In his book, A Father’s Book of Wisdom, H. Jackson Brown writes, “Fathers are pals nowadays because they don’t have the guts to be fathers.” (p.92) Great point. It takes a great deal of courage to walk the path of fatherhood. The temptation to veer off into the wonderland of “pal-dom” is ever present, especially when hard decisions are to be made.
Dad, your son or daughter is not always going to like you. You will make unpopular, hard decisions regarding where they will go, how they will get there, what they will wear and when they will arrive home. But you cannot always lead a family by consensus or by consulting straw polls about your popularity. Sometimes you make hard, lonely decisions because you know the right thing to do.
Fathers today are not respected as they used to be and yet there is an intense longing in our culture for fathers who have the courage to take strong stands, to protect and provide for their families and to do the right thing even when the pressure on them is to yield. Men sometimes, as family leaders, need to simply be willing to choose… and bear the consequences for the choice they make.
And fathers need to be priests to their families. Fathers uniquely represent God to their household; not just by what they tell their family about Him but how they reflect Him in their personal life and walk. They need to pray for their children, their wife and constantly represent their family at the throne of grace.
I never thought much about that “representing God” part until my daughter Allison made a friend across the street from us named Jenny. Jenny’s family did not go to church and she had started coming with us. One day as she and her mother drove past our house Jenny said, “Mommy, that’s where Allison and God live.”
Dad, you may have been King of the Prom and President of the Fraternity and Captain of the Football Team in high school and college but you will never do a more important thing or play a more significant role than father to your children. Don’t trade that role in for the role of friend. Those days will come to you… later. For now, you must be the structure and form into which the “wet cement” of your child’s life is being poured. If you won’t provide that form and structure in a healthy way, chances are great they won’t find it.
A note here: Your children will get mad at you. They may even tell you they hate you. That’s not your cue to begin to grovel to be their buddy. You need to remember that our deepest nature fights against structure and authority and God; and you represent all three. If they are pressing to see if you mean what you say, then the last thing you want to do is bend at that point. Stand strong. They’ll love you more for that than for giving in when they whine. And at the end of the day they’ll have many, many buddies in life…
… but only one Dad.
FOR MEMORIZATION: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe his reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
FOR REFLECTION: If you have fallen into the trap of being your child’s buddy more than father, what is one thing you can do this week to turn that around? Is there a hard decision that must be made? Make it. Is there a stand you need to take? Take it. Change doesn’t come easily but move deliberately toward becoming the father you need to be. Start today.