Wednesday, June 12, 2013
What fathers provide
Matthew 7:11 also Luke 11:13 If you then… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Fathers, made in the image of the Father, are created to be providers and givers of good things. Some ‘good things’ can be ordered online, but we’re thinking here of the particular qualities that fathers bring (and are remembered for much longer than Amazon deliveries or gift-wrapped items).
Here’s my list – a biblical list of seven naturally! – of attributes particularly associated with fartherhood. If this was a fair, balanced, represent-all-sides post there would also be a list of specific mother-type attributes – but I’m not being fair or balanced, I’m being brief and focusing on dads. So I’ve told you.
Fathers bring security – not so much by what they do, but by who they are. Is there a spiritual authority that goes with being a father? That’s easy to ‘prove’ from Scripture but then the Bible was written in a male-dominated culture. It’s a question to leave hanging, but many women will say that things just seem more secure when there’s a husband or father around.
This something we don’t hear so much about these days. It is a specific kind of security coupled with enabling. I once had an accountant (he happened to be a Christian) who was helping me with a not-very-profitable business. He made a suggestion that seemed to me to be risky. “You have a go,” he said, “and I’ll make sure you don’t fail.” So I did have a go – and knew that I was covered by his greater business experience.
This is all sounding like a ‘leadership is male’ article and that’s not what I want to convey at all. But there is a kind of spiritual leadership in the family – especially when there’s a crisis – where men often come to the front very helpfully. Families also tell me that it feels good when the father takes the responsibility to lead spiritually, especially if it is a servant-hearted kind of leading. I don’t believe in a hierarchical kind of male right to lead, but i do believe there are distinct roles set out for men and women who are, however, of equal status and value. After listening to others, making the final call in spiritual leadership may be one of those roles.
It’s a bit of a Hollywood stereotype to cast fathers and men in general as the courageous ones while women are seen as timid. We all know there are some great exceptions (and I never even mentioned Margaret Thatcher). However in day to day family life, fathers often come into their own in being equipped to tackle tough situations, face up to difficult people, challenge bureaucratic government departments and demand the opening of doors that seem closed (Luke 11: 5-8) – and we see these things modelled and taught by Jesus.
This may go with a sense of adventure, or it may be to do with risk-taking, or it may be just a different way of looking at things, but fathers are often the ones who seem to have longer sight, the ability to see beyond present circumstances and to imagine or dream for their children.
Being affirmed and knowing we are approved are on everyone’s checklist of needs – but this is especially important for young people who are finding their own identity, and making their own way in life with a mixture of successes and setbacks. Fathers (well, the good ones – there are some for whom nothing is ever good enough!) do this job of affirmation especially well.
This may not be overtly prayerful, although prayer blessings and scriptures declared in blessing (taking up the Sword of the Spirit) are really powerful. But there are also the real and powerful blessings of good, encouraging words spoken. Blessing is mainly a father role in Scripture, and so it comes well from fathers. And I may be biased here, but I believe there is no encourager quite like a father, or a spiritual father for that matter.
In this age of egregiously equal opportunity, political correctness and more than a dash of feminism, we have moved on from the costly battles the suffragettes courageously fought – but the pendulum has continued to swing, to the point that the male role in the family and fatherhood in general has become devalued. I believe that what fathers bring is special – and God-intended as such. If there are women friends out there who find the tone of this sexist or demeaning – I may not apologise on this occasion. I’ll take it on the chin, like a man.
TAKE AWAY CHALLENGE
If you are a father (if not, imagine!) which of these would your wife and children like to see you do more of? Have you asked them?