even a shadowy one of the situation and it isn’t until later in life that they ask questions and put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Edgar Watson Howe: A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero;
he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.
Many times being a hero means making a sacrifice for others. As a hero, a father makes a sacrifice for his children.
- Getting up at midnight or 2 am to rescue…
- the 18-month old from the cold wet diaper
- the 4 year old from the monsters in the closet
- the 6 year old from a bad dream
- the 18 year old from a bad situation
- Taking the burnt toast or burnt burger or going without altogether
Most often, the full extent of our sacrifices will go unappreciated until our children are adults.
There is something magnificent in the idea that one’s children look up to their father, see him as a hero. NCF recently had 4 of our children graduate from kindergarten at Gateway. As they called the students’ names, they read off what the children wanted to be when they grew up and by many of their answers you could tell who their heroes were, whether it was people they see on TV in the spotlight, or their fathers. I mean, you could almost tell which ones wanted to grow up to be what their dads were by their answers because they were so out of the ordinary and so precise. And a few of them even tacked on, “like my dad.”
Benjamin Disraeli: The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance
of a great example.
Whether a father wants to be or not, he is an example. The question is whether he is setting a good example or a bad example.
The way that he treats his wife sets an example for his sons as to how to treat his future wife. The way he treats his wife sets an example for his daughters as to what to expect from her future husband, perhaps what she looks for in a husband.
“One startling bit of research conducted by the Christian Business Men’s Committee found the following: 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.” -Keith Meyering, Discipleship Journal, issue #49, p. 41.
He exemplifies kindness by being thoughtful and gracious even at home.
He exemplifies patience by being gentle and understanding over and over.
He exemplifies honesty by keeping his promises to his family even when it costs.
He exemplifies courage by living unafraid with faith, in all circumstances.
He exemplifies justice by being fair and dealing equally with everyone.
He exemplifies obedience to God’s Word by precept and example as he reads and prays daily with his family.
He exemplifies love for God and His Church as he takes his family regularly to service.
His steps are important because others follow.
From the beginning of creation the man has been the head and the NT Scriptures point back to the early chapters of Genesis in teaching male headship. As the head of the household, fathers are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the conditions of the household.
At my company we had an employee go rogue and send a company-wide email making accusations, and trying to slam my boss and I was very impressed by our CEO, who sent an apology email out to all employees, stating that the conduct of every employee is ultimately his responsibility.
The head of an organization is ultimately responsibile for what the employees under him or her do. The head of the household, likewise, takes ultimate responsibility for what those in his household do. He may delegate all kinds of responsibilities to others in the household, which he should – he cannot do it all. But ultimately, he is the one responsible. He may delegate taking out the trash to his son, but if the son fails to put the dumpster in the backyard and it stays on the curb or driveway Father is the one who gets fined by the HOA – or at least a nasty warning letter.
In my opinion, a great father does hold his family accountable for their actions, seizes teachable moments and disciplines in the proper context, but he is also gracious and publically takes responsibility. For example, father, you were ready for 30 minutes waiting for all of the females in your house to get ready; they ran you late. When you show up late to the important event, you say, sorry we are late, without tacking on the fact that it was the women who were still getting ready. Everybody knows why men are late, that’s not news and we don’t need to throw them under the bus.
Adam didn’t do it right in the garden. Adam, what is it that you have done? Uh…the woman that you put here, she gave it to me and I ate. So really, it’s not my fault, the devil ma – she made me do it. And in fact, when it comes right down to it, she wouldn’t even be here if you didn’t put her here so depending on how you look at it, kinda your fault. Adam should have been responsible. When his wife tried to get him to do something he knew was wrong, he should have been responsible for the well being of the family and led her into righteousness. And if he failed to do that he should have taken responsibility at the very least, for his own actions, but really for his and his wife’s actions.
Fathers, let’s take responsibility and not be finger pointers and proverbial bullet dodgers, but the kind of fathers who would take a proverbial bullet for our family. Their health, happiness, and holiness is ultimately our responsibility. If or when any of that is subpar, let’s not shift blame, but responsibly do what we can to fix whatever is broken.
I would leave you with this thought. Jesus gave a very powerful exhortation in his famous sermon on the mount. Do to others what you would have others do to you. This is some of the most profound and yet simple insight ever given, so much so that we call it the golden rule.
Some of you are veterans and some are expecting and will be venturing into new ground and kids don’t come with an owners manual, so figuring out how to be a father, and more importantly how to be a great father isn’t really always cut and dry, but I do believe that Jesus’ golden rule is a fantastic rule of thumb. Think back on your own childhood. What did you like about your childhood? If you think those things are good for your children and that they will also like those things, do your best to provide that atmosphere, those situations, those circumstances. What did you like about your own father? Do your best to emulate those qualities, those actions, those words, those ways. What did you dislike about your childhood? If you believe those circumstances will be harmful to your children, do your best to prevent them. What did you dislike about your father? Not at the time but looking back as an adult with everything that you know now, with a bigger picture in view. We can’t properly assess the big picture through 7-year old lenses, because at the time we all hated discipline, but looking back as an adult, we see how it cultivated self-discipline and produced good fruit. But looking back what about your father did you dislike? If you feel that your children would also dislike those things and you feel it is in your children’s best interest to do so, avoid those qualities, actions, words, and ways.
Do to your children what you, knowing what you know now as an adult, would want done to you as a child.
Of all of the roles and responsibilities that I have being a father is one of my favorite, one that requires the most effort and one of the most rewarding. Aside from being a husband, my role as father is the most important. I want to be a great pastor, a great employee, a great student, a great son, a great friend. And aside from being a great husband, for me, the area for me that is most important to excel is that of fatherhood.
I don’t think that our children have the capacity to recognize us as great fathers until they become adults and especially until they have children of their own.
And my hope is that when that day comes for me and for you that our children look back upon their childhood and recall our involvement in their life and see us as great fathers.
That they see us as
- Actively involved