This Father’s Day as always, I want to acknowledge that the day is not the same for everyone. For some it is a celebration of a good dad or grand dad with whom you were blessed or it is the celebration of the gift of being a dad or grand dad. But for others it is mixed with grief by the loss of that special person in their life. For others it is a day that reminds them that they never had a dad or were in some way abandoned.
So today I have two main emphases. First, is that all of us have a Father in heaven and that all of us may celebrate that this Father’s Day. Second, is the importance of the influence of dads in kids lives. Paired with this is the tremendous opportunity every man, whether a natural father or not, has to fill some aspect of that role in other people’s lives.
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16 NLT
God has not identified himself as “the man upstairs” but God has identified the father – child relationship as a primary image for us to engage with God. Although some people have difficulty with this because of the broken image of fatherhood they have experienced, it does not invalidate that image. It does tell us that many people need to gain a fresh understanding of fatherhood as God expresses it. This is an image that is meant to give us permission to approach God in a manner that only a child can, open hearted, with simplicity and trust.
Fathers are spoken to explicitly about the influential role they can have in their children’s lives in Ephesians 6:1-4 NLT: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Often we try to turn this into a general statement to parents, but on this Father’s Day, I feel it is important to allow the focus to remain on dads. In fact, I want to emphasize that fathers do have a distinct and important impact on kids lives. Numerous studies have been done in the last half century concerning the effect of fathers being absent from children’s lives. These indicate that the impact of a father is so important that the absence of a father can be devastating. One such study enumerates nine devastating effects of absent fathers:
1. 5 times the average suicide rate:
2. Dramatically increased rates of depression and anxiety:
3. 32 time the average rate of incarceration:
4. Decreased education levels and increased drop-out rates:
5. Consistently lower average income levels:
6. Lower job security:
7. Increased rates of divorce and relationship issues:
8. Substantially increased rates of substance abuse: and
9. Increases in social and mental behavioural issues:
I would add to this list one more, that is, that it makes it difficult for a person to believe in God as a good father.
How should we apply this call to fathers to treat their children in a way that does not merely exasperate them and ultimately turn them away? Let’s go back to the source of fatherhood. Psalm 103:8-18 describes the character of God invested in us like a child of his own. God is slow to get angry and quick to get over it, not harsh or accusing but forgiving. God is invested in a way that extends loving purpose to generations beyond. This is God’s model of fatherhood for all men to follow. I say all men because even if you are not a dad, you can be a man of influence and fill in gaps for those who are missing a dad in their lives. You can give them a someone who will help them to believe in God and a model of faith they can grow into.
This Father’s Day, I received the one of the best gifts ever from my little sister! Her husband walked out on her and her two daughters many years ago when my nieces were just preteen. I lived next to them. We all gathered around as a family to fill in the gaps. This Father’s Day my sister sent me (and my brother-in-law, married to our older sister) a thank you for being there for them through the years. YOU can be a man of influence for many people in your life!
Reflect on these ways you can put this into action.
- Be present. Even if you have gone through a divorce or other life changes, be present. Make time for your kids, talk to them, listen to them, and be there.
- Be engaged. The article referenced above indicates that fathers who are emotionally disengaged have the same negative effects as fathers who physically walk away. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, describes the instructive role of parents as something that requires continual involvement in all phases of life.
- Be Demonstrative. Psalm 103 describes God’s character as demonstrated by both positive actions and restraint of negative actions. Many years ago I was inspired by the loving expressions I saw between another dad and his daughter. I realized I had stopped saying, “I love you” and showing affection with hugs and kisses to my young daughters. I changed that. According to Gary Chapman there are five love languages: affection/touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving, and acts of service. Use them, show your love.
- Be a model of faith. The greatest challenge and the greatest calling any of us has is to be a model of faithful living that gives a kid someone they would want to grow up to be. Be that kind of inspiring mentor.