…and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with him.”Mat 3:17
As many of you know, I had and still have a less than perfect father. I was able to forgive him from my heart, but something is still lacking.
For many years now—more than 26 to be precise— I myself have been a father. Less than perfect, I have to admit. I was able to forgive me, but something is still missing.
Fathering is so much more than biology. I do not believe for a second that fathering is about passing on genes and spreading them as far as possible. There is no grace, no elegance, no deeper meaning, no worth, no goal, no purpose in that what so ever. One day it will all be over.
Fathering is leaving an inheritance. And leaving an inheritance is by no means limited to the after-life. Fathering is about building character into your sons and daughters. It is about making them able to love, hope, grow, overcome, push through, persevere, create—and so much more. To grow into maturity.
A father is a good example. For when he does something, his children watch. But if this were all a father did, he would fall short.
A good example lets me copy my father, and that is a good thing. I do it because I want to be like him, and that is great.
But there is something missing.
Going beyond being a great example, you can explain why you do things. I get it, sometimes pure obedience without knowing the why is necessary. It is wisdom. But wisdom is only the beginning, the first layer of things: to know how things are done. I am speaking of wisdom as in the Hebrew, not Greek sophia.
Next comes understanding. Understanding why I do something is so much more than knowing how to do it. And then comes knowing as in “Abraham knew his wife Sarah, and 9 months later…”. Only after I know how and why I do things a certain way, it can become second nature to me.
In 6. grade I lied to my teacher. She asked me why I should not do such a thing. I told her: “because it is written.” How shallow. Obviously, today I know how much damage and hurt a lie can bring. And since then, it has become my nature to tell the truth. If I had not learned the how and the why, there would be no knowing intimately.
But still, there is something missing.
My son Joel sings and plays the guitar. I don’t, but my wife. Joel every now and then puts a song on youtube. And he is goood. I am so proud of what he does. His choice of music is not mine, but I am one of the first to listen to his recordings. And I love them. I graciously overhear the words I or my generation would not utter. I marvel at the virtuosity of his play. And I let him know. At least with a like, sometimes with a comment, for sure with a share. There are so many ways digitally to express your being proud, and some more off-line.
When Joel is in our house, it is not long before he reaches to the guitar and starts singing. And this old man joins in, much to the entertainment and amusement, sometimes torment of the rest of the family.
I started by welcoming my children into this world, teaching them to walk and talk only after investing much love and care into their little lives. I told them stories. I showed them how to do things. I imparted wisdom. Did I tell you I was not perfect? I could have done so much more, and so much different.
I love the graphics art and typography my daughter Mirjam does nowadays. I am proud of her. She has experienced too much for her young age, and overcomes daily. Pushes through. Keeps at it. Doing great art under disadvantageous circumstances.
I love the spirit of my son Toby. After a big blow, he fought back and is mastering life, growing up to be a true son of God. To see him play the drums after it looked as if he were to die—such a joy.
Did I tell you that they are not perfect? But you know what? I am proud of them. And love covers up a many things.
This is it
Can you imagine by now what usually is missing in fathering?
The instillment of confidence.
There are few people that earn trust as much as fathers with their children. As much as sons want to be Superman or Batman, the biggest hero of all is Dad. Some forget about it for a while—a time usually called the teenage years—but if you were able to lay a good foundation of investment as a father, and keep on doing so during an eventual time of seeming break up, they will come back. And they will be able to master their lives. Will they do everything as you would? Hopefully not, because remember—even you are not perfect.
Why does that work?
Is all of this easy? If it were, we would see much more great fathering. It is tough. Especially in a world that does not value personal responsibility, nor has and instills great values in the first place.
But God gave us a gift that is amongst the most powerful of all. A father’s heart. It can take blow after blow, and still love. It can see failure after failure, and still—in all necessary correction—stretch out a helping hand. It can be proud where there is little reason.
This will make a father go out of his way to invest and meet a child’s need. This at times even has a father hold back to allow for growth. But in those times he daily stands there watching out for the prodigal son or daughter to come back.
This will lead a father to open doors for his children, so they have a head start and possibilities they could not have otherwise. He will want his children to go further then he will ever go, even to where no man has gone before.
Will you love everything they do? They will be great in things you could care for less, and you will be right there with them. And at times you will inwardly suffer while cheering them on.
Doing all of that, a father is a perfect depiction of our father in heaven. And there is no way the father in heaven does not honour this. Those kids will get to know him and love him.
An Action Step
Did I succeed in this? I really fell short, and still do. In so many ways. But I grow.
If you have failed, take these steps:
- Forgive yourself. Truly. It is OK. Yes, the past cannot be altered, but it does not help anybody if you keep a grudge against yourself and keep yourself from doing better because of guilt.
- Forgive your children, and ask them for forgiveness.
- And then start to love them lavishly. Show them your pride in them. Help them, be there for them.
Do not try to fix everything that you broke in the past. Trust the father in heaven to do so. Just be there for them now. Maybe they do not see the change in you at first—just press on.
I hope this has not come over to pushy or boastful. I am in no way holier than you, and preaching to myself here. Tell me your thoughts. Am I to naive, are my standards to high? Or do you wish your father had …