Some time back I was continuing an intense and in-depth conversation with a young father and husband who lives in another nation and not in Canada. He made a comment in his email about still struggling to relate to God as his Father. We had spoken about this in person a number of times over the last 6 or more years. His comment got me to thinking once again about God our heavenly Father and how our relationship with Him is helped or hindered by our relationship, healthy or unhealthy, with our earthly father. And, I remembered reading some information about fathers in a book I finished in early January. I will summarize my findings and thoughts…
We are living with a “fatherless generation.” I don’t just mean kids who are raised by single moms. Fatherlessness is more complicated than that.
Types of “dad’s” today:
1> DEADBEAT DAD
This is what our culture calls men who bail out of their responsibility to their family. If a man has become a father, he has a duty to then be a father. A deadbeat dad is a dad who refuses to be a father and is either totally absent from his child’s life or exists somewhere on the periphery.
In my ministry most of the young men I relate to, disciple, and mentor have this kind of “father” and thus are having a hard time relating to a loving, heavenly Father – the One revealed in Jesus and the pages of the New Testament.
2> DISTANT DAD
This is the dad who plagues the church. The dad who is there but not really there. This is the dad who shows up at the game but keeps his head buried in his phone the entire time. The dad who comes to church but only because his wife forces him to. This is the most common form of dad today in this generation. And, the one who has done the most damage in the church.
He is physically present but emotionally and spiritually absent. Instead of being a transformational leader in the home, he is simply a transactional ATM for his family, necessary in times of need but absent for the rest of life.
Comparing the first two types of dads … Deadbeat dads see their kids as burdens as opposed to blessings, which is why they leave. A distant dad, however, doesn’t leave physically. Instead he sticks around but leaves spiritually and emotionally. He is with his child physically, but his mind is still back in the office. A deadbeat dad leaves one day. A distant dad leaves every day.
3> RELIGIOUS DAD
This dad wants his family in church, but he never communicated why it’s important. You might say he is religious but not spiritual. For this dad, being in church is more about doing the ‘right thing’ than about making sure his family cultivates a healthy relationships with the Lord. Because there is a lack of emotional connection, this dad can make God seem like a taskmaster. Even a killjoy. Rules without a relationship breeds rebellion. This form of parenting can make kids bitter towards God and especially toward the church.
4> “IF ONLY” DAD
This dad puts in the hard work of emotionally investing in his children. This dad puts in the hard work of developing a spiritual relationship with his kids. This dad totally gets that he needs to be the spiritual leader of his home. The problem is that this dad also wants to be this for lots of other people, and he is not home enough to experience the benefits of his labour. He is a terrific role model for his kids, but he’s too often being this from too great a distance
He’s just not home enough. It’s not that he’s out drinking with his buddies or playing golf. He is doing good things in he world, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s gone. Gone is gone.
His kids would say, “I love my dad. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. But I wish he had been around more. If only he had been around more.”
The “if only” dad has the right intentions. He wants to do right by his family and the world. His problem is one of priority.
More next time … Part Two