Facing The Facts With Fathers
Dr. Gerald L. Stover of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, is a full-time Bible teacher in fellowship with the North-Ridge Bible Chapel, Sellersville, PA.
The Bible says, “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Obviously, mothers play an important role in the drama of the home, and from the real practical point of view, contribute much more to the spiritual lives of children than do the fathers. God did not intend it to be that way. The nurture of children is a responsibility which fathers and mothers hold in common. Despite this fact, the father is to be the spiritual head of his home, and he must take leadership in the nurture of his family if he is to fulfill his God-given role. But many fathers read the script, repeat the lines to themselves, and turn down the part feeling that this is not the role for them.
What part would they rather play? The wage-earner, the big provider, and the dispenser of favors. But to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” is not for them. And this is often true of Bible-carrying fathers. Their theology is pretty straight. They have their methods of Bible study well in tow; their dispensations are all lined up. When it comes to Bible problems, they have the last word. They know the latest books, the finest authors. They seem to count for so much (although this is not always so) before their classes, but count so little at home.
The teaching of the children is left to the mother, by and large she bears the responsibility for their discipline. She makes hard decisions in the father’s absence and plays the part of the priest and the home while the father hands out some favors, but ducks away from his spiritual responsibilities.
Fathers pay a terrific price for this kind of spiritual hide-and-seek. Fathers “lose” their children in this hard-to-get game of their lives. The time comes when he would desire to give counsel, but it is too late. His words fall like dried leaves to the ground: his counsel goes unheeded. The man who puts his business first, his friends outside the home before his family, his love for baseball, football, fishing, golf or even meetings, before his family — this man has to add up the score, and he learns the sad facts at last — he has lost the game, that is, as a father.
Though he may make efforts in later years to undo that which was accomplished by neglect in earlier days, things can really never be what they should have been. It is virtually impossible to regain the ground lost in those years when the children were so impressionable, so dependent upon father, so eager to have his attention. He may accept good advice now, he may brush up on his personality with a course in basic conflicts, he may decide to pray with his wife, put his business-life second. But there are some things in life, which when they are gone, are gone forever. Life is like that. Some steps are irreparable. The damage is done to the home, to the child, to the father’s image, and in most cases it is done — and nothing can restore the years of home-building, life-molding and image-making for the father.
God will forgive such fathers, but not all the children do. God will pardon the selfishness and neglect of families on the part of fathers, but the mark is left on some members of families many times for good. Someone has said, “God forgives our sins, but our bodies never do.” Some steps in life are irreparable; some things when they are gone are gone for good. True, conditions can be improved, better to try to repair the walls late, than not to repair them at all. Better to admit one’s mistakes, and ask for forgiveness, than to go on to the end of the road with no word of expressed sorrow or regret.
Where do our fathers fail? Failure to realize that God has made him to be the spiritual head of his home as a Christian is very often the point of his failure. He just doesn’t play his part at all; all is left to the mother, or to others, even the pastor or teacher.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “…in the nurture and admonition…” Nurture involves the training and education of children or discipline by acts. Admonition involves training by word, admonition, reproof, encouragement. This is discipline by words. Acts and words — so important to the father’s role in the home. Some fathers are content to train by words, and words only. Do as I say, do as I tell you, but where does “Do as I do” enter the picture. Words must be accompanied by example, if the teaching is to be effective, if the lessons in the home are to be learned well.
Much time for business and friends, little time for children and home-training. This is the failure of so many fathers. The child had a problem and wanted to talk, but the father had little or no time. Or he listened to the problem, but evidenced so little understanding of all that was involved. He, who could solve the most difficult problems in accounting, engineering, medicine, building, could evidence so little understanding of the child’s problem, or the teenagers’ needs.
Perhaps it was just a failure to understand attitudes. Fathers can attribute to the teens motives that do not exist. He may assume that they do not really want to know; they just want to talk and take his time. This spells parental failure, and the young people get the message in the home. Father just does not even try to understand; it registers loud and clear — and they do not come back for more. They find help elsewhere.
Unreasonableness, the administration of the wrong kinds of discipline, the offer of things instead of himself — all these register in the thinking of children, and fathers need not be surprised if the time comes when their words mean so little.
Young fathers need to realize that the time to influence the children is now, not when they have climbed the ladder of success in business or even in the ministry. “Bring them up” — NOW! Give them of your time now, be available, be accessible now. Put them first, assume your responsibilities in the home, depend upon God for wisdom and grace with which to assist them in times when they are in need of counsel and understanding. Be the spiritual head of your home.
You are the only father your children will ever have. They look to you for your leadership and help in life. Offer it to them in the wee years of their lives, and you will have little difficulty in those critical years so common to youth.