I have difficulty praying the Lord’s Prayer because whenever I say ‘Our Father,’ I think of my own father, who was hard, unyielding, and relentless. I cannot help but think of God that way. ~ Martin Luther
I totally get this quote.
My dad was rarely home, and when he was, he was more of a dictator-couch-potato than a loving dad. You know the kind who would bark orders from the couch, and the “so help me if I have to get up!” kinda dad. The loving memories with my dad do exist, don’t get me wrong, but they were few and far between. When my parents separated, I was around 15 or 16. My mom was a piano teacher so she had to work evenings. Which meant that I was tasked with caring for my brothers who were about 4 and 11 years old. I cooked dinners, cleaned up, played with them…it wasn’t all bad, but I was still a child myself. I got good at cooking ground beef and KD, and dishing out junk food. But I was not a good godly male role model. We never prayed, we ate in front of the tv, cuz mom was teaching. I did not do such a good job with my brothers. Now, with my own kids, I admit that I sometimes catch myself acting the way my dad did, being a “drill sergeant.” When I fall into the unrelenting order barker role, which happens from time to time, I always go and ask them to forgive me. It is only by God’s grace that I am aware of my own shortcomings as a father, and that I strive, and stumble a lot, to be a godly father.
While my father was not present to raise me, I was blessed to have some men in my life who were godly male role models. I did not realize it at the time, but looking back, I see the hand of God in placing these men in my life at strategic times. As a young child of 7, I was befriended by a man, who happened to also be my first Christian school teacher. He was someone I looked up to. I remember when I met him, the summer before I joined the Christian school. He was doing some work – drywall or electrical, I can’t remember what – on the home we lived in, and I remember him softly singing “Great is the Lord” and other Christian songs while he worked:
Great is the Lord
He is holy and just
By His power we trust
In his love
Great is the Lord
He is faithful and true
By his mercy he proves
He is love
I was amazed.
This man was singing praise to God while he sweated and worked. He never cussed when he hurt himself, and he always had time to smile and give me a hi five. I liked him. As I grew into a teen, I would often go to him with questions, and I watched his every move, admiring the man who was not my father, but who was a godly role model none-the-less.
In high school, I had another teacher who would, on his own time, tutor me in Chem and Math. He not only took time to tutor me, he also took the time to mentor and disciple me. He would talk to me about deep stuff. It was the first time I ever heard a man speak about sex in a way that was not mere innuendo or objectification of women, rather he spoke about it in a biblical, God and spouse honouring way. My mind was blown. He would pray with me, he showed me how to work on a car, and he even taught me how to lift weights and about healthy eating.
These two men, or godly male role models, probably have no idea the impact that they had on me as a child. I had a father, but he was never around, and that made me fatherless in a sense. Both of these men had their own families with 4 or 5 kids, and demanding jobs, but they took this quiet, introverted boy, who had a not-so-great dad at home, and invested time into him. They helped to shape him into a man. I thank God for placing these men in my life.
So what is it that these two men did that was different from my father? What was it that they did that had a lasting impact on me?
I came up with three things. There may be more, but these three stick out.
The first is that they were present with a purpose.
The second is that they used their words to encourage and build up.
The third thing was they were tender with me.
Saying that two men were tender with a boy may come across as creepy in this day and age, but I assure you that it was not. The Bible often calls fathers to be tender, loving, and encouraging; the Bible never tells fathers to be tough, overbearing, violent, abusive, intimidating, or quick tempered. I learned from these men, what it means to be tender, loving, slow to anger, patient, and kind. They were different from my own father. The purpose of their being present with me was obvious: to teach, love, shape, guide and nurture. My father’s being present was merely about being home and watching TV. Sadly, I can say that I prayed with my dad less often than I prayed with either of these men, particularly the high school teacher. From their words and actions I learned how much they loved their wives and children, from my dad’s mouth I heard crude jokes, and belittling comments. From these men I learned about healthy relationships. From my dad I learned to objectify women. From these men I learned to pray. From my dad I learned that prayer didn’t matter.
My heart aches whenever I hear about another dad who won’t spend time with his kids, who works too much, or who won’t pray with his kids, and if he does spend any time with his kids it is all fun and games, or just discipline without any fun at all. Dads, please take the time to be present with a purpose, to use your words to build up, and to be tender and loving with your kids. And if you know of a child, who has no father, or an absent father, consider taking them under your wing – with mom’s permission of course. The lasting impact of a godly male role model cannot be overstated. Be someone who demonstrates what it means to love his wife, who will encourage them, who will pray with them, and perhaps, even teach them how perform a bench press.