Yesterday morning kicked off with the kids getting up early and bringing me breakfast in the study. I think they’d intended to bring it to me in be. But the morning sermon in Nehemiah needed a few last-minute tweaks. I’d been up for a while. But they’d made cards and everything.
Flora then told me about a conversation that she’d had with our babysitter the night before. Sadly her Father had died a few year’s ago and so she had no one to give a card to. But she and Flora felt that she should still give thanks for her Father because he was such a good Dad. Even if he wasn’t around any more. I explained that this is the problem with earthly Fathers; they have a habit of not sticking around. And so what we need is an everlasting, undying always there for you sort of a Father. I asked Flora if she knew of one. She did.
But it set in motion a train of thought about how my role as her earthly Father influences her view of her heavenly Father. Because presumably she, and her brothers, are forming an opinion about having God as their Father from the way that I interact with them.They’ll be drawing conclusions about whether having God as their Father is a good thing. Now I know that’s an obvious thought. But it’s not one I remember dwelling on too much before. So what exactly am I teaching the kids about God in the way that I father? When I pick up the paper on a Saturday and brush off their questions with a dismissive ‘can’t you see I’m reading the paper’ does that help them to trust God and love Him, or not? Sure, as they grow up they’ll get that there’s a discrepancy between God and me. And wonderfully, in the kindness of God, that even my weakness and wickedness as a Father in some way helps them understand that God is an even greater Father. But am I doing the concept of Father any favours, or not?
Take God’s self description in Exodus 34, for example. How do I match up?
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Are those wonderful characteristics of God evident in my relationship with my kids? That’s got to be an uncomfortable but useful question to ask.
Compassionate: Do the kids know that I care? Do they know that they can come to me and whatever is bothering them will bother me? Do they always run to Mum for sympathy or will they come to me as well?
Gracious: Am I generous Father who lavishes good things on my kids? Am I someone who surprises them with unexpected fun times? Am I as positive towards them when they’re obedient as when they’re disobedient? Is my disciplining of them part of my generosity towards them? Do they know that they’re valued even if they’re rubbish at sport or can’t do maths?
Slow to anger: Do I have a long fuse? Does it take a while for me to become techy and irritable? Do I fly off the handle when they deny me my version of ‘home heaven’? Am I impatient with their inability to get things or their constant stream of questions?
Abounding in love: Would me kids know that I love them because they hear it from me? Do they feel it? Do my boys have to beg me to leave them alone because I keep trying to hug them?!
Faithfulness: Am I reliable? Do I make and keep my promises? Can they count on me? Do they feel that they keep having to remind me of what I’ve said because they’re unconvinced that I’ll come through for them?
Maintaining love: Am I consistent in the way that I serve them? Or do I blow hot and cold? Do I have my moments when I feel that I need to produce the goods because so often I’ve not been there for them as they would have wanted?
Forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin: Do I forget their wrongs quickly? Am I always bringing up their previous mistakes? Do I let them start with a clean slate after every time they mess up?
Not leaving the guilty unpunished: Do they know that disobedience, dishonesty and disrepect matters to me? Do they know that if they’ve treated their siblings unjustly (or anyone else for that matter) that I’ll take them to task? Do they know that I’m a champion for righteousness and that there’s nothing that I love more than pleasing God?
Like every Christian Father, I’m desperate for them to grow up loving God. Aside from praying and teaching them the scriptures, it seems to me that the biggest single contribution I can make to that is to give them an experience of the attractiveness of Fatherhood. For that, the kids need a godly Father.