Sunday, June 16, 2013
The Five Facets Of Fatherhood by Guest Writer Steve Wickham
Five Facets of Fatherhood
By Guest Writer Steve Wickham
When a young man or not-so-young man learns he’s going to be a father for the first time, a transition commences, the product of which comes to some point of completion the moment his firstborn baby gasps its virgin breath.
Suddenly things begin to change; the concept of responsibility is borne on the mind, and the heart feels tremulous in anticipation of the difficult and wonderful days ahead. A courageous smile is worn on the sleeve, yet the candid man inside cannot help but feel out of his depth.
With the passage of days and years, as they combine and accumulate, learning creates wisdom and, therefore, confidence; this young man was born for fatherhood after all.
But just what goes into building the character of the father charged with the generational responsibility of carrying forward the genome?
There are at least five facets of fatherhood to explore:
1) Eternal Father as model;
2) Father as guide and teacher;
3) Father as a person and leader;
4) Father as lover of his family; and,
5) Father as custodian of the generational genome.
Eternal Father as Model for Fatherhood
“When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God...”
~Romans 8:15c-16 (NRSV).
If we cannot at first identify with God as our “daddy” — our Abba, Father — we cannot believe in the remaining aspects of the character of God. From this basis, our Eternal Father, we have life.
An Image of Fatherhood All Humanity Needs
From this basis — a “fatherly” Eternal Father — we have bearing and derive meaning. From the vibrant image of God the course to fatherhood is set, and the drive to complete that course is engendered.
From this image, also, we have the wherewithal to believe that life is good because we have a God who loves us. Though many unbelieving kin may underestimate the value of this perspective, it is irrefutable — by the very nature and need of family that we all have — that God has created an indelible model for us to follow.
We were all once children; at that time we all needed responsible parents. It is only the rogue that never had this; never did they rely on worthy parents, for they never had them. There are many such unfortunates in this world. Why is it that they say they don’t need good parents (or the Eternal Father)? It is only because it hurts to go there.
Nonetheless, we were all born to have an intimate relationship with our Eternal Father; the consummate Responsible Parent.
Fatherhood – Inherent to Relationship
When we consider the innateness of intimacy between God as Father and us as his children we can see a connection, relationally, that bears primary consideration to all of life.
As the Eternal Father is inherently and magnanimously relational, so are we to be.
We can soon see that there is value in being a father and a human being to be relied upon, whilst there is little value in constantly disappointing the people who must rely on us. We’re inextricably linked with the rest of humanity in deeply interdependent ways.
Mimicking the Perfect Morality of the Eternal Father
Not far from knowing the cataclysmic difference between the morality of Divinity and that of humankind, we still have the power in the Spirit to draw upon in our decision-making.
We are, after all, children of the Most High God. We’re nothing less than Divinity’s kin — heirs to eternal fortune.
These facts are good both ways. Perfection is not required of us, yet we have opportunities every day, indeed every moment, to reach the heights of God — our eternal model of fatherhood.
Graphic Credit: Cima da Conegliano, God the Father, c. 1515.
Online link: http://epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com/2011/06/eternal-father-as-model-for-fatherhood.html.
Father as Teacher and Guide
“Listen, children, to a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight;
for I give you good precepts:
do not forsake my teaching.”
~Proverbs 4:1-2 (NRSV).
A key motif of Proverbs in the Bible, particularly the first nine chapters, is of a father guiding a son to wisdom, which is the quest for moral excellence in life. No, wisdom is not how smart we are; it’s how well we live life, the decisions we make, and importantly how those decisions are made.
The value of fathers as spiritual guides and teachers has never been in question.
This is not so much about underplaying the role of the mother, for the maternal instinct has its own separate imperative. Both mother and father are seen here playing complementary roles.
The Respect a Father Commands
If we had fathers we looked up to, they commanded a certain respect beyond words.
Not so much were we fearful of them, we were transactional around them. In this way they instituted discipline through the setting of goals and our achievement of them. We achieved their respect when we did tangible things. It was through these things — modes of action toward achievement in life — that we built our relationships around.
Our worlds with our fathers were therefore constructed in a grounded reality.
The role of teacher, too, was basically the same; goals were set, we achieved them, and victories of learning were celebrated.
But how did the best of fathers achieve their results with us? It is simple. They utilized the gift of encouragement.
Importance of Encouragement
It’s easy to motivate a child via challenge and discipline — a more natural style for most fathers — but a more nurturing way is found to be even more motivational.
Encouragement is the way of patient guidance.
The greatest lesson I learned for leading youth was: 1) always carry through with what you say you’ll do, and 2) never get angry. If achieving the respect of our fathers was about them ensuring we did what was asked of us, the importance of encouragement, as an imperative for the father, is the requirement of patience to resist anger especially when times are despairing.
Perhaps it is sad, and it’s true as I reflect personally, that the character trait of father as encourager goes against the default. Most fathers don’t find it an easy or natural thing to encourage their children. Nevertheless it is vital. After all, who else has such power with their words as a father has?
Establishing a balance where there is: 1) sufficient respect commanded by the father to challenge for achievement, and 2) sufficient encouragement to pick up the pieces for building confidence, means a father has two key tools at his disposal for being a worthy and loving teacher and guide.
Graphic Credit: sethskim.com.
Father as a Person and Leader
“For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”
~2 Corinthians 13:8 (NRSV).
As all people are, fathers are persons of their own. But, they have the task of building character for coping with the additional responsibility they bear.
What features of a father’s character should be in sharp focus?
What would be the most important feature?
Dedication to Truth
This is a question that can be answered for anyone — it’s not a trait exclusive to fathers.
This number one feature of character is dedication to truth. It’s something to aspire to.
