Father

Posted on June 19, 2011

Fathers’s Day.  We celebrate, or at least turn our attention to the role of fathers.  From the beginning of time, the role, “Father” has been central to the existence and procreation of humans. Perhaps no role, or word has been more under attack than this one.  The word “father”, for some stirs warm feelings of fondness, and comforting strength, while for others it stirs loathing, or fear.  For some the word seems strangely disconnected from any real experience, and feels more like a set of letter on a coffee cup. At any rate, God had a plan for Fatherhood, beginning with, and always ever, expressing His true nature. No wonder there is such a war against this idea.

For me wrestling with this word has been a significant part of my journey.

I had a father, but the dent he left in my life was just that.  A dent.  I knew more of what he didn’t do, than what he did do, and what he did do, seemed to leave a trail of hurt, and abandonment.  Somewhere between that dent, and this day, I have waged a war of my own.  I have waged a war to re-define in my heart and in my own family what it will mean for me to be a father.

Interestingly that war has entered a new phase, as my last teen-ager turned twenty last month.  The word ‘father” changes again.

So at the risk of sounding like I think I got it right, I want to say a few things about that wrestling match. I want to say a few things that I have learned, in learning to think like a father.

1. My own fear of being a father only affects my kids if I let it keep me out of the game. Just stay.  That is more than many do.  Mistakes are not fatal, and there is really only one perfect Father anyway.  My job is point them to meet Him, and try to live with them the way I see God live with us.

2. ” Bring up a child in the way they should go” is not a directive based on a list of right and wrong.  “The way they should go” is unique to each one.  Job one is to discover who they are, so that I can help them become that person.  How totally fun, and absolutely terrifying to discover that each of my kids is absolutely their own person.

3.  My job is to teach them to choose well, not simply to get them to blindly obey.

4. It is a tightrope to see all the potential that is within them and to love them absolutely in their unfinished state. Encouraging growth without communicating disapproval is crucial to move them through to adulthood.

5.  I want to carry all their difficulties, but really loving them means allowing them to develop the strength to carry their own struggles.

6. Their fully developed personhood is the goal, not your comfort, or preferences.

7.  Give them your heart before you give them your thoughts.

8. Look them in the eyes.  It”s how they know they are in there.

9. Model what you want them to have and be.  Your words are empty if you do not live it in front of them.

10. Hug them. A lot. Do it again.  I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable.  Hug them.

11. Words can hurt.  I don’t care what the nursery rhyme says.  I have done much more counseling for people regarding the words their fathers’ spoke to them than for any sticks and stones.  Speak into them what you want to see grow in them.

This year I am watching my kids move up and out of our home. The mixture of emotions has been surprising and surprisingly strong.

I am proud.  They are wonderful people.

I am sad.  I like having them around, but they should move on.

I am thrilled.  I see them pursuing the lives they were made for.

I am frustrated. I think of what I could have done better for them, and it is mostly too late.

Here is the state of the war. The word “father” used to mean to me, “the scary guy who was never around and ultimately left everyone hurt and unprotected”. I picked it up.  I beat on it for a while.  I laid it down, I pushed and prodded.  I cried and cussed.  I turned God loose on the word, and sometimes I wouldn’t even let Him near it.  Every day I picked it up again and it looked and felt a little different.

 

Today the word means “the one who gives life and identity”.  It means, “the one who is there and loves unconditionally”.  Today it means one who gives hie whole heart to his children even though it is not their job to take care of it. Today the word father means “one who watches four amazing adults take whatever I have given them, good, bad, or ugly, and take their turn at the world”.  Today it means a collection of heart-filling memories that I will always have even when they live in different homes or different countries.

God re-defined, and is again re-defining the word “father” for me.  How about you?

 

 

 


  • Words of wisdom, transparency of heart, and the story of redemption – thanks for sharing this, Bob.

  • Mary Jo Pierce

    Thinking differently ~ Living differently at it’s best! Thanks Bob. I’ll print this and put it in my journal. I’ll journal my own memories of my Father and how that word has evolved and impacted my life. Great blog! PS – Happy Father’s Day!

