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The Journey of Fatherhood
By Jim Shempert
Director, One Million Dads
In biological terms, moms deserve far more credit as they have carried children for 9 months. Where dads have their impact, or should, is in the spiritual and educational formation of their children. Proverbs 22:6 is a favorite when talking about fatherhood. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” The key word in that verse is “start”. Merriam-Webster defines “start” as “to begin a course or journey.”
Once the ship has hit the rocks, it is far too late to try and adjust course. Fathers, our job is to begin a journey with our children from the point of birth. We are called to be there for our children from the very beginning. I have a friend who sits with his son on the back porch most every day, and he tells him of the love of God and His plan of salvation. Does a nine-month-old comprehend that? Probably not. My friend, though, does not plan for him to accept Christ at nine months. He doesn’t expect him to understand the Trinity, the sacrifice of Christ for the sin of man, or God’s ultimate plan of redemption. His goal, though, is to saturate his son in the teachings of God from the very beginning. The world’s ultimate goal is to replace God as the center of man’s life. The only logical way to defeat that evil is to instill Christian values in our children from the outset. Redemption can happen at any age, but the road to redemption is far easier when you have the map learned early.
To married biological fathers – Yours is a position to be highly envied. Not only have you experienced the blessing of marriage, but the double blessing of fatherhood. Your job is not easy. Hold fast to what you know to be good, right, and true. Love your family, provide for them, guide them with love, and love them as Christ loved you. You are the guiding line for what your children’s lives will look like.
To divorced fathers – This is probably not what you had in mind. For whatever reason, your marriage did not last. What did last, and will outlive you, is the relationship that you have with your children. Divorce is an ugly and painful business. When your relationship has broken down, the best example you can be to your kids is to be civil with their mother. Running down your former spouse plants seeds of doubt and anger in the minds of your children. While you cannot be the typical family, you can still love your kids, and respect their mother at the same time. Your children are still looking to you for guidance. If you want to be Christ to them, show them that your love is still there for them no matter what.
To stepfathers – You are in a hard position. Your “step-kids” may like you, and they may not. One thing I have learned from many friends around me, when you marry someone who has children, you have to be willing to work to show them that you love them. Divorce and remarriage bring with it much baggage. Being angry at the kids because they don’t treat you like a father will earn nothing but resentment. I had a friend who married a woman who had a daughter from a previous marriage. When he asked his wife to marry him, he also asked the daughter if he could be her daddy. Now, she usually is sitting on his shoulders in every picture. Love takes work. Be willing to put in the time, and sacrifice yourself if necessary.
To the man waiting to be a father – Your best ally is prayer. Pray daily for your child. I pray every day for my next child, and we are a couple years away from trying again. God has ordained from the beginning of the world all who would come to Him. How can you doubt that He knows who you are praying for?
To the man who never had children – You may think that Father’s Day has nothing to do with you, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Though you might not have children of your own, with the fatherless home rate in America hanging around the 43% mark, you encounter people daily who need you as a father in their life. I’ll never forget the lady who told me that I was the only positive male role model in a student’s life.Children spell love “t-i-m-e”. How much better would America be if that 42% knew that someone out there loved them?
To the man who has abandoned his fatherly responsibilities – Just because you can create a child, it doesn’t make you a dad. You may have come from a broken family yourself, and therefore don’t expect any difference in your life. The only way to change is to break the cycle. It will take great humility and forgiveness, but if you have abandoned your family there is no better day than today to change that. You have very few years to be a presence in your child’s life before they write you off and never need you. And then, they will do the same with their children. Is that what you want?
Billy Graham once said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”How true that is, even today. We should never take for granted the lofty place that has been bestowed upon you. God has granted us one of His most precious angels to raise, provide for, and protect. It is not a position to be taken lightly.
My wish is that at my funeral, my children will be able to say that I loved them, their mother, and Jesus and because of me, they do too. That will be a truly victorious life.