There was a time when fathers and sons worked together and spent the majority of each day in close proximity to each other. This master-apprentice relationship was a progression from “I do, you watch” to “I do, you help” to “you do, I help” to “you do, I watch.” During this process, boys became men.
Today, most parents spend their working days apart from their children. In doing so, the master-apprentice relation has been replaced with a provider-beneficiary relationship, where the focus for working parents has shifted from preparing the children for a vocation to providing financially for the family.
As we recognize Father’s Day and the work of fathers in the home, we ought to consider what our children really need from us beyond financial resources. Here are just four of those things that deserve our attention.
When I was a teenager, my family took a ski vacation to Austria. My father brought me to the most difficult black slope on the mountain. He told me to go down by myself. I was scared, but also excited that my father entrusted me with this challenge. It took me a long time to get down the mountain, but it was a thrilling ride. When I eventually met up with my father on the bottom, I said, “Did you see that, Dad? I made it down all by myself!” He responded, “Yes, I saw you son. It was amazing!”
My father really saw me that day, and it meant the world to me. All children need to know that their fathers really see them. They need our presence—far more than they need our presents!
Most of us are familiar with the Sherpa people group who live in the mountains of Nepal. They are renowned for their strength, toughness, expertise and experience at very high altitudes. Due to their intimate knowledge of the mountains, they are incredible mountain guides. Even the most expert climbers engage the help of Sherpas to reach the highest summits.
Our children need to be surrounded by “Sherpas” who can guide them to the summit of living godly lives. They need to be surrounded by men who provide protective leadership; men who have walked life’s trails and know where dangers lurk. They need to be led by women who are eager to share from their experience and wisdom. Fathers can and should be involved with finding these other mentors for their children.
In Scott Rodin’s book, “The Four Gifts of the King,” the main character, Steward, is learning about the “deep peace” of the king. Facing certain death, somehow that deep peace floods his spirit:
“All he could see was hooded figures ready to raise their swords and overwhelm their little band of warriors. He saw the anger and evilness of the Phaedra. He could sense their hatred and their thirst for vengeance. But when he looked into his own heart… His eyes grew wide, and he turned to Zedekai. “The Deep Peace, that’s what I feel.”
Steward learns about the peace that Paul describes: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). This is not a worldly peace. Rather, it’s a peace in our heart that no matter what the realities of life are, God is with you.
When I read this book, the author passed on the wisdom of God’s gift of deep peace regardless of life’s inevitable uncertainties or even chaos. As fathers, we should pass this on to our children as well.
I began playing soccer when I was 6years old. At 18, I was selected for the senior squad of my soccer club. Leading up to a game against a top team in Sweden, we had suffered several injuries on defense, so I was selected to play as a central defender, a position that I did not typically play. I was very nervous, since this was my first game with the senior team and I was taking on a different role. I began questioning if I had what it took to be on this team.
In the locker room before traveling to Sweden, the coach gave our team a talk and looked me straight in the eye. “Gisle,” he declared, “you are like a birch tree. Anybody that tries to tackle you just bounces off you.” He gave me a blessing that I have always remembered. His words told me: “I am a man. I have what it takes. My coach sees it and approves.”
In a similar way, we can get to know our children intimately as God created them and cast a vision for their future. They need our blessing. They need to hear from us: “You are adults. You have what it takes. I see it and approve.”
Instead of just working on plans to give wealth to your children when you die, you can create father-child experiences that will enhance the intimacy of your relationship and help them grow into adulthood.
This is difficult! It takes intentionality, time, and effort. It’s easier just to “check out” and focus on being a “salary man” rather than a real dad. It’s easier to neglect fathering and watch the ballgame on TV.
I’ve made so many mistakes that I often question whether I have what it takes to father my children well. But I am leaning in, trying to father the best I can. Part of what keeps me going is the knowledge that if I lead them to their heavenly Father, he will cover my mistakes and father them perfectly.