These days, there is much talk about absent fathers. It is certainly an area of interest for Christians since God has called us to be faithful in raising up our children in the ways of the Lord (Prov 22:6). Furthermore, various studies have also shown us the negative impact that absent fathers can have on their children’s emotional well-being and ability to do well in society.
The challenge however is to discern what it means to be present for our children. We know that it has to do with more than just being physically present. This is because unlike God, we are not omnipresent. We cannot always be physically present for our children and should not try to do everything for them. In fact, some parents err by having this tendency to hover around their children on every occasion -even though they have reached adolescence- to the point of becoming overprotective and stifling their growth. By doing so, they are in danger of exasperating their children and outstaying their welcome as their presence is no longer cherished.
We are also aware that it would make little difference to a son if his father is at home but spends his time buried behind the newspaper or having his face glued to a screen. Likewise, a father would come across as being absent if every time he interacts with his children, he gives them the impression that he is dogmatic or lacking empathy towards their feelings.
What I believe would be helpful is to understand how God the Father provides the ultimate definition of what a father should be like. Just as God is always accessible to us (in that He never turns us away when we approach Him in faith), it is important for the children to know that their fathers are available to them. Our actions and words need to demonstrate to our children that they occupy an important place to us. For example, the way we interact with our children on a daily basis matters much more than all the energies that we pour into organising a special event for them.
Due to our work nature and other commitments, some of us cannot be physically present as often as we would like to. Instead of feeling guilty and trying to compensate with gifts, fathers should find ways to assure their children that if they ever need us, we would be glad to drop everything to be with them. For some children, they appreciate their fathers for sending a “selfie” when he is away on a business trip or chatting briefly with them on Skype. For others, just expressing how much we delight in coming together for family prayer would go a long way in strengthening the family bonds.
The truth is, we cannot truly be available to our children if we are not prepared to give of our ourselves in love. And this should be done regardless of whether our children show appreciation to us. As much as children are called to honour their parents, being appreciated cannot be our goals as fathers. If this becomes the thing we live for, we may end up struggling with much discouragement and frustration during our parenting. After all, our children are unlikely to greet us at the end of a long day’s work and say that today their hearts are filled with gratitude and they cannot wait to hug us when we return home.
In addition, we must guard our hearts such that our children do not become an “investment project” for our own glory. Sometimes, we are more concerned about how our parenting efforts will ensure our child’s success in life than how God is using this process of parenting to mould us into Christlikeness.
If we are to be present for our children, we must begin by seeking to be in God’s presence. We thank God we have a Heavenly Father who has never failed to give us good things (Matt 7:9-11). He has given us His Son sacrificially so that we can have forgiveness of sins and experience his unfailing love. We also know that He is generous with his blessings (Eph 1:3-8), in how He gives the Spirit without measure (Jn 3:34). As we trust in our Father and yield in obedience to Him, we need not be fearful that we are left on our own in our parenting efforts.
By God’s grace, we know that we will bear the fruit of the Spirit and our deeds of love will bring glory to God and be a blessing unto many. Indeed, when our Heavenly Father is present in our lives, we are most likely to be a present to our loved ones.
Have a Blessed Father’s Day!
June 15, 2014