It’s easy to point a finger at obvious evil, but perhaps even “good dads” are teaching much more important lessons than we think we are.
1. Fathers shape our impression of God
The Bible calls God our “Heavenly Father” many, many times. Jesus referred to God as “Father” over 100 times in the book of John alone. Paul called Him “Father” over 40 times in his writings. Many of the ways we interact with God mirror our own experiences with our dads—provider, model, teacher, judge, legislator, comforter, protector.
How we treat our kids will impact how they feel about their Heavenly Father.
- Am I angry? My kids will probably think God never is satisfied with them.
- Am I uninvolved? My kids will probably believe God is never there.
- Am I selfish? My kids will probably live as if God is uncaring.
- Am I harsh? My kids will probably consider God a tyrant.
But the flip side is true…
- Am I loving?
- Am I kind?
- Am I consistent?
- Am I just?
- Am I patient?
The more I am like my Heavenly Father, the more realistic a picture my children will have of theirs.
2. Fathers shape our impression of all authority
People who grow up in homes without a dad are 20 times more likely to be imprisoned. There are all kinds of socioeconomic reasons that play into this, but I can’t help but think that a general lack of fatherly authority in their lives has led them to a mindset that rejects all forms of authority.
But having the wrong kind of authority could greatly damage a child’s perception of his own future role as an authority figure. Fathers who are harsh or lacking love in their authority cause an even more negative impact than the absent father. Dr. Stuart Brown studied serial murderers and found that, almost without exception, their fathers had forced extremely unrealistic regimens of work and rigid rules upon them at very young ages while failing to show any compassion or love. I wonder how many people who abuse their power as adults got the idea of rigid, uncaring authority from their fathers.
Those of us who understand that we must model proper authority to our children can still be a part of the fathering problem…
One summer afternoon when I was 14 I walked home from soccer practice needing to shower and change before a church activity that night. No one was home and the door was locked. My parents, wisely, didn’t let us spend a great deal of time home alone so I didn’t have my own key.
This may come as a surprise to exactly zero people, but I have been known to have an anger problem. Anger is probably my most visible sin and has been for as long as I can remember. The pencil lead that has been in my brother’s arm since 1993 is a monument to my Hulk-like tendencies. But that’s a different story…let’s recap: 14 year old boy, locked out of his house, in a hurry, serious anger issues.
One of my parent’s cars was in the driveway and I thought “Surely they knew that I would be in a hurry and would need to get into the house, so they probably left me a key or at least some clothes in the car.” Surprisingly, the minor hygienic and social problems of a 14 year old weren’t the main concern of my parents that day so there were no keys anywhere to be found.
So then I was livid. How could my parents have been so negligent to leave me outside on a warm summer day for 15 minutes? I decided to vent the anger toward my parents out on the car. It was their car, after all. The following events all happened in approximately 1.8 seconds:
I slammed the door but was completely unsatisfied with the results because the strength of the slam was not proportional to the anger I felt. So I opened the door again and slammed it even harder. As I stepped back with a feeling of satisfaction, admiring the way the car’s suspension kept it bouncing back and forth as if it knew who was in charge, I looked up to see my pastor pulling into the driveway. To this day I don’t have a clue why he was coming over at that particular moment, but I do remember the lovely shade of red (somewhere between maroon and crimson) that my face turned in an effort to blend into my surroundings.
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to talk about how bad anger can be, but I have learned that most people stop reading my posts after the embarrassing story so I’ll leave you with a verse then give you the option to choose which application you want to make. Besides, I can’t decide what direction to go with this one.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. -Proverbs 19:11 (ESV)
- Anger usually makes the angry one look foolish.
- Anger stems from pride. When we think too highly of ourselves we get offended if everything isn’t as easy as it should be.
- Most of the things we get really angry over are really small.
- It’s a lot easier to be angry when the person you’re angry at isn’t around.
I am shocked by how many adults live like they are still sitting around the cafeteria table in middle school–being extremely nice to someone when they are present, but spreading gossip and bad-mouthing them as soon as they aren’t there. I am constantly amazed that people feel the need to point out the negative in every situation and refuse to agree with any decision. I can’t get over how many grown men and women just can’t get along with others. Surely a reasonable person has realized by the time he is out of high school that everyone sees right through that type of behavior, right?
A while back, I had to deal with such a person and was talking to a close friend about how to handle the situation. He asked this question: “Are they a spiritually-minded person?” In that particular case I had no idea, but it got me thinking…Is it possible to be spiritually mature without being socially mature? Is it possible to be right with God and be known as a trouble-maker, dissenter, gossip, or hothead? I’m pretty sure it isn’t.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
-Galatians 5:22-23, ESV
Almost every single one in that list deals directly with how we treat other people. A loving person won’t gossip. A joyful person won’t dwell on the negative. A peaceful person doesn’t cause strife within her circle of influence. A patient person takes whatever injustices are sent his way without complaint. A kind person doesn’t take opportunities to be hurtful. A faithful person doesn’t form grudges against her friends. A gentle person doesn’t speak harshly to others. A self-controlled person doesn’t let his anger get out of hand.
Social maturity does not necessarily indicate spiritual maturity, but social immaturity certainly indicates spiritual immaturity. This may be the greatest gauge of spiritual condition that we have.