The Bible has a particularly striking account of what the absence of a father can result in.
2 Samuel 13-18 recounts how one of King David’s sons, Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar. Tamar’s brother Absalom avenged her after plotting for two years by getting Amnon murdered. Absalom then fled from the palace in self-imposed exile. Though David came to terms with Amnon’s death and pined for Absalom’s return, he did nothing in the three years Absalom was away. Finally, when Absalom returned, David did not meet him for another two years, causing Absalom deep resentment and frustration. David was an absent father in this episode; he apparently failed to punish Amnon for raping Tamar, causing Absalom to take matters into his own hands. Then, when Absalom killed Amnon, David again failed to take action to punish Absalom and to assist him in repenting and seeking restoration. Subsequent chapters explain the havoc caused when Absalom went on to try to usurp David’s throne and how it eventually led to Absalom’s death, once again causing David great sorrow.
David may have been around physically all the time, but he was “absent” in dealing with issues which were his responsibility as a father, leading to much pain and sorrow all round.
According to a noted sociologist, Dr David Popenoe (author of Life without Father), “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home, … involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” Fathers have a direct impact on the well-being of their children and those who spend time with their children tend to help the children become psychologically and emotionally healthier.
A father also has indirect influence on his children through the quality of his relationship with the mother of their children. The quality of their relationship affects their parenting behaviour. A father who treats the mother of his children with respect and deals with conflicts within their relationship in an adult and appropriate manner is more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and are less likely to act in an aggressive way towards females. Girls with involved, respectful fathers learn how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.
As we celebrate Father’s Day today, I think it is helpful to remind myself and fathers in our midst that our role in the home is a very important one. Our role is not only to “provide the bread” on the table, but also to protect those we love.
As we live in a fast-paced and highly competitive society, many fathers often justify spending long hours away from home in order to provide for the family; but in the process they forget to connect with family, especially when the children are young and need nurturing. Protecting our family requires fathers (and mothers too) to be present and involved in teaching, guiding, mentoring and correcting our children so that the children can grow up feeling valued, secure and confident in exploring the world around them.
Let’s pray for fathers in our midst to always strive to be present and involved with their children even as they work hard to provide for them.
“God our Father, in your wisdom and love you made all things. Bless my brothers, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that their sons and daughters may honour them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen”
By Daniel John, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 15&16 June 2013)