Mar. 10, 2017

But dad, are you a stranger?


I loved this comment from my reflection on mothers yesterday, “Oh, and it takes a kind, loving and handsome husband too”. That’s the truth. I completely agree that a kind, loving and handsome husband brings about the best in the woman. A kind and loving husband makes a loving father. It is his impression that registers in the heads of the children. In my case, my image and understanding of a loving dad from childhood has guided me till date. And it still remains and follows me as I grow older. For me, my dad remains the best man because he was supportive of my mom and together, they raised a formidable family. Imagine if my dad was crazy, a dad who bullied my mom, was a drunkard, chased women around, neglected his fatherly responsibility. Imagine if I had a dad who was unwelcoming to his children. Imagine if I had a dad who was lazy and couldn’t bring food home. That would probably be my definition of a dad. And so it happens with every other child. So, dads, know that you play a pivotal role in the family and in the development of your children.

A child can also ask the question, “Where is my father?” if the dad is missing in the show. Good dads stay close to the kids. They also babysit, clean up, cook, wash dishes, do grocery shopping, guide kids in their home-works. They don’t just sit on the couch or sofa watching television all day while the mom is inundated with all the house chores. They lead by example. Kurt Bruner presents an interesting analogy on Focus on The Family website about the role of the father titled, “What Defines a Father?” I’ll use part of the article to draw home our point here. He uses attributes of God to qualify the role of fathers thus: source, provision, correction and love.

Source: Our earthly fathers are an important source of our genetic makeup. But God is the ultimate source of our lives. He knew us before we were conceived and formed us in the womb.

Provision: Fathers find joy in giving to their children. That's because a chief role of fatherhood is to provide. Jesus used this reality to explain the goodness of God when He said, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11).

Correction: Children don't like discipline, but it fosters security knowing Mom and Dad love them enough to correct wayward behavior. Good fathers mirror the fatherhood of God when they administer the short-term pain of discipline to shape a child's long-term character. As the Bible says, "The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:6).

Love: As a parent, you've probably received a small taste of how God feels as "our Father in heaven." When parents look into the face of their newborn baby, they know they will love the child no matter what. That's exactly how God feels about us (Bruner, K., What Defines a Father?, March 9, 2017).

There are two extremes to the father-image in the family: one underrates their presence while the other exerts a domineering presence. The father who shies away from his responsibility underrates his position. In that case, every responsibility centers on the woman. Unfortunately, some persons ignorantly mistake Joseph in that perspective. They regard him as playing insignificant role in the holy family. They suggest that Joseph merely followed wherever Mary went, and had little or no contribution. That’s completely wrong. Joseph was rather the model of a kind, loving, handsome husband and father. He was humble and supportive of Mary. He was a leader and guide to the infant Jesus. He protected his family (Read Matt.2:13-23).

Saint Paul captures the role of the man in the family this way, “Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and sacrificed himself for her…” (Eph.5:25-27). The discussion started thus, “…so is a husband the head of his wife” (Eph.5:24). Some couples quarrel about the issue of being the “head” today, and end up destroying their homes. Headship implies both leadership and service. It’s all about sacrifice; “just as Christ loved the church and sacrificed himself for her”. The head is not like the boss or one school headmaster dishing out authority to his students. It is a comforting, inspiring, loving and motivating presence to both mom and children. Men who don’t work hard can’t take up leadership roles. They can’t be head.

So, what’s the connection between the dad and parenting? The father provides the balance. He is to be involved as much as the mom. Both provide the emotional, physical and spiritual anchor upon which the child leans. I was once invited to pray for a lady in the labor room who had some complications. To my surprise, I saw the husband on the floor crying like a baby. He was scared that the baby and mom might die. He prayed like never before. Nurses told me the guy hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since the previous day because of the wife. It was encouraging to see him holding the hands of his wife who groaned in labor pains. That showed commitment and compassion as head of the family. He was willing to suffer with the wife.

So, men should reflect on their role as fathers during this Lent. It is a role of service not of superiority. It is a role of availability not of intimidation. It is a role of compassion not of complaint. It is a role of sacrifice not of selfishness. It is a role of softness not of unnecessary toughness. It is a role of sensitivity not of blindness. It is a role of humility not of arrogance. It is a role of inspiration not of discouragement. In marriage, there is no superior and no inferior. Carrying your baby, changing her diaper, staying close to her, helping in her homework, helping mom with domestic chores makes you a kind and loving father. Don’t be a stranger to your kids.