With Father’s Day around the corner, it’s certainly a fine time to celebrate those moments of great dad instinct or ninja-like reflexes that come from having some parental sixth sense, a protective awareness. A good father hopefully has that protectiveness hard-wired into him, and acts upon that drive to keep his family and others around him safe. Our Heavenly Father does that for us too, on a daily basis. Our daily commutes alone are certainly chock full of opportunities for destruction or injury to happen to us, but guardian angels sent by God win a great majority of the time, according to the Lord’s will.
But it’s another area of fatherly prowess that I want to highlight and advocate today: Preparation.
A good father doesn’t just save his children from things that can harm them. In fact, even the best of fathers can’t be there for their children all the time. Especially when that child grows up to become a young adult and begins spreading their wings, only the intangible influences that parenting has created inside the child can offer any protection – if remembered and heeded.
This is somewhat related to the spirit of the axiom that goes “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Raising able children isn’t found in providing the ends, but rather the means.
The same goes with the plethora of situations and circumstances in which wisdom must be applied. If children are raised with nothing but quick answers or sharp commands, but never the thought process or the path to walk to get into the source of knowledge and wisdom, they’ll be incapable of fending for themselves properly as they take their place in the world.
As a youth care worker who spends his days in a facility with residents that are at-risk youth, most of whom are traumatized in some way or who come from the state’s correctional systems, I have to witness on a daily basis the byproduct of parenting where merely the most basic physiological provisions have been given to children, and many of them with unhealthy or unbalanced home situations around them. It can be shockingly obvious when a youth has received no training by adults in addressing life situations in healthy ways.
There are so many lessons to help the children of the next generation learn. Dignity for life, and a renewed sense of protection of its sanctity, is one of those lessons. But perhaps right along with that goes the lesson that we must know where to turn when personal failures or fearful situations arise. Would it be ideal if no unwanted pregnancies ever occurred in the next generation? Absolutely, 100% yes! But we’re all aware that this is not the world in which we live, so long as sin taints our existence.
So, dads, our preparation has to be two-fold: We can prepare our kids with the right way and the right thought process and values. And we can prepare our kids for the messes that are sure to come by showing them Jesus.
Discussions matter more than lectures. Listening to your child and their heart matters more than being heard as the authority figure in the household. Doubts, and the places where God calms them in his Word, matter more than “Don’t you dare ever get caught up in XYZ because then you’ll really be in trouble!” Demonstrating by personal conduct and living in love towards others matters more than wise and churchy-sounding words. Helping fix what’s broken in life matters more than teaching how to avoid breaking things. And letting our kids know that Jesus’ love is bigger than our rights or wrongs – this matters more than anything!
Too many abortions take place because of fear. Too many abortions take place because there’s an angry or indignant man. Too many abortions take place because someone is too concerned about the wound to their pride or image that will come if an unwanted pregnancy is exposed. There are, of course, many other fear-filled reasons for choosing to terminate a pregnancy. But abortions resulting from having been chided, lectured, or shamed about morality and values as a child should not be one of the categories. Christian families must be built on a foundation that’s set in both truth (what God wants for us) and love (how God’s love changes our circumstances). And, to all my fellow dads out there, we must make it our goal to prepare our kids with this tone in their minds, rather than lazily turning them over to the world and then having to react in emotionally volatile ways when things go wrong. A youth caught up in the precarious situation of an unwanted pregnancy can, and should, be afforded the reason to be hopeful in their situation, instead of scared and cornered.
What’s next? How could I feed this child? What if my family wants to ostracize me? How can I possibly be ready for parenthood now? What if the daddy runs and I’m left to do this alone?
Children raised by strong fathers who rooted them in Jesus find their answers so much more easily than those who weren’t. Christ teaches those who stumble or lose their way that he’ll reach down and pick them up rather than cast the stone of condemnation. He taught forgiveness of any and every sin with his blood that ran red down the cross of Calvary. This message of love works its way into all the cracks and crevices of every messy situation we find ourselves in. Ultimately, problem-solving for an individual (whether alone or surrounded by a family) becomes much more possible when the fear of repercussion is removed. Only an accepting, unconditional, sacrificing love like our savior’s can drive away fear in any situation in life.
As fathers, we must root our children in this message, and in so doing, prepare them for the worst. Impart all that practical knowledge we can, sure! Teach them how to balance a checkbook, change a flat tire, and catch a fish, sure! But most of all, teach them that at the foot of the cross is their hope in even the most hopeless situations. Teach them that, as Jesus valued each and every life so much that he laid his down for them on the cross, we too can show that same courage and protective love for every human life.
Dads can have some epic saves alright. They come in all manners and instances. May the most epic saves be the preparation we instill in our kids. And may that preparation start with knowing that they were saved by their Daddy in heaven, who loves them passionately, and has a plan for them, in every situation in life.
Jeff works as part of the Youth Care Staff at Lad Lake, a residential rehab facility in Dousman.