A dear friend recently sent me a text message. “Got any advice for a soon to be father?”
I once heard someone say in jest, “One of the wonderful things about having kids of your own is that now you’ll be able to try out all those things you’ve been wanting to try out on other people’s kids.”
I did not give him this reply, but the casual nature of text messaging allowed me to give him a very brief answer. I told him the best advice I could give was to pray a lot. But I misspelled best because I was busy doing something else. Ordinarily, I would have been satisfied with this answer and moved on, but the question kept bugging me for quite a while.
I finally came up with something I liked a little bit better. “Being a father is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Enjoy every minute. Squeeze that baby every chance you get.”
This response made me feel better in a Hallmark Card sort of way, but I am still not satisfied. Perhaps in part because I want to know the answer myself. More likely though, it is because I feel a very real weight of responsibility as a father. Fatherhood is not a role in which a man should casually enter. There are fewer roles with more grave responsibility, and it is something that I take very seriously.
“God could have chosen to call himself anything, but he chose father.” Bishop Nathaniel Wilson
What does it take to be a father? As simple as it sounds, the first requirement is you have to be a man. There is no substitution. Perhaps another day I will write about being a man.
Aside from being a man, there are quite a few other ingredients that come together to make a father: Love, protection, wisdom, provision, wit, discipline, humor, ingenuity, dedication, patience, knowledge, resolve, and fortitude. This is not an exhaustive list, and I have left out amounts because each father is unique, and learning to balance these elements is what fatherhood is all about. One of the key ingredients is faithfulness, which is what keeps the whole thing together.
Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:6
Without faithfulness, there is no guarantee that the father, or even the family, will last.
Growing up, I had a healthy fear of my father. A cluttered, messy house never failed to frustrate my dad. Whenever the house was a wreck, he usually started with this speech. “Y’all are killing your momma. Just look at this house.” He would say in exasperation.
“Let’s go outside so we can see it better.” I smarted off once.
It is only by the grace and mercy of God that I am alive today, because I thought my Dad was going to kill me. He talked to me like a man that day, which was far worse and scarier than the whipping that I received afterward. There are some things that only a father can say to a child. A hardheaded teenage boy may need some verbal encouragement from a father that would send a social worker into lockdown mode.
The role of a father demands hard love, and discipline. The Bible says it much plainer and with greater authority than I can.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24
Fathers must be willing and able to discipline their children. There are some aspects of fatherhood that frankly are not fun. I must confess that knowing when and how to discipline is a something that I have prayed earnestly for wisdom and understanding. I cannot say that it would be easier to not discipline my children. If I really love my children, I will discipline them.
I Corinthians 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Fathers are a rare. Fathers are irreplaceable. With a scarcity of fathers in today’s postmodern society, I frequently hear the term Father Figure used by people who did not grow up with a father. Sometimes I hear it from parents who are raising children without a father, many times in reference to a teacher. Webster’s definition for Father Figure is, “A person often of particular power or influence who serves as an emotional substitute for a father.” I’m not certain that there is a substitute for a father. Without discounting the influence of a teacher, there is a role that only a father can fill. Although in context of faith, the scripture indicates that there is a ratio of 10,000 teachers to not many fathers.
For better or for worse, parents are the greatest influences on a child’s life. Whether a father is actively fulfilling his role in a child’s life, or neglecting his duty, the child feels the influence, whether positive or negative. It is a sad reality that many people grow up without the presence of a father in their home. Perhaps even worse than a father being absent, is an abusive father being present.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27
The Bible uses language that grates the nerves and feelings of modern American culture. Fatherless. It is a sad word. There is an implication that there are two categories of children: sons and daughters, and fatherless. Furthermore, the fatherless are afflicted. Fathers are irreplaceable. Fortunately for the fatherless, there is the church.
I would like to revisit the original question: “Got any advice for a soon to be father?” I do not claim to be an authority on fatherhood, but God did bless me with one of the best fathers that ever lived. That may not be your story. You cannot choose your father, but you can decide what kind of father your children will have. Be the best father that you can be.
Thank you for your continued financial support.