Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fathering...A Message to My Boys - 2012

Lately I’ve been pondering what I’ve learned about fathering over the past almost 14 years.  I discovered I didn’t know much when I started this journey and sometimes I feel more confused than ever.  I discovered that I had a dad who was decent enough at it but, like me, learned a lot on the fly.  He made plenty of mistakes, as have I, but he never stopped loving me when I smarted off (and that was quite often), or punched one of my little brothers, or shot the kid with my BB gun or any other myriad of stupid things boys do. 
Now I can tell you that there were always consequences for said stupidity.  I don’t know how many times Dad introduced his belt or the paddle to my backside, but I can tell you unequivocally that I deserved it.  I knew from an early age how to sin.  I didn’t need anyone to teach me.  I did just fine on my own, thank you.  I appreciate the fact my dad was there to discipline me.  I needed it.  I needed him to point out to me that what I was doing was wrong and that my actions/behavior needed adjustment.  He instilled in me discipline and respect for law and authority.  He directed my compass to true north.

Fast-forward to 2012.  After almost 14 years of doing this I see my dad in me just a bit.  Ask either of my two boys and they will tell you that dad is tough.  I don’t care what other kids do or how they act or talk…those two are mine and they will do it my way.  They will respect authority and speak kindly to others.  They will not dishonor their mother.  When I say to do something they will do it…no questions asked.  They will believe in moral absolutes no matter which way the wind of current opinion blows.  There are consequences to your decisions and actions.  Our oldest once said to me, “Daddy, I don’t like consequences.”  Amen, boy.  Amen.

Now, am I perfect in this endeavor?  Not in the least.  In fact, I have apologized to them for my mistakes as a father more than I care to admit.  When I have to punish them it is often for something they are doing that is a character flaw of mine.  That makes a dad nuts.  I despise seeing my faults in them.  I pray that I can teach them to learn from my mistakes.  Most often, they don’t listen.  They are only boys.

So what’s a dad to do?  Do I throw up my hands and let them continue their self-destructive, sinful behavior? Do I stop trying to teach them right from wrong? If I do, I am a failure as a father.  I have failed in my calling granted to me by God and I am not doing those precious boys any favors.  They may not like consequences, but most often I don’t like handing them out. When my head is about to explode because one of them talks to me like I’m an ignorant dolt for the umpteenth time do I love him any less?  You know the answer and so do they.  Nothing they do makes me stop loving them…I may momentarily not like them very much…I may despise their behavior or decisions…but my love doesn’t change.  I would freely give my life so they may live.  I can’t, however, tolerate their disobedient behavior…their sin.  It may drive me batty and may be the 10th bad behavior they’ve had in the past hour, but I don’t stop loving them.  I let them know the problem, the sin, and deal with it. I don’t hate them.  I love them.  They know I love them…but they don’t like me pointing out their problems.  None of us do.  The selfish me doesn’t like it when I have to admit I’m wrong…the darkness hates the light.  Boys are the same way.  They don’t like consequences.
I take this privilege and responsibility God gave me very seriously.  I have a duty as a father to raise these two gifts to be strong young men.  To be men that others look to when all hell is breaking loose.  To know that there is something bigger than them in this world.  To serve God and others.  To listen to that still, small voice inside them that guides them as to right and wrong.  To seek justice.  To seek their God.  My father instilled that in me as did his father in him. 
If I could impart any wisdom to them here in 2012 it would be this: The world may not always like you boys.  In fact, if you stand for those beliefs, you may be hated.  You may be called vile names and lose friends.  People will lie about you and persecute you. Jesus promises that very thing to us. They hated Him, why won’t they hate you.  He tells us in Matthew 10:
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[b] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to turn, ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

You see, nothing in 2012 America is new. It is expected.  Jesus told us about it 2,000 years ago.  While I don’t normally go around quoting Catholic priests, St. Thomas Aquinas knew what he was talking about when he said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

So what’s the good news?  He is always with us.  That is the good news.  We try to impact today for eternity. This world is not all there is.  We live with a hope for tomorrow. My strength is not found in me, or mom, or you.  My strength comes from the One who knows the number of hairs on your head.  The one who spoke everything into being.  He is enough for me.

I pray every day that both of you have that type of unwavering faith and are not afraid or ashamed to stand up against the darkness for it.  It won’t be popular and it won’t be easy. Someday soon, that may require the ultimate sacrifice.  I pray it doesn’t…but I pray you, and I, will be steadfast in faith if it does.
I love you both…no matter what.

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