This Sunday is Father’s Day. I want to take a moment to thank dads everywhere for the sacrifices they make for the sake of their children. Being a dad may well be the hardest thing a man will ever do. Even so, the reality is we seldom know what we are really doing—maybe that is part of why it is so hard! Like parenting in general, being a dad is a “learn as you go” kind of thing. There is simply no way to really learn, short of doing. It takes diligence, patience, passion and sacrifice. It is not an easy task. So to all you dads out there—thank you, thank you for your diligence, patience, passion and sacrifice! So, enough of that mushiness. Now dads, it is time to be challenged. I almost feel bad about this because I don’t think my Mother’s Day message contained a challenge to such a degree but alas, I am more intimately aware of a dad’s need to be challenged.
I want you to open your eyes to your impact as a father because a father’s impact is flippin’ HUGE! We live in a world that wants to, for several reasons, deny this impact, but we must not allow ourselves to diminish the importance of a father. The reality is, dads have a job to do—a responsibility that must not, for any reason, be put off because a dad’s role is a unique responsibility that must be fulfilled. As dads, you have an opportunity to influence your children and they need that. It is an opportunity that is only rivaled by our Heavenly Father.
Have you ever noticed that a father has the ability to change the air in a room by simply walking into it? It is a phenomenon, that though I experience, I little understand. The problem with this ability to influence is that it can be for good or ill. A father has the ability to embitter or to calm, to exasperate or to ease, to make a child feel unwanted or feel cherished, confident or unsure, loved or rejected. And it does not stop at feelings and emotions. A father can and does shape and mold a child’s worldview. A father can influence a child to love without bounds or discriminate harshly. A father’s influence seems almost endless (even a totally absent dad is influencing his children by his absence). This responsibility might sound daunting and it should but, you are not alone—we will get to that in a moment!
Of all these things there is one influence I did not mention and it is the most important of all! A dad’s interactions with a child shapes that child’s view of their Heavenly Father. Like it or not, it is true. An angry, unpredictable father instills fear in his children and teaches them that God is a tyrant who lashes out unexpectedly. A critical, demanding dad makes his kids feel inadequate. They see God as a strict taskmaster who’s never pleased. An uninvolved or absent father sends the message that his children are unimportant, and both he and God are too busy for them. A macho dad’s tough, uncaring nature leads his children to feel unloved and conclude that the Lord doesn’t love them either. A fault-finding or abusive father conveys that his child is worthless and God is full of condemnation. On the flip-side a father who imitates Jesus imitating his Heavenly Father can instill the truth in their children.
Part of the problem of all of this is that we are part of a cycle. Fathers are the sons of fathers. We have all been influenced by a father, and short of intentional change, we imitate what we have experienced. Not to levy all the blame on fathers, but being angry, critical, strict, absent, macho and fault-finding are most often learned behaviors. However, there is hope. What we need is to look, not to our earthly father for inspiration, but to our heavenly one. I think this is what Jesus is on about in Mt 23:9. Of course this hope assumes we are willing to look at our lives and face the sometimes harsh realities of who we are. Praise our Heavenly Father that he does not leave us alone! This is how it comes down. Our heavenly Father, who is perfect, sends his one and only Son who learns everything perfectly from his Father by watching his Father and in turn does everything his Father does that he might reveal the Father to us. The result, if we are willing to take on the responsibility we have assumed, is that we learn, in this case, how to be dads! And he walks with us—we learn as we go! Truly, we have the blessed opportunity to find healing for our “father wounds” and in turn raise our children in the love of God. None of this is foolproof. We are still broken people and we will get things wrong. But that is no reason not to try our best to reflect our Heavenly Father well in the lives of our sons and daughters that they might have his view on his world—the world he gave his only begotten son to save!
Please join us this Saturday as we continue this conversation over a meal! In honor of dads we are doing it up BBQ-style Saturday. Hope to see you there!