As we come up to Father’s Day, I thought I would end the week by talking about what I’ve learned about being a good father. And this applies whether we’re talking about physical children or spiritual children.
By the way, this picture was taken in Washington with two of my three sons (alas, no daughters).
First, let me say that this world really needs fathers. It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly fatherless world, yet God seems to be raising up a new breed of spiritual fathers in this hour. It’s prophetic (Mal.4:6).
Jerry Cook, who was a significant fatherly influence to me, said this about our experience with fatherhood and how it affects our image of God as a father…
“Jesus gave us God as a Father…it’s the only title He ever gave Him…
the only one He used for God…but not only do we live in a fatherless world,
we defile the children (with what we expose them to)…they are not safe anymore…
no wonder they hide and are afraid…”
Frankly, the idea of being a good father was always intimidating to me. I grew up pretty much without my own father so when we started having kids I felt so lost, insecure and unprepared. I totally related to what Donald Miller said in “To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father“…
“In writing some thoughts about a father, or not having a father, I feel as though I am writing a book about a dragon or a troll under a bridge. For me a father is nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. And I know fathers are not like dragons in that fathers actually exist, but I don’t remember feeling that a father existed for me.”
But I did learn from my wife’s wonderful earthly father, my spiritual fathers and from encounters with my heavenly Father, and that’s the point I will get to here.
But before we go there, why is a father important, anyway? I will share two aspects here.
We get our identity from our father. The father gives us a sense of belonging. This is why so many are confused today and don’t know who they are. We’ve been given alien identities by our earthly father figures–possibly abused by them verbally or physically…or by their absence and neglect. So, we bring this alien identity into our Christian experience. We don’t trust or feel safe.
But God informs us that we’re His sons! (Gal.4:6-7). We belong to Him. And with this royal identity comes all the privileges and authority of a son in our Father’s house. We’re no longer orphans for He has come to make His home in us (John 14:18, 23).
We are affirmed by our father. It’s the father that has the power to affirm his son as a man, his daughter as a beautiful and desirous woman (and this is apart from whatever we may do in life). We primarily get our sense of acceptance from our father. This is why so many little boys grow up full of insecurities, trying to prove themselves to some elusive angst in their souls, why so many little girls grow up looking for affection in all the wrong places, so full of rejection and doubt about their worth.
We see this Father’s heart by how He introduced Jesus at His baptism. Did He say, “Behold the Creator of the Universe? The Messiah? The King of kings and Lord of lords?” No, He said, “This is my Son, whom I love—my Son with whom I am pleased.” (Matt.3:17 GW). This speaks volumes about the nature of our heavenly Father toward us since He has placed us in His Son.
So, fathers, dads…how do we become a good father so we can love and affirm our children like we’ve always wanted?
You will find what you’re looking for in your heavenly Father’s embrace.
For even if you had a really good earthly father, he wasn’t perfect. But you now have the Perfect Father living inside of you! He will never leave you or give up on you. He will teach you His ways. Open your heart to Him now.
It’s as simple as a prayer, “Abba…Papa…Father…here I am. I open my heart to you…change me.” And He will! He always does. But it will happen over time. And see what He says about you in His word. Believe that He accepts you, loves you as much as He loves Himself!
And to help you navigate this journey, seek out a spiritual father who has learned from His heavenly Father, who will lovingly guide you into the Father’s heart (not just fill your head with a lot of Bible knowledge). A spiritual father is not someone who will control and manipulate you to his own end, but someone who will help form you like Christ. This also applies to spiritual mothers.
My point is this. It doesn’t matter what your experience has been with fatherhood, or whether you had a good, bad or absent father. What you’re looking for is found in the Father’s embrace. We love like Him by receiving His love. Our transformation come by receiving, not by trying harder. I wrote about this before…
Finally, we know that the goal of our Christian life is to become like Jesus. But we don’t become like Jesus by focusing our lives on Jesus; we become like Jesus by focusing our lives on what Jesus focused His life on. And Jesus focused His life on being a Son, abiding in His Father’s love and revealing His Father so that a world of spiritual orphans could see what He’s really like and want to become His sons and daughters.
And that’s how you become a good father.