The Light of Our Fathers
I’m a father. Actually, I’ve been a father for more years than I’ve haven’t. I’m also a grandfather. And a son. I guess that means I’ve got the whole “man” thing going for me.
One thing I’ve learned over the years (painfully, sometimes) is that being a “father” is not always easy. Having a child and doing the actual work of parenting are just not the same things. Being a father takes effort. It puts demands on us. It expects unwavering dedication and discipline.
As I’ve matured in both life and my faith, the center of my fatherhood journey has been single-mindedly focused on one thing: what does God teach?
Scripture is filled with examples of fathers who struggled in their roles yet found their paths by following God’s guidance. Here are just four:
- Adam, the first man and father of humanity. Even through sin and the loss of a son, he stayed true to God’s instructions.
- Noah, the brave man who ignored the ridicule of everyone around him to save his family.
- Abraham, the father of nations. He never strayed from obedience to God and in staying faithful he and his wife Sarah ultimately raised Isaac, the father of Jacob and the people of Israel.
- Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus. While not Jesus’ real father, he was still an incredible stepfather, protected his family and raising being a role model to God’s only begotten son.
Of course, the most striking example of fatherhood throughout the Bible is God Himself. Our creator, our protector, our teacher, even our disciplinarian when necessary. As our Heavenly Father, God knows everything about us, our past, our present, our future. He guides us at every moment of our lives and even when we stray, He welcomes us back with open arms.
As fathers, how do we follow God’s example? How do we apply His teaching in our everyday lives? For me, it has boiled down to five simple, but hard-learned principles.
Family is everything. More important than career, friends, diversions, or hobbies. Faithful fathers make the necessary sacrifices to be present with their families, anchoring them in the teachings of Christ. 1 Timothy 5:8 instructs us to take care of our families as a demonstration of faith. This means being a good physical provider, but also being an emotional provider. As a father, we can only do this by investing the time.
The most important example a Christian father can set for his children is openly displaying his love and respect for his wife. As we read in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” When we love and respect our wives, we teach our sons how to be men and our daughters what to expect from the men they entrust with their lives.
Being a father sometimes requires us to discipline our children, but we must do that in a way that is loving, not harsh. And we should never neglect to praise our children when they do the right thing. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:21 that fathers should not frustrate their children lest they “become discouraged.” Loving discipline and loving praise show our children we truly care about them, enriching their character and helping them grow.
One of the more vital lessons we learn as fathers is how to communicate. This doesn’t just mean talking – it also means listening. In my own life, I’ve been surround by a wife and daughters. As much as I love to solve problems, sometimes, it’s just as important to patiently listen without offering an immediate opinion! We learn in James 1:19 that we should be “swift in our hearing” and “slow in our speaking.” God models this for us, hearing our prayers and answering at the precisely perfect moment.
Perhaps our most important duty as fathers is to apply the practical wisdom of God every day of our lives, guiding our children as we demonstrate how to live and love. This is the essence of Deuteronomy 6:5-6 which teaches “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” When we live this out, our children see it and grow in their own faith.
My role as a father to my daughters has been and continues to be the greatest privilege in my life. To be sure, I’ve been far from a perfect parent. It has taken years of trial and error, countless mistakes, and endless apologies.
But I’ve learned that even in our shortcomings we can grow in the strength of God our Father. We simply must believe, model, act, and learn. In this way we shine the light of truth for our families.
May God continuously lead your path