It is interesting and inspiring to think that a farmer — one who never traveledwidely, who had little formal education, and who, after raising his olderchildren on other folks’ farms, fighting boll weevil and depression, had to move his large family to a small mill town — manages in 2007, seventy-five years after his death, to still exert a positive influence. We have a wonderful heritage — one of which Iam enormously proud.
My own father, who died 20 years ago, left anindelible mark on his children and innumerable other people because of hisauthenticity, generous spirit and the force of his personality. [See mysister’s blog, Daddy’s Roses].
Two very different men in temperament, from twodifferent eras, who lived very different lives in extraordinarily different circumstances, but each had profoundly positive influence — proving once againthat it doesn’t take wealth to leave an inheritance. Here are principles that work:
First, to be a great dad, a man must be a person ofcharacter and integrity. He should lead a life of transparency that enables himto be a steadfast example for his children. The Book of Kings in the Bible hasmore than a dozen examples of evil kings in
Second, to be a great dadmeans loving hiswife unconditionally. One of the mostimportant things a father can do for his children is to love and respect hiswife (their mother) and to model husbandly dedication and responsibility. Often, people complain about the Biblical expectationof wifely submission, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize the Biblicalinjunction that a husband should love his wife sacrificially “as Christ lovedthe church” — which means dying for her.
Third, to succeed as a father, a man must give hischildren unconditional love, too. When his children inevitably face difficultyand unfairness, a father has the opportunity to show sympathy while teachinghis children not to wallow in self-pity. He can teach them to govern theiremotions and move on. Most importantly, fatherscan teach and illustrate that God is in control and that He loves them andwants the best for them, too.
Fourth, a terrific father must be totally reliable andabsolutely trustworthy. When he says he will do something, barringextraordinary circumstances, he must do it. His promises must be true. It is a wonderful gift when fathers can betrusted and when they give the gift of themselves to their children. The Book of James describes “good and perfectgifts” as coming from the Father. Jamesrefers to the Father as one who “does not change like shifting shadows.”
Fifth, a father who wants the best for his childrenwill correct them firmly, with consistency. The Bible constantly refers to God as“Father.” It is remarkable howchildren’s attitudes toward God reflect their relationship with theirfather. It is easier to believe in God,the Heavenly Father, when one’s earthly father loves unconditionally and is consistent,approachable, firm and reasonable. Like the Heavenly Father, earthly fathersare instructed to discipline with an “easy yoke” and “light burden.”
Sixth, any man seeking to be a great dad must strivetoward wisdom, discernment and good judgment. The Scriptures warn parentsagainst “provoking their children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). Fathers who makefoolish statements, decisions and actions are not good examples for theirchildren. One pastor estimates that onlyhalf of the children of Christian dads also become Christians; that’s howimportant a father’s influence is. Thatestimate points out, though, that other factors are equally important.
I remember hearing Dr. Howard Hendricks, aprofessor at Dallas Theological Seminary, describe his father’s influence. He said that his dad was not a Christian, buthe was a man of integrity and wisdom. Dr.Hendricks shocked me by saying, “If I had to choose between a Christian dad whowasn’t a man of integrity and a non-Christian father who was, I’d choose thenon-Christian anytime.” After seeing theresults of the inconsistency, bad judgment and emotional distance of some Christianfathers, I can better understand Hendricks’ statement.
Seventh, a man who wants Godly children must be intentionalin teaching them about God. The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy stresses theimportance of teaching “when you sit at home,” “when you walk along the road,”as well as “when you lie down and when you get up.” Further, we are told to tie God’s principlesto our hands and bind them to our foreheads. We are instructed to “write them on thedoor frames of our houses” and “post them on the gates” into our yards. In other words, we are to utilize every meansat our disposal to teach our children about God’s Word and His instructionabout the Christian life. It helps ifthe father can find opportunities to teach from real-life experiences and to communicateforthrightly about his own struggles and his own experiences in walking withChrist. In such ways, a father can investhimself wholeheartedly in his children’s spiritual development.
These seven principles are ways that dads canearn William Wordsworth’s accolade, “Father — to God himself we cannot give aholier name.”