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Fatherhood, a Lifelong Task

The Voice of Zion June/July 2023 - Editorial --

An important reason to celebrate Father’s Day and Mother’s Day is that these days offer children an opportunity to think and talk about their relationship with their own father and mother.

Father’s Day brings an opportunity to reflect on parenting and the role of fathers in their children’s lives. On this day, we wish to celebrate fathers’ lifelong task, a task that is also a calling and a gift given by God. A child’s needs for caring and guidance change over time, but the care and guidance do not cease to be necessary. The words and actions of a believing father are a profound message to a child. To all children a believing parent is a wonderful gift.

Some may experience pain and longing on Father’s Day due to a father that is deceased or one who is distant or estranged. Fathers can also know pain for being separated from their children. Such ones, along with all of God’s children, can rejoice that we all share a heavenly Father whose love is perfect. In His care, and through forgiveness, broken relationships can be mended over time.

Fathers are called to be many things: a positive role model of a believer, of an adult, of a man, a spouse. Fathers are active caregivers and show love through actions. Fathers are patient and protective, loving, supporting and understanding. Fathers have ears to listen and time to spend with spouse and children. Fathers put away distractions, such as their mobile device, and instead turn their attention on their offspring. A father’s love is measured in time and attention.

Learning to be this kind of role model and practicing the many qualities it entails can be confusing and daunting. Men may have to step outside their comfort zones and learn and practice new skills, duties and roles. It is okay to feel not ready or not prepared.

Fathers can face many challenges in their demanding role. Each must balance work and family demands with social obligations, service in God’s kingdom and personal interests. Financial pressure or the stress of providing for a large or growing family can increase a father’s burdens. Some may be drawn to entertainment or pastime pursuits. Fathers have many decisions to make in life on behalf of themselves and their families, and they can feel overwhelmed and unprepared to make big decisions.

Married fathers also have a responsibility to contribute to upkeeping an intact, balanced relationship with their spouse. A healthy relationship among adults in the home provides a safe growing environment for children. The atmosphere at home, the ability to love and feel loved is more important than the external framework of the home.

The familiar Lord’s Benediction teaches us one simple way to practice many of these skills. In this prayer we twice ask God to look at us, to turn His face to us. Think how bereft we would be if our heavenly Father – or our earthly father – looked away and did not know us or acknowledge us. When we take time to look at our children of all ages, see and hear them, and listen with interest to what they want to communicate to us, we go a long way toward building a solid relationship in which the child feels valued and safe.

Amid the many larger and smaller challenges fathers may face, it is good to remember that not all men are the same, not all fathers are identical to one another, and nor do they need to be. It is good that each father leans into his own strengths and faces the joys and challenges that life brings with his own set of God-given gifts. Amid doubts of incompleteness or inadequacy, fathers can still know the great joy of fatherhood. God will bless fathers’ honest efforts.

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