Sunday, June 19, 2011

FAILURE AND SUCCESS: REFLECTIONS ON FATHERHOOD

Brothers and Sisters:


My greeting to you assumes something.  If we're brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of 
God, then we must have a Father.  The Father we have is the pattern for all fathers on earth.  But He is perfect, we are  not.  This morning I reflect on my own fatherhood, and that means pain as well as comfort.


I am Dad to four children of my own and Stepdad to six others.  Over the past 34 years I've had children to think about, provide for, worry over, try to get to know, and in general succeed or fail with.  We each had a father here on earth,and if it was the will of our Father in heaven that father on earth was kind, loving, strong in faith, and taught us and brought us up to be as he is or was.  But remember, for those of us (many! perhaps the majority!) who were brought up by men who were less godly than that, that was also our Sovereign Father's will.


What a hard thing to see.  That a loving, kind, Sovereign God would allow us to have a mean, bad-tempered father.  Or a father who abused us.  Or a father who allowed bad things to happen to us by neglect.  Or a father who we feel never loved us or cared enough to discipline us in love, and teach us the skills we needed to face life.  Or a father who disappeared completely, leaving a void in us that can't be filled on earth.  What a hard thing to admit, that this birth we experienced was not an accident.  That God the Father of all knew what He was doing when He gave us this earthly father.  That He does not make mistakes, and there are specific reasons, to be worked out in our own lives, that He gave us the fathers we have or had.


My father was distant and removed emotionally from me.  He was there in body, but always seemed somewhere else in mind or spirit.  He always seemed angry and irritated, and I was a bother to him.  He grudgingly did the occasional father thing with me at my mother's insistence, but I knew in my little boy's heart, that he'd rather be relaxing in the chair with his newspaper, or watching tv, or at work.  This abandonment has affected me my entire life.  It helped mold me into an angry, detached workaholic who became an angry, detached father, who was not really there with his children most of the time, and who did things with them grudgingly too often.  Was I better than my father?  Yes, I must say I improved on the bad model, but not nearly as much as I should have.


WE DO NOT NEED TO BE BOUND BY THE TRADITIONS OF OUR FATHERS.


Did you hear that?  We have a Sovereign God who breaks all chains.  We have a Lion of Judah who tears apart the bonds of the past, and works in us new things by the Spirit of God.  Throughout Scripture we hear God calling us to leave the empty ways of our godless or pagan or religiously hypocritical forefathers.  Isn't God big enough to help us do that?


So today, I comfort you with these words.


"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons...
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best;
but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness."
Hebrews 12:7,10


It is the hardships brought by God our Father that mold us.  Not the easy times.  We have a Father who loves us enough to train us and coach us constantly.  He will not be lazy or give up on us.  We must remember that the only way to become strong is to have to exercise strength.  There are no armchair activities that bring us to spiritual fitness.


Today, you men who are fathers can rejoice that we don't have to stay as we are.  We can change by the power of the Spirit in us to become more and more like our Father.  And less and less like our father.  We can grieve over past mistakes and sins, and over the results.  But we can also take comfort that our children can overcome our failures in their own lives by the power of God.


My earthly father left me without saying he loved me, and without even saying goodbye.  He will take responsibility for his own life before God.  But as for me, I will choose to tell my children today that I love them.  And confess to them my failures as a father, asking their forgiveness, and telling them what God would have me be from now on.  So can each of us.  We can exhibit the attributes of our Father in increasing measure, by dying to self and living only to Christ.


Christ in you, Dads, to the glory of God!


A. Brother

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