Friday, April 12, 2013

Fatherhood: The Inescapablity (And Joy) of Influence

by CWK

From, The Father and The Son, A Parable With Four Movements, Part IV: Footsteps

The higher they went, the skinnier the trail, the deadlier the fall. Near the middle of the mountain, after two hours of hard hiking, the father fell to daydreaming. In what was his one and only thoughtless second of the day, he lost sight of the path beneath him, and placed his right foot on a loose rock. The rock slipped suddenly from under him just as gravity took hold of him with kindly, almost gentle, violence. The father fell backward, and levitated for a moment over the canyon deeps; he peered as far as he could into the depths below, but he only saw darkness, and after the darkness, more darkness. suspended his feet of the ground he clung to the rock face, and braced himself. His son, just behind him, stepped on the same rock, but his hands were too small to get a hold. He went tumbling forward into the deep canyon. He was surprised, as he fell -- not by his fall -- but by how easy it was -- so much easier than the labor of hiking. Empty air surrounded him and he felt -- for a split second -- free, truly free. At the last second, with nothing but a red shoe in sight, the father reached over the edge and grabbed his the shoelaces. As he pulled his son to safety, he was surprised by how little the boy weighed. The child was smaller and frailer than he remembered. Meanwhile, the loose rock careened down the mountain, and into the abyss. They never heard it hit bottom.

Angry, and frustrated, the father yelled at his son, "Be careful!"
"You be careful!" the son answered, eyes wild and wide, while looking into the abyss, and quaking with fear.
"Me?" said the father.
"Yes, you," answered the son, "I am, after all, walking in your footsteps. You are taller than me, and bigger than me, and I can't see past you -- but I can see your footsteps, and I plant my feet in them. So, you be careful; I step wherever you step."


Children follow in their father's footsteps. This can lead to a beautiful life, as in the care of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, or a sad life, as in the case of  Hank Williams, and Hank Jr. -- "If I get stoned and sing all night long, its a family tradition." The universe bears the imprint of The Father, and The Son. Therefore, it is inherent in our created-ness that a father's example has a natural -- near irresistible -- force upon a child. This force is present in many relationships a child has (teacher, coach, tutor), but never with the same intensity, or compulsion as the Father-Son relationship.

Children mimic, with a sometimes frustrating exactitude, the deeds of their fathers. This is the way it is; this is reality: we may wish it was otherwise   we wish in vain. This is 'sometimes frustrating' because, sometimes, fathers would rather children do what they say, and not what they do. By the way, the moment we say, "Do what I say; not what I do" we have just set another bad example: preach what you do not practice. Actually, it would be better to simply set a bad example than go a step further, and advise a life of hypocrisy.

Whether they like it or note, Fathers exert a natural force upon their children's lives; it's the way thing are. When we look to the Kingdom of God, we see a similar dynamic: God The Father exerts a supernatural force upon His children's lives. This is so even if our earthly father set a terrible example.
I believe in the love of God. It is an orphan's wildest dream. It is a narrow little road. It is an ever widening desert stream. -- Mo Leverett, Narrow Little Road.
In the Kingdom of God, God is our Father. God has adopted us into His family, changed our nature, and changed our family association from "child of the devil" to "child of God." We have been born again, not because we chose to be, but by the power of God -- God has reached down from heaven and changed everything. Here's my translation of John 3:3:
Jesus replied, I swear to you  Amen  absolutely no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born - not from man, but God, by God's power and divine initiative — all over again.
In other words, seeing and being in the Kingdom of God is impossible by any earthly effort; it does not depend on man's desire or effort. In addition, seeing the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with who our parent's are, or our ancestry (whether good,or bad, high or low, royalty or beggar).

God brings us, graciously into his family; then, as our Father, he sets down for us, by virtue of His character and action, the steps we ought to take; the kind of people we ought to be. He demonstrates exactly where to place our feet. This reality of being/doing like God is always, to some degree, present in the life of the Christian; we can't help but be like our Father.
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.- 1 John 3:10
Likeness to our Father is inevitable, and a fit test of any christian profession. This likeness comes (supernaturally) naturally to a child of God. At the same time, God's children should strive to be like their Father in Heaven.  We ought to take God as our Father in the sense that we carefully examine His character and strive to act in accord with it (Mt. 5:45).

The Father-Son relationship also transfers over to the Church. If we are individually the children of God, then the Church is the gathering of the children of God. Every church event is a family reunion. This family dynamic should control how we think about our church, our relationships within the Church, and ourselves as church members. We are a family. This has implications for how we interact. Paul told Timothy,
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
-1 Timothy 5:1-2

I once heard a speaker rebuke a group of christian young people because, he felt, they were not "friendly" enough with each other. He then went on to boast about his diversity of female friends. Unfortunately, he used 1 Tim. 5:2 to make his case. I fear, not that his rebuke was too grand, but that it was too small. The point of 1 Timothy 5:2 is not that we ought be more "friendly," but that we out be more "family." The point is not that we should have ties with others in the church; the point is that we should recognize, and nurture, family ties within the church. We ought to see each other in a certain way: brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. We ought to see each other the way God our Father sees us.

Back to the issue of fatherhood. The family ties of the church out to result in older men regarding younger men with fatherly concern. Paul calls Timothy his son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2): by this, he means, Timothy is to follow his example, step where he steps. He calls him his true son because Timothy is really and truly his son in Christ. The relationship they have bears the weight and influence -- not just of a coach or teacher -- but a father and son.

Teachers influence us, and the current controlling metaphor for the 'influencers' of the next generations is teacher. But teaching only implies a certain amount of influence in a certain area of life, namely, intellectual. Fatherhood implies a weight of influence over the whole of one's life. One father is worth a thousand teachers. The christian knows God as his father; he also knows, and experiences the grace, of being apart of the christian family. Herein, he has not one, but many fathers. If one father is worthy a thousand teachers -- how much is 5 fathers worth? 10? I've probably had between 10-15 christian men who loved me like a son. What a fellowship! What a joy divine! Oh, how rich is the Christian.

No comments:

Post a Comment