In Praise of Fatherhood

FatherhoodThe world needs more real fathers: men who embrace this assignment with joy; who don’t run when family stresses seem overwhelming; who are able to accept their own idiosyncrasies without abdicating their fatherly authority; and who are willing to sacrifice themselves–their time, their energy, their diversions, their comforts– for the wellbeing of the family.

In the church too there is need for more real fathers: men who look on marriage and family as a special blessing; who believe fatherhood is an honor bestowed by a loving God; who have a clear, undaunted testimony to a living faith in Christ; and who take faith responsibilities seriously both in the home and the church.

In the past six decades confusion about fatherhood has sharply increased. Women’s liberation in its extreme forms has tended to diminish or even scorn the dignity of fatherhood, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s widened the gap between the pleasures of love and the duties of fatherhood. At the same time the entertainment world in its movies, cartoons, situation comedies, and quips effectively debunked the nobility of fatherhood in society.

The result has a tragic quality. Too many young men are uncertain about whether marriage and fatherhood are worthwhile goals. Too many children are deprived of a strong male hand on their shoulders, a goodnight hug, or a stern protective caution against the bad choices of life.

Young women are asking, where are the men we can admire and respect? Sometimes it seems that there actually is a war between the sexes, and that the best that can be managed is the occasional truce and a sortie across the battleground.

At the same time, dating services are contacted by thousands of men who inwardly yearn to satisfy this scarcely defined destiny to love and to become fathers

It’s time to speak up for fatherhood. Some of us men have a knowledge to be shared. We found fatherhood fulfilling before the present unsettling domestic confusion descended on our culture.

That knowledge is that fatherhood can awaken a sense of destiny in a man. It can make him feel rooted and strong. It is a status to be coveted, a role that prods boys to grow into men. Active fatherhood experienced over a period of 20 or more years can grow a man into what he was meant to be — a provider, a protector, a loving disciplinarian, and for many young children, a hero.

It’s true that in our topsy turvy world things don’t always work out as we expect. Children wander from the path, causing unspeakable heartache. Or they erect undeserved barriers against fathers. It’s a full-fledged tragedy when we learn after a father’s sudden death that the father and his son haven’t spoken to one another in twenty years.

The prodigal son’s father got a treatment he didn’t deserve when his younger son fled the family estate, but in the long run he was rewarded for waiting patiently when his wayward son came home chastened and eager to be reconciled.

As in many other of life’s great enterprises the rewards far outweigh the risks. Tennyson’s words are apt, “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” This can be made to speak easily for paternal love .

May Father’s Day, June 16, prompt a renewed sense of courage among men who have heretofore distrusted both marriage and fatherhood. And for men already married and with children, may it mark a time when they renew their commitment to this God-ordained role (Ephesians 3:14).

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