  • In my attempt to repair the relationship I have with my father, I have only further destroyed it this week. It turns out, I never had a relationship to rebuild. I tried to repair something that didn’t need fixed. It needed to be built for the first time. Thank you for showing me what a father can be. As I have only known that word for what it lacked.

  • Max, I am so sorry to hear….the battle rages on and ultimately the Father who started it all will win out. I think this generation is called to build what did not exist before, especially in the arena of true fatherhood. Someone needs to start it up again, why not you and I? Stay in it my friend.

  • Sacha

    I love this!! Great job & what a daddy’s heart you have!!! You’re so right!!You are changing a generation with His love through you as their daddy! A man can give nothing greater than Godly fatherhood passed down! Love your points!!!

  • Kimberly

    All I can say is Wow. Awesome post that really kinda hurt a bit in reading it (as I have a poor relationship with my own father). Definitely forwarding to every father I know 🙂 and Have a Happy and Blessed Father’s Day 😀

  • carrie

    Bob, this is so sweet and brilliant. As I read it I relived many of our talks about how parents aren’t perfect, etc and just wanted to know that in this winter of his very complicated life, MY daddy really does “get it”. And there were times I didn’t give him props for that because the hurt was in the way. Today I think he loves me more than the day he held me for the first time 52 years ago. Thanks for sifting for the truth and helping me ditch the junk that stood between us. We both are grateful to you.

  • Carrie, I am pretty dang proud of you too…you have worked your tail off at getting to the kind of truth that sets you free!!

  • Michelle Benami

    Home run! Great reminder for moms as well.

  • Patricia Garcia

    🙂 Some prayers got answered today…want to guess who?

  • Laura Mantey

    Enjoyed reading this, especially as I wanted to blog something dealing with some negative feelings that were stirred up by a telephone call I received from my distant older sister telling me to call my dad. I didn’t want to and made excuses because I don’t have good memories of a good father…but…I’m going to call him and tell him I love him, see how he’s doing and let it go at that. Thankful, too, that God has shown me over the years what kind of Father HE is for me; and He is WAY better. Thanks for posting this; always enjoy reading what you write.

  • Linda Godsey

    Bob, this is an amazing article on fatherhood. Definitely is one of your sweet spots. I’m having my grandsons read this one!

  • Kathy

    Wow! It was a “God thing” that led me to read your blog and all the comments. I too have suffered a pain in my soul that only God Himself understands. I never had my father in my life except for when I was a little girl. I’m 48 now and just recently, God began to deal with me about the relationship between my dad and I. (As He said in Malachi 4:6 that He would turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the children back to the fathers.) For me at first, it was a subject “off limits”! God told me that He wanted our relationship restored and that He was counting on me to begin the process of getting our two lives back together. My first response was, “That;s great for you God, but… I’m good.” But our awesome God is persistent. I told Him that He would have to put the desire in my heart, and He did just that! God talked to me about the importance of forgiveness, and how He said “forgive as you pray and that you may be forgiven. He reminded me of the parable of the wicked servant and how he had been forgiven of so much, yet his heart was to hard to forgive and that his own unwillingness to forgive put him in chains! I instantly forgave my father for all the pain he caused me, the rejection and the abandonment and God has begun to heal my emotions as I trust Him. I know all to well what it’s like to try and find a “Father’s Day” card that fits. But I can tell you today that I obeyed God, took my dad a card, and spent two hours with him. Is everything all great now? No, but it’s a step. One that I believe my Everlasting Father would be proud of!

  • Kathy, thanks so much for your comment and your willingness to follow even an uncomfortable direction. It seems I have hit a sore spot for many on this post…as I said, the battle rages on, and it seems we are all somewhere in our own battle. Thanks for sharing yours…I bet many will find themselves somewhere in your story.. I too believe your Father is proud of your step. It makes you like Him when you pursue loving one who does not love back.

