In our men's group, we're holding a study called "The Masculine Journey." Not particularly original, nor unique, yet timely, and somehow, needed. It's a chronological series, following the stages of life for men from birth through 'elderliness.' We're up to adolescence now.
An of course, as you teach, you learn...
This past week, we discussed the role that a father has in his son's life. At the outset, a human father acts in the place of God to his young son. He is, from an earthly perspective, the boy's (co)creator, the giver of the law, the provider of sustenance, the ultimate authority, and the supreme protector. It's pretty easy for a boy to see God in his dad. Now bear in mind, I'm certainly not asserting that dad is God, but rather that that is often and easily the boy's perception. And consider that much of what we know of God early in life comes to us through the teaching, example, and life that our earthly fathers set before us. For better or for worse, to the boy, dad looks like God.
In my thinking, I explored the possibility that maybe a human father acts as a sort of an old testament ‘high priest,’ acting between the son and God… but I don’t really think that fits the real perception that the son has… Dad really seems to be God, especially to a young boy. Oh, sure, if the lad goes to church or Sunday school, he hears about God, but if he really gives it any thought (or more likely if he doesn’t really think about it), in a boy’s perception, his human father occupies the role of God for him.
This can be sobering for a dad, should he choose to recognize the phenomenon... especially a dad who follows Jesus Christ. In humility, the tendency might be to deny the role, but the simple fact is that the boy's perception will not change... to him, dad still looks like, acts like, and feels like God. There will come a time to 'set the record straight,' but in the interim, denying appearances may not be wise. Oh... be sure, dad, not to believe your own press! (You are NOT God for the boy, but you ARE acting in His stead... that's part of the charge He gives you when you assume the role and title of 'father.' But during that interim, dads have special and significant responsibilities. The book of Proverbs overflows with guidance in how to discharge those responsibilities. A good friend pointed me to a song by written by Dan Dean and Joy Becker (performed by Craig and Dean Phillips), called “I Want to Be Just Like You,” which is a father’s prayer to Christ to mold, shape and guide him, because the man’s son wants to be just like his dad… a significant responsibility.
So we dads press on, as Dean and Becker's song says:
“Got to admit I've got so far to go
Make so many mistakes and I'm sure that You know
Sometimes it seems no matter how hard I try
With all the pressures in life I just can't get it all right.”
…knowing that we’re not perfect, and lamenting (and repenting of) or mistakes, seeking after Christ, and leading our son toward Him by our example, words, and attitudes. It’s a hard job.
And then, it gets harder!