The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalms 37:23-24
According to statistics we have more children growing up without a father than we’ve ever had before. Margaret Philp of the Globe and Mail reports that a quarter of Canadian children are not living with their natural fathers and as a result “a growing absence of fathers from the lives of Canadian children is spawning a generation at far greater risk of juvenile delinquency, broken marriages, dropping out of school and becoming teen-aged parents than ever before.” This problem isn’t restricted to Canada. Countries around the world have all manner of socioeconomic problems as a result of absentee fathers.
That’s something we should be deeply concerned about. It’s obvious that the presence or absence of a father in the life of a child plays a vital role. As John Nicholson says, “The quality of a child’s relationship with his or her father seems to be the most important influence in deciding how that person will react to the world.”
Did you get that? If you’re a dad you can single-handedly make or break your child. Your actions play a vital part in his or her future. And therefore, what you do or don’t do is one of the most important factors in determining who your child becomes.
With these thoughts in mind here are two basics for fathers:
Before anything else a father should teach his children to love God. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Thus, the most significant contribution a father can make to his children is to love God and to teach his children to do the same. This is where fathering begins. A father must use every opportunity every day to teach his children the priority of following hard after God. This teaching should be through a diligent use of words, by writing, and with a godly example that flows out of a father’s personal commitment to the Lord. After all, it stands to reason that the more important something is to a child’s development the more the father should be directly involved in the content.
A father must also teach his children to love people. Our children are in the midst of a world marred by social strife, sardonic sectarianism, racial hatred, religious feuding, revolutionary upheavals and interpersonal relationships that are tainted by fits of rage, ridicule, revenge-seeking, and other forms of revolting behaviour. They see the pictures of death and violence that flash across our television screens. And they encounter all manner of relational conflict each and every day. That’s why fathers are needed to make a difference. Fathers must be role models of love in an unloving world. Fathers must hold people in high esteem, be patient, kind, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, and keeping no record of wrongs (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). For more is caught than taught. When fathers start being men of love their children will emulate their example. When a father shows respect and appreciation for his fellow man, his children will follow suit. And when a father puts other peoples interests before his own, his children will do the same. For children learn to walk by watching the steps their fathers take.
An anonymous poet wrote:
“There are little eyes upon you,
and they’re watching night and day;
There are little ears that quickly take in
every word you say;
There are little hands all eager to do everything you do.
And a little boy who’s dreaming of the day
he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol,
you’re the wisest of the wise,
In his little mind about you,
no suspicions ever rise;
He believes in you devoutly, holds all that you say and do,
He will say and do in your way
when he’s grown up to be like you.
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow
who believes you’re always right,
And his ears are always open
and he watches day and night;
You are setting an example every day in all you do,
For the little boy who’s waiting to grow up to be like you.”