INfire has a strong focus on fathers and mothers. Not as parents per se, but people who characteristically have a heart of a father or mother.
We work in areas that are often destabilized by armed conflicts. Fundamentally, violence is married to a love of power. How do we counter that? A father would willingly lay down their life for a child. A political leader would not, unless they have a parental heart for their constituents.
You can’t be a “Father of the fatherless” (Psalms 68:5) unless you have the right heart. This beautiful heart of a Father is what children and communities need everywhere.
I recall the first time I held my newborns in my arms. It was a magical, heavenly moment. A moment where I could peer into the incredible ocean of love of my Father in heaven. Something titanic tilted in me.
But even though my paradigm shifted, I still had to learn how to live out that vision of love… My children will all gladly tell you great things about me, but they can also tell you places I am or was weak and failed them.
The Pediatric Associates of Franklin notes, “Girls model their relationships with others based on their father’s character, boys model themselves after their father’s character.”
Here is a quote from the research of Dr. Gail Gross: “It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of dad. For example, girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to do better in math, and boys who have actively involved fathers tend to have better grades and perform better on achievement tests.” i
The government report, Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being states: “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.
From the above quotes, we can view a father as a role model that is relationally engaged in healthy ways. There are no perfect fathers (or children for that matter). The best way anyone can cover for all their faults is to learn to express love in clearer ways. Fathers who practice loving deeply are fathers that can at least be forgiven more often and loved in return.
While recognizing the masculine nature of fathers, it’s good to acknowledge there are plenty of single moms and widows who nurture their children into amazing adults…without much help from men. Even in traditional families, mothers often do much more to serve their children than fathers do, at least in a direct or daily way.
Eleanore Cummins interestingly states, “While each parent technically contributed half of an offspring’s genome, approximately 60 percent of the dad’s genes were more expressive than the mom’s.”ii Maybe that is God’s way of countering the fact that often mother spends more time with children? Just a thought.
These days there is a slow shift away from thinking of parents as “father” and “mother” and more of a “parent.” From the perspective of desiring healthy gender equality, this is worth a humble conversation.
Power does tend to consolidate with those that hold it. So if the role of the father is key decision-maker, power will gradually come to reside more in that role over generations. If we place women as “head of the household” the same thing will occur. This is simply the broken nature of humans and power. If we frame the role of the father in more spiritual tones, there should be a profound sense of humility welded into the strength and boldness to provide and protect.
It’s doubtful we will ever truly lose some of the timeless concepts behind fathers and mothers even if some gender roles adapt over time as technology and education level the playing field.
Here are some thoughts which indicate the role of a father is likely to remain with us for a long time:
1. Attraction — Marriage is an Eden institution. The practice of a biological man and woman becoming “one flesh” won’t significantly erode.
2. Knowing God as Father — This idea is introduced in Psalms, attested to in the Prophets, and a core way Jesus engaged with God.
3. Reading Scripture — God as Father is a critical part of the New Testament (NT) hermeneutically. How we perceive a good Father is our lens for how we read and understand scripture.
4. Expressing Church — The symbolism is clear in the NT, revealing Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride.iii
It is a strong character that demarcates if a father is good. Good character can be learned from imperfect parents, or other role models like grandparents, leaders, teachers, and friends. It can also be grown mature and useful by submitting to the Holy Spirit just like Jesus submitted to the Father.
The Father’s heart is what Jesus walked among us to demonstrate, and he submitted to its rhythms daily. Jesus taught that a love that looks like kindness for our enemies is a perfect way to demonstrate who the Father is. We don’t have to be a Father to do this, we can also demonstrate the Father as sons and daughters, mothers, and more.
This is an invitation to go on a journey. Are you a father? We need you today. Are you fatherless? God is kindly pursuing you. Do you have the heart to see transformation in your community? Let’s celebrate fathers more and encourage them to reflect on Papa God’s own heart.
iDr. Gail Gross, (Jun.12, 2014). https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-important-role-of-dad_b_5489093
iiiYou can read Jesus ’thoughts on marriage in heaven in Matthew 22:30 where he indicates marriage will not be a thing. So we shouldn’t get too convinced we have this all figured out yet.