My wife and I have been parents for about 3 decades. My journey as a father has been one of good decisions and joys as well as mistakes made and lessons learnt along the way. This Father’s day I reflect on the parable Jesus told about the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and thought about how God parents us. The parable tells us a lot about the prodigal son’s father, the perfect father, our Father God, whose attributes we, Christian fathers, seek to emulate in our journey towards Christlikeness, and godly parenting.
The Father was accessible to the younger son and even related with him on his unreasonable request for an early cash-out of his inheritance. He could have refused dialogue on it. There were many times I was so preoccupied especially with work that I made myself inaccessible to my daughters. And even when I was home, I was often actually absent – I wanted to have my own time and shut them off. Fathers, our Father God is accessible to us in prayer anytime. He doesn’t rush us or interrupt when we are talking. He lets us say all that’s on our hearts. And then He speaks to us. Practice that with your children often – bless them with your full presence whenever they need you. Other things can and should wait.
The Father dealt gently with the younger son. There appeared to be no shouting, raised voices or name-calling. In disagreements with the children, I was often the opposite and it didn’t help. It was because of the Father’s unconditional love that he was able to relate graciously both to the younger son, as well as the older son who complained bitterly that he was being valued less than his wayward brother. Fathers, ask God to help you relate with your children in a gentle manner. Remind yourself that it is possible to convey our opposing views in a gracious and winsome manner and our Father God desires that in our relationships with our children.
Be full of hope
When the Father gave the younger son his inheritance, it pained him that the son was choosing the wrong route. He gave without pronouncing him useless or cutting off ties. The Father’s subsequent frequent looking out for the son showed his continued hope that one day his son would return. Fathers, we need to keep encouraging our children and having hope in them. We must not label them. We need to believe in their potential and keep encouraging them by our words and deeds. They must know that even when they have made mistakes and nobody else believes in them, we do.
Let them bear the consequences of their choices
This point seems to jar with the others. But the Father could have said no to the request and his son would have to stay at home free from evil influences. Instead he made the painful decision of saying yes, coupled with letting him suffer the consequences of his actions – for greater good.
This is a really difficult area. When do we as parents intervene to change the course of things, and when do we allow our children to take paths we know are probably wrong? I can only say that Har Lee and I would often cry out to the Lord for help in such decision-making. Fathers, sometimes you have to let your children suffer the consequences of their actions. That is not punishing them – they are learning for themselves as they need to. Such decisions do not negate the fact that we love them dearly. Turn to God with your wives for wisdom and He will grant it.
As the parable ends, it is clear that Father God has unconditional and unlimited love for his children. We need to help our children know that we accept them unconditionally. They must never be led to believe that we love them because of their good performance and other excellent attributes, no matter how much we may praise those achievements. They must know that nothing they do will make us stop loving them. In a world where they will be let down by others, it is critical that they know that we fathers will always be there to love them.
Fathers, the Bible has given us the patterns we can follow. May you continue to seek the scriptures earnestly for insight, pray, and seek the Holy Spirit’s strength to be the fathers that God wants us to be.
By Daniel John, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 14&15 June 2014)