Spending time mentoring young men and even older men, I have come to the conclusion that many do not know who their father was or even what their father believes in. Many times we have shared about trying to understand what the word father means in today’s society. Some men, who are fathers, even wonder what their role is in the life of their children.
Today, many young men have no idea who their father was or is and even some who have grown up with their fathers around have no idea who he is. Raising three daughters, I wanted to make sure they knew who their father was and what I believe in. One of the most important things I needed to share with them was the fact that I was not their friend first but their father first, a big difference. Sure we have fun along the way, laughing, enjoying some great times but I am not here as their friend... To most, that thought would seem a little harsh but I wasn't there to join in their lives but to parent their lives. A friend goes along for the ride but a parent leads the way, showing them dangers along the way, lessons to be learned, even disciplining them, yes I said disciplining them.
I took my example from my father who was there to show the way, guide my path, and yes even make the statement "this is going to hurt me more than you"... Not until I had children did I begin to understand that statement, the internal pain caused by disciplining our children is far greater than any punishment I received for my miss deeds. But it must be done or else we end up being our children's friends and not their fathers. Maybe one-reason fathers seem to be absent these days is that we don't want to be the disciplinary father that our children need. In being their friend first and then their father, the decisions we make for them, the guiding we do with them, will be misguided at best. A father must go down the hard road of parenting not pretending... A friend may hold back the truth from us but a father must share the Truth, in a loving way for the betterment of the child. A great quote about friendship is. “Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”― Albert Camus
Fathering is not walking beside them but walking in front, leading the way.
I am reminded of Christ's Words “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed." When a father leads by example, the child will accomplish greater things than we could ever thought possible.
Most fathers suffer from the guilt of not doing enough for their children. Whether we are absentee fathers or engaged fathers, we, fathers, always feel that there is more we could do for our children and that should be the driving force in being the best father we can be. I love this quote about fathering “Listen, there is no way any true man is going to let children live around him in his home and not discipline and teach, fight and mold them until they know all he knows. His goal is to make them better than he is. Being their friend is a distant second to this.” ― Victor Devlin.
I found it interesting that the quote isn't necessarily for fathers but for all men. There are young men and women who need a father figure to guide them, to lead them, to teach them about life and they don't have to be "our" children. I will never forget when one of my daughter’s friends said to me " I like being over here at your house because you always ask me how I am doing!" It didn't take a lot of energy but it took being intentional about caring not only for my daughter but the people they hang out with. On many occasions, my wife and I would allow our daughters to take a friend along for a vacation, watch their interactions with their peers, for sadly some of their friends didn’t have their best interest in mind…that should be the role of the father…having the children’s best interest.
One of the saddest parts of not being a father in a child’s life comes when they try to understand God the Father. They transfer their feelings about their own father on to God and that sometimes makes for a harder understanding of a loving Father who wants nothing more than a relationship with them. Maybe we too should want nothing more than a loving relationship with our children and the children who are fatherless and that starts by being their father first, then their friend.
We can make a difference and lead like God the Father lead His Son in word and in action by setting the best example we can, for they will follow our lead, good or bad, they will!
-Tom Sember is the former men's ministry director for the New York District of the Assemblies of God. He currently is a men's ministry speaker and author and works closely with Mantour Ministries during our Mantour Conferences. He also publishes a daily devotional for men. To connect with Tom or to receive his daily devotional, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org