Is fatherhood a gift or a prop in our lives?

Published 9:09 pm Monday, June 18, 2018

A Methodist pastor in Illinois described his father this way: “My dad was usually off to work before I woke up. He was a meat-cutter for National Foods. He worked every Saturday and some evenings as stores remained open longer. What’s more he always had a second job. My most dominate childhood memory of my father is of dad lying on the living room floor in front of the TV sound asleep. I pretended his body was a mountain and played on him with my cowboy toy figures.” That’s quite a childhood memory-his father as a prop.

On the other hand, a lady remembered her father like this: “My daddy is the only man I’ve ever known who’s always come through for me. He never let me down. He has protected us from evil, nurtured us along and loved us unquestionably. My father instilled in all of us a tremendous sense of right and wrong…the knowledge that we don’t have to do everything our peers do to enjoy life. And an unshakable belief that family means everything and we have the best of families.” Now, that’s another childhood memory — her father as a gift.

The biblical prophet Elisha was asked to go to a strange place to spend some time with a widow and her son. While he was there, this son died so immediately Elisha asked the widow for her son. He took the son in his embrace and went up to his room and there he interceded with God for the son in prayer. Shortly thereafter, Elisha came back down with the little child in his arms, alive and restored. He handed the child to the widow and immediately she said, “Now I know that you are a man of God” (l Kings 17:24). Stating it another way, “Now I know you are a gift of God.”

Today, I want to raise a question about fatherhood. Is it a gift or prop? I raise the question because of the critical nature of family life in America at this hour. Someone said, “To be and become a family in today’s world is nothing less than an act of courage.” The family is not only changing but under assault.

I raise the question also because many people in our culture understand that one of God’s greatest gifts to children is a good mother. Fewer people understand that a good father is also one of God’s greatest gifts to children.

I happen to disagree with the late evangelist, Billy Sunday, who said in one of his sermons, “Give a child a good mother and any old stick will do for a dad.” To me, that statement is incorrect especially when the welfare of the child is at stake. Every son needs a role model and every daughter needs a pattern for the evaluation of other men.

First, fatherhood is a gift when a father is available. An older man said that when he was 13 and his brother was 10, his father promised to take them to the circus. As they were preparing to go and eating lunch, the phone rang and his father answered. There was an emergency downtown. Thus, these brothers braced themselves for the disappointment. But then they heard their father say, “It will just have to wait. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Their father came back to the table, their mother smiled and said, “You know the circus will come back.” He answered, “I know but childhood won’t. Childhood is only going to go around one time. As parents, if we miss it, we have missed it.”

 Second, fatherhood is a gift when father is an encourager. Probably nothing encourages a child to love life, seek accomplishment and to develop confidence more than a sincere word of praise or affirmation. Goethe stated, “In praising and loving a child, we love and praise not that which is, but that which we hope for.”

 Third, fatherhood is a gift when father is a good example. There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “What a child sees, the child does. What a child does, the child is.” For sure, two things that fathers can contribute to their children are love and example.

Fourth, fatherhood is a gift when father is no stranger to faith. Writing in his book, “If I Were Starting My Family Again,” John Dressler stated that he would not pray for his family. That’s an attention getter. Rather, he said that he would pray for himself that God would make him the kind of loving Christ-follower that could have a greater influence on the people he lived with.

Think about that. Maybe when we are praying, God bless our children and our spouses, maybe we ought to be saying, “And God help me to be who I’m supposed to be so they can find you in the relationship of this family.

Finally, fatherhood is a gift when father is honorable. Isn’t that a beautiful word — honor. Honor your family. No other relationship, except our relationship with God, will bring greater dividends to our spirits than a good relationship with our family.

Fatherhood-gift or prop? It’s intended to be a gift, but whether it will be or not is clearly up to us.