“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) We remember this encounter between father and son from the story of the prodigal son. There are two very distinct relational responses here. That of a son who is literally beaten by the world and anticipating reuniting with the father whom he does not expect forgiveness and a father’s open arms to a beloved son. The outcomes for both were probably unexpected. Many times, relationships between father and son are the most difficult to remain strong and almost impossible to repair. A possible query would be, why is that so?
There is an upturn towards the “father present” in the home statistics. Data released in the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey that 18.3 million children are living without a father in the home. A decline of 25.1% since 1993. According to this report, when children have a father or father-figure helping to raise the children in the home they are less likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, become pregnant before age 18, and less likely to commit a crime resulting in being sent to prison.[i] Fathers matter.
Fathers were sons. It is a struggle to not pattern what has been handed down by generations of fathers. Numbers 14:18 expresses the Lord’s judgement. He is always abounding in love and forgiving sin, yet he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. How often does a man cringe at his short comings reflecting “I remind myself of my Father”? In an effort for a young boy to become an independent man with his ideals and expressions, he may also find the need to reject some of what he has been taught by his father. This can make for strained relationships later in life.
Those relationships that we wish to hold dearest and nearest take work. They take prayer and focus and a willingness to change. Jesus knew the struggle. He spoke about the father-son relationship. John 5:19 reads “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He see the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner”. This verse, speaking of the unique relationship between God the Father and God the Son, also gives a strong lesson for every father in every household.
Nurturing the relationship between fathers and their children is not to be taken lightly and it is a massive responsibility. In an article entitled “Facing the Lions of Fatherhood”, there are four strategic areas of fatherhood that can assist the journey:
• Engage when you can. Having the courage to stay engaged makes room for the unexpected.
• Own what you can. Be willing to tackle underlying causes.
• Celebrate where you can. Allow yourself to fully share the joy of restoration.
• Entrust the rest to God. Know that there is no higher, better good we can do than
acknowledge our own powerlessness and pray for God’s mercy over our children and us.[ii]
God bless your journey as you wear the crown of a Christian Father.
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