By Dan Herzig
Father’s Day has just passed and, for many, is at the same time a wonderful day of celebration, a time of stressful awkwardness, and a day of sadness and possibly anger. I look at my own time as a father to two wonderful daughters. Was I the father they deserved? Was I even a “good” father at all?
In this day and age, the role of father is much maligned by pop culture. He is the dolt who might lose track of his own head if it wasn’t attached (Homer Simpson). Or maybe he is the hard drinking, hard living, but absent type. Truth is, a father comes in every imaginable shape and size along the spectrum and there is no right or wrong. Every person’s experience is different, even within the same family. So what is a father, really?
Picturing God as our goal to be a father can be daunting and even discouraging. He is, of course, the Perfect Father. As fallen beings, we have difficulty living up to this model. Many times we blame our own fathers for not living up to the ideal, when nobody can, including ourselves. Even Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18).
I believe we, as men, are called to begin our journey as a father where we are at this very moment. We are not the man we were yesterday any longer. And we are not yet the man we are to be tomorrow. So, whatever our ability today, whatever our understanding today, and whatever our relationship with our Heavenly Father today, we need to apply ourselves the best we can. If we realize that we made a mistake or fell short yesterday, it is our responsibility to own up to it, apologize where necessary and learn from it.
We can also learn how to be a father from our upbringing. Most of us have a father that was not perfect. We can learn our role both by repeating the positive things we have observed and, maybe even more importantly, learning from the negative things that we would rather not repeat. I believe that for me personally, I was able to learn much by observing my father as well as my wife’s father.
As a guide from the Bible, here are some passages that we can all use as basics:
1. Be your child’s first teacher: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
2. Provide for your family: “…if anyone does not provide for his relatives, especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith.” 1Tim. 5:8
3. Provide correction and discipline for your children: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24
4. Show compassion to your children; they are learning: “As a father shows compassion to his children, the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” Psalms 103:13
5. Sow peace in your household and not anger: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
6. Never, ever give up on your kids, no matter what. See the story of “The Prodigal Son,” Luke 15:20-24
7. Pray for your children as simply as King David: “Grant to Solomon, my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.” 1 Chronicles 29:19
These are all simple things we can do, starting immediately. We may do them imperfectly, of course. However, we can choose to do them slightly better today than we did yesterday. And we need not become discouraged or give up because we are not doing as well as we might be able to do when tomorrow comes. We can forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes and successes as well as those of the fathers that came before us, and be the best father we are capable of being today, with God’s help and blessing.