Everything else stems from this one. It’s not a ‘truth at all costs’ issue; truth is actually a much higher ideal. From truth, for example, comes the invocation to love, for relational beings cannot coexist at peace without it. Humility, too, comes from knowing ‘place’ — the importance of gently upholding justice and equity in life. Truth is hence compelling. It doesn’t shift. It’s safe and dependable.
People dedicated to the truth see life from the truest perspective humanly possible; they’ll tend to understand time and eternity, love and fear, empathy and courage, differentiating wisdom from folly. They may not be expertly adept at these, but they’re certainly on a journey toward them.
Father’s Leadership Role
Fathers are always privileged with leadership. But it’s up to each father how he’ll discharge this enormous responsibility.
This is a very easily understood concept. Imagine God putting one human being in charge of a much younger, entirely dependent, impressionable human being. There is scope for abuse or neglect, just as there is scope for love and diligence. The father’s character — whether, and how much, they’re dedicated to the truth — will determine whether the former or latter is the child’s reality; whether they’re cursed or blessed.
He may not be the President of the United States, but by virtue of his role, God gives him something just as important; charge over one life. Great risks at war have been taken to save one life. God’s economy is in the realm of one life. God is not a ‘numbers’ God. Each life is equally precious.
Fathers have a mountainously important leadership role. It’s to become intrinsic within his personhood.
Leading Well is About Personal Character
Given the sheer importance of the father’s role — and connecting it with the means to do well, which is to be dedicated to the truth — fathers are then hopefully able to see how important personal character is in achieving the objective God gives them.
God’s mandate is very much about molding, and continuing to mould, godly character in the father, who is also possibly partner to a spouse, worker, leader in the community, and many other things. It is his personal character, however, that sets him apart.
No single role is more important than the other. A dedication to the truth will see a father through all these. It will ensure he has a multilateral dependence on God to underpin his person.
Father as Lover of His Family
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...”
~Ephesians 5:25 (NRSV).
“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
~Ephesians 6:4 (NRSV).
The identity of a man’s family is central to his own identity, no matter how much he may — if he would — resist that thought. Identity is a thing many men struggle with; truth be known, a lot of women and children do too.
The family man’s identity, kept succinct, is to be about loving his wife/partner sacrificially, and being the consistent, stable and respectful influence with the children and extended family.
Loving His Wife/Respecting the Mother of His Children
There is hardly a bigger favor a man can grant his children than to love their mother, whether he’s married to her or not, i.e., this includes loving respect for divorced partners; the mother of his children.
Whole volumes are spent, of course, dissecting the enormous subject of marital love; too much to do justice here. A picture the Apostle Paul paints us, however, is one of husband being to the wife what Christ is to the church. That’s to be the husband’s aspiration — to die to himself for his wife/the mother of his children — even though he’s bound to frequently fall short, accepting his imperfections.
Providing Consistency for Children
As parents, when we discharge emotionally, we’re given to exasperating our children — we’ve all done it, but it’s an abuse of our positions of power. Instead, we’re to acknowledge the responsibility implicit in this power, and calm our spirits, admonishing them in lovingly gentle candor.
This is practically done by being consistent with rules and discipline. Nothing empowers disciplinary love in the household like a parent’s consistent instruction and follow-up. Conversely, nothing is more intimidating to children, in the normal flow of life, than moving previously agreed, or poorly communicating, goalposts.
The Extended Family
It should go without saying, but fathers must respect all extended family, though this doesn’t mean they have to agree with everyone.
All families have their differences and personality mismatches. Coping past these challenges is the father’s key. He’s forgiven for failing to fully understand the values of his in-laws; acceptance without vocalizing or criticizing these differences is, however, critical.
If a father can establish a family identity rooted in love — in forms of sacrificial love for his partner/the mother of his children, consistency of regard for his children, and acceptance issued toward the extended family — he’ll go a long way toward fulfilling his God-given mandate.
Graphic Credit: Wallcoo.net.
Father as Custodian of the Generational Genome
The Lord to Joshua:
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land...”
~Joshua 1:5b-6a (NRSV).
As with Moses, and now in context, Joshua, God is with us; and certainly with fathers as they go about their bidding — with mothers — in leading this day’s formative generation.
Mothers and fathers are the glue that solidifies, at unity, the up and comers and the old alike.
As they were cared for when children themselves, they now care, as they’ll also be cared for in their elderly years, by tomorrow’s mothers and fathers.
In context, they are today’s custodians of generational genome.
Let’s salute the father for his half-share in the role.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Father Day Cards.
Online Link: http://inspiringbetterlife.blogspot.com/2011/06/father-as-custodian-of-generational.htm
Steve Wickham (BSc, FSIA, RSP [Aust], GradDipBib&Min) is an online Christian minister and freelance author maintaining three blog sites (Epitome, ex-ceed and TRIBEWORK), posting daily to service a diverse readership. You can find his nearly 3,000 published articles on EzineArticles.com
His “Grow in GOD” ebook (a chapter-by-chapter devotional on Proverbs) is available:
***100% of Author Proceeds from this ebook go to Compassion Australia to assist some of the world's poorest children***
Social Media Links:
He lives in Perth, Western Australia.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT AND DESCRIPTION INFORMATION
Photo 1. Steve Wickham. Copyright by Steve Wickham.
Photo 2. Pencil drawing of father holding baby by uknown. Fair Use Under U.S. Copyright Law.
Photo 3. Steve Wickham. Photo credit by Sarah J. Wickham. Copyright by Steve Wickham or Sarah J. Wickham.
Photo 4. Steve and one of his daughters, Rhiannon. Copyright by Steve Wickham.
Photo 5. Steve Wickham. Copyright by Steve Wickham.
Photo 6. Book jacket of STeve Wickham's e-book "Grown In God". Public Domain.