  • I read this yesterday twice and again this morning. Kept being drawn back to this article. Just when I think I’m passed all my father issues and wounds have been healed, another one appears and it becomes apparent to me that there although there are scars that no longer hurt, there are wounds that are open and bleeding. My father was my hero when I was a little girl, as most girls I was a “daddy’s girl” he was my hero. That time of life was pretty short lived, soon even as a child I was made aware of his abusive behavior and his humanity through choices he made that filled our lives with pain and abandonment. I was never the same, none of our lives were. His leaving us took my mother out of our home to work with the responsibility falling on me at a young age to care for younger siblings and to help keep the house in order. It was a different kind of life after that. For the longest time I was the “walking wound” leaking blood everywhere and on everyone I encountered. Years ago, the Lord began to help me see that through it all HE was always there, HE saw it all, HE would heal these wounds if I would just give them to HIM. As much as I wanted to, laying them on HIS alter was difficult and painful. Little by little I’ve brought this offering of “pain, rejection, and abandonment” to him. HE has been faithful to bind my wounds. 7 years ago came the time of testing…my father was passing away. God gave me an opportunity to care for him on his deathbed. HE gave me the strength to do so and to pour out my love over him as I cared for him. It was painful but beautiful gift God gave to both of us. I thought it was over then…but when I read your blog something in me welled up and the Lord reminded me there’s more. Not sure what it is but I’ll be obedient to listen and watch, to prepare for another wound to expose to HIM and allow him to heal. Thank you for this prompting through your writing…I await HIS leading and welcome HIS healing and the next level of Freedom that comes each time.

  • I remember the photograph I found when I was 7 years old. A picture of me when I was a year old, sitting on the fender of an old beat up pickup truck and just below me the word, “UNWANTED” – My father had left my mom and us four girls; started a new family and ended up leaving them too. I think all in all, he abandoned 9 children. The picture was taken to make him feel guilty of shame for the hurt he had caused my mom.

    He shot himself shortly after my sister was killed in a car wreck. I never really knew him, I just knew of him. This post reminded me of my encounter with God at a Kairos back in 2007. Bob, you were actually the one who represented the “father” that I was to forgive and you hugged me so gently … I think I got mascara all over your shirt because I was crying so hard that day. Father wounds are real. Father wounds hurt. Children grow up hurting and then become hurting adults…God’s timing is so incredible because I know He sees our hearts and said, “enough” – Hurting people, hurt people. I cannot imagine the hurts my earthly father must have been carrying inside his own heart. I am grateful for the gift of forgiveness because it set me and so many in my family free. Thank you for representing that father to me that day, Bob. Thanks for your great blog posts and for all you do to serve others. Heaven is having to expand because of the many blessings that God has for you … In His Love!

  • Kim, it’s stories like this that that keep me doing what I do. So happy to be any part of God’s story of healing and redemption. And I am proud of your pursuit.
    Thanks so much for sharing and living your life in front of us all…
    Mascara on a shirt is a great day at Kairos!!
    Bob

  • chuck

    He took it all. Not all at once. Over a period of the last five or six years. He took every thought, emotion, definition, idea, vision, place, state, and synonym for “Father” and is holding it in His heart. Although it might seem like there is nothing left inside of me, it’s exactly the opposite. I know who I belong to, I know who created a purpose for my life out of ashes, and I know exactly why He chose me. When I learned how to understand His heart in the midst of chaos, rejection, abandonment, sickness, and death He gave me Himself. There is no end to needing Him, but I don’t want to live any other way. There is no other way to live. He is Life. Thanks, Bob.

  • Edward Jones

    Bob:

    What an encouragement to hear it from a brother who has struggled with this issue. For the past few years, God has also been re-defining the word “Father” for me, and continues to do so. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability. Your words bless me.

  • Amy

    Wow. That was absolutely beautiful.

  • As a single Christian father, these insights and words of life are profoundly inspiring. Thank you, brother, for adding a beautiful and indelible stroke to the canvas of fatherhood.