Part 1 of Not Many Fathers
By Lawrence Glasner
When I was a kid in the 1960s, one in ten children grew up in a home without a dad. Today, it’s four in ten.
Family law judges routinely grant the mother primary custody in divorce litigation. And greater than fifty percent of Millennial births are to unwed mothers, many of whom become single mothers because they don’t want to raise their children with the biological father.
Everywhere you look there are families ruptured by bitterness, splits, moral corruption, physical and emotional abandonment, and every form of abuse caused by fatherlessness. Fatherlessness means no dad in the home. It means a dad in the home who is too lazy and self-absorbed to make himself available and emotionally present to his family. Ouch!
What does fatherlessness cost? It’s expensive. It is well established that kids growing up without a dad in the home are more likely to:
- Live below the poverty line.
- Perform worse in school and have a smaller vocabulary.
- Do more time in prison.
- Abuse narcotics, alcohol and sex.
When Jesus said, “I will not abandon you as orphans. I will come to you,” he was saying, “I won’t abandon you or leave you destitute of a parent or a teacher or a guide. I will provide someone to lead you to adulthood, someone to lead you into maturity into the fullness of what God has.”
Who are those leaders, parents, teachers, and guides? Me and you. Jesus comes through us. We are his hands and feet. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you have been following Him. There is someone in your sphere who is younger and has known Jesus less than you have. He wants to touch others through you. God asks each one of us to lead and father kids into maturity. (He also asks us to be fathered ourselves, but learning to be a son or a daughter is a topic for another discussion.)
Believe me, there is someone in your sphere of influence you should be parenting. For instance,
- New believers God inserts into your sphere of influence.
- Your kids (you can easily be a biological father without fathering).
- Inexperienced people who seek your help and guidance.
- Young people at work.
- And orphans, the true fatherless.
The best Jesus-style fathering finds expression in families and spiritual communities. It’s good parenting that doesn’t call attention to itself. It’s strong, humble, caring, and gentle, but sacrifices nothing in the way of conviction and firmness. It doesn’t compromise and doesn’t kowtow to moral corruption.
There are plenty of teachers, mentors, and experts with important lessons to share. But to grow into real maturity, most of us need another human being to step in, take responsibility, and lead us by example. We need “spiritual fathers” to show what it means to be crucified with Christ and hold us accountable to the same. I.e., to show what it means to put to death self-will, greed, and self-importance and to live generously out of God’s peace — without the dead hand of manipulation and intimidation.
Fathering in Jesus’ steps yields lives that are mature, happy, and productive. Lives characterized by meaningful, loving, long-term relationships rooted in trust and transparency. Fathering like him helps our children become fearless, secure, teachable and kind, but never rude, irritable, selfish, spiteful, and petty.
“There are many people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.” (I Corinthians 4:15, MSG.)
I can say this from personal experience. More often than I’d like to admit, I overreach and overreact when I’m parenting.. I react instead of respond. I hurt when I want to give comfort. My ‘self’ shines through, instead of Christ in me and I’ve got my big fat foot in my mouth!
If you’ve tried to be a great dad, you know how hard it’s hard to do a brilliant job all the time.
Why am I not the father I want to be? Why, “do I do the things I hate, and not the things I know are right?” (Romans 7:15)
The quick answer is this: The pressures of sin on my thought processes. Selfishness. Laziness. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. How many times have I snapped at my daughters for interrupting my train of thought? How many times have I spat out a quick solution to a problem when they just wanted me to put down what I’m doing, listen (really listen) and give them a hug? How many times have I been a poor example by living out of anxiety and unforgiveness?
* * *
“A Christian in whom the Holy Spirit dwells is not exempt from having to experience struggle, temptations, disorderly desires, rebellious feelings… [the difference is that all these things come] upon him against his will. They are on the surface. Yet there is a ‘peace in the depth of their hearts. That is like a deep-ocean current always flowing steadily regardless of the wind and the waves on the surface.” Raniero Cantalamessa
So let’s tap into that ‘deep-ocean current.’ Let’s step into the peace that according to St. Paul “is the indwelling Holy Spirit given to us when we embrace the reality that Jesus Christ acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7.25)
Fathering in his footsteps is more than possible. But only if you let God help. Press into the peace that fuels and steers our service to God. Turn away from the influence of sin that separates father’s from their kids and others we’re supposed to train to maturity.
And that is what we will discuss next time.