When I was a child, I made use of a child’s language, I had a child’s feelings and a child’s thoughts:now that I am a man, I have put away the things of a child.

1Co 13:11

A few days ago I realized something. I just had received an email from a good friend as an answer to an article I wrote to some of our elders – part of which you can read in my last two blog entries Spiritual Fathers and Who can be a Father. In his answer he wrote:

Another thought about fathers: there comes a time in your life when your natural father dies and you become the patriarch of the family. I believe this is so in the spiritual.

What did I realize?

I realized that I am becoming a patriarch. Granted, my father is not dead. He is severely ill after he had a stroke during surgery for cancer removal. He cannot take any decisions any more. On the other hand – as avid readers of this blog know – he has not been involved in family affairs for years.

I am the oldest son of my father, with one brother. My fathers parents are long gone, and nobody knows what happened to his brother and sister.

This leaves me as the oldest man in our family. That is what we call a patriarch.

Technically, I had this role for a while now. At least for about 8 years, when my wife’s dad died. But it is only now that I realize my role, and I for sure had to grow into it.

The word patriarch comes from Greek patria (family) and arkhes (ruling). Obviously, it is closely linked to pater, which means father both in Greek and Latin.

So the word means – to me – ruling the family as a father.

A verse that comes to mind:

And Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you:but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.

Mark 10:42-44

Again a reminder that a father is of authority, yes, but exercises it serving and ministering.

So, in the natural, I have taken the step to become the patriarch of the family Rickenbach. I feel too young to be in that role, but then I am reminded that many over the centuries had to step up to the plate much earlier than I.

But what about the spiritual? Is there a time you become a patriarch spiritually, as my friend suggests?

In the blog entry Spiritual Fathers I told you the story line of my life: baby, toddler, teen, young man, marriage, father. And we saw that God is a god of growth.

As a baby I needed a father in different ways than as a toddler or teen. The role of the father changes over time, as I change. And in the ancient custom of adoption – proclaiming a child as a son with full authority in the father’s name – a son became an equal, a peer of the father in many ways.

As sons grow up, fathers become friends with a special inroad into one’s heart. The relationship will be more like one of equals than hierarchical, as the son becomes spiritually of age. The father’s starting role to bring up the son and show him the father in heaven is fulfilled. The father has become a friend, a trusted friend to whom I listen well.

What now if this father leaves me? Fathers tend to be promoted to heaven, just as we all are – either through death or at the sound of the last trumpet.

I believe it is God’s plan for us to become patriarchs of great spiritual families, stretching many generations.

Are you ready to grow up? To take the next step? I don’t know where you are at spiritually, but let’s grow.