This Sunday is father’s day and we pay a little more attention to our dads whom we still have with us. Thankfully, many of us have great relationships with our dads, a reason for thanks. However, we also live in a world where relationships with fathers are broken. So today, even as we come to worship, father’s day can either be a day of celebration of the Lord’s goodness to us or it is a day with mixed emotion, because the relationship we once enjoyed with our father is now either strained or broken altogether.
There is a little story that has been credited to Jonathan Edwards has been told many times over when he writes to his daughter Lucy, shortly before his death, “Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a father who will never fail you.”
It seems that Jonathan Edwards had a good handle on what it meant to be a father. He realised the important spiritual role they play, not just with a spouse, but also to their children. In Scripture, fathers are often portrayed as the spiritual head of a household. In today’s culture, although things are somewhat different, it doesn’t absolve fathers of their responsibility for the spiritual welfare of our families, should also weigh heavily on us. This doesn’t mean that mothers do not have a role to play, they do. But generally the onus falls on the father.
It’s a rather scary thought, for most fathers are aware of their short comings in this area. I have met fathers who have lamented the fact that they have been dismal failures for not taking their responsibility to teach their children the ways of the Lord more seriously. Too often their emphasis has been on sports or careers while their children’s spiritual welfare was given a back seat. I have also met fathers who have lamented the fact that they were too forceful and over bearing towards their children about the Christian faith and it seems to them that they may have contributed to their children turning away from the Lord. But there are also good stories. On one occasion a father said to me, “I am so thankful that my seven children love the Lord.” Then he immediately added, “There, but for the grace of God go I, and there but for the grace of God go they!”
Of course, our children will probably never learn the ways of the Lord if we don’t teach them or show it to them in our living and loving. Yet, when, with the Lord’s blessing, they do grow to love the Lord, we humbly acknowledge it’s all by grace alone.
Thankfully, fathers also know that there is forgiveness for their mistakes and short comings from the same source all others are forgiven and that is in Jesus Christ. It’s not an ‘escapism’ for being a ‘slack’ dad as far as spiritual nurturing of their children are concerned, but it does give fathers hope for a new day and a new beginning, also with our children. It’s never too late for fathers to be a good Christian witness to their children, even if they have ‘stuffed-up’ for a season or two.
As fathers, we also realise there will come a time when our time will be full of days and we have no more time to influence our children. Jonathan Edwards, acknowledge that earthly fathers do not remain forever, but there is a heavenly Father that never leaves us. And what a great Father He is to have. Not only does He never leave us, He has given His all for our forgiveness and eternal salvation when He gave us His Son.
So today, thank the Lord for the fathers He has given us, even with all their short comings. Keep loving them, not only when they give you gifts, but also when they fall short of the dad you would want them to be. In doing so, you may unknowingly cause your father to turn to the Father above who grants forgiveness, renewal and hope for tomorrow. Fathers (and grand fathers), let us not shirk from our responsibility to be the fathers (and grand fathers) God wants us to be. JZ