15 June 2012
Reflections on fatherhood
As we celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, 10 Christian leaders share their reflections on fatherhood – from watching chick flicks with daughters and hiring snow machines; to the pain of absent fathers and rebuilding relationships…
My dad was killed by a drunk driver when I was five years old, so I didn’t understand this ‘father’ thing. When I became a Christian, God as all powerful, God as Lord, God as Jesus were all okay, but God as ‘Abba’ Dad was difficult. I needed a God encounter and this was a big one, so I could agree with the Apostle Paul: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you did receive the spirit of sonship, and by Him we cry Abba Father” ….. ‘Dad’. The keys to being a dad are love, respect, time and, oh boy God’s help.
Steve Clifford, general director, Evangelical Alliance
My father was physically absent during my formative years, but only because he had emigrated to England so he could be present in another way, that of being better able to provide for our financial needs. I think of the sacrifice he made being away from his wife and children for long spells at a time until later when some of us, including mum, joined him in England. I learned that fathering includes - but means more than - physical presence. God too, my heavenly father, is not physically present, yet I believe God is ever with me as my eternal provider and sustainer. At my wedding my father told me: “Joseph, be a man.” He never explained what he meant but I have applied that to my role of being father to our three daughters; to make every effort to be there for them in profound ways.
Bishop Joe Aldred, secretary for minority Ethnic Christian Affairs at Churches Together in England
What makes a good father? Taking time out with each child individually and creating ‘moments’. Kids love moments. It’s what they’ll remember more than anything else. It makes up hugely for busy times when you can’t be there. Do the things they like with them. For example, I watch chick flicks with my daughters. Get involved in their lives but give them space to make decisions and make mistakes. Be there when it goes wrong and don’t say: “I told you so.” They’ll already know that. Negotiate and don’t just lay the law down. Show you can listen. Apologise when you need to. Laugh together, as much as you can.
Carl Beech, director, Christian Vision for Men
Seven years ago I stood over my wife Beki at the birth of our first son Isaac. I thought I was heavily prepared for his arrival. We had all the gear bought, the books had been read and friends had committed to cover us with meals for the first few weeks. But the truth was nothing could have hit me more than the reality of the task we were undertaking. I had become a dad and as I held Isaac in my arms for the first time, I realised that the commitment I was making to this little one was huge. For the rest of his life I was going to be there to build Lego, make stuff, pick him up off the concrete when he fell off his bike, cook him his meals, wash his hair and do whatever he needs me to do in the future. Becoming a father made me realise the love of God in a whole new way. There is nothing Isaac could ever do to make me love him any more or any less. Isaac is loved, full stop. This is a love that will continue when his bedroom is a disgrace, it will continue when I am saddened by his behaviour, when he hits another child, paints on the kitchen wall or screams in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket. He is loved. No agenda; end of paragraph. If this is how I see my son, then how much more does my heavenly father love me? Even when my life is a disgrace, His love will continue when saddened by my behaviour, when I hit and hurt another human being, I get sin on the kitchen wall or screams of anger in public. I am loved. No agenda; end of paragraph.
Cris Rogers, vicar, All Hallows’ Church, Bow
I learned many years ago that children don’t remember days, they remember moments. As a single dad for five years – now happily remarried – I tried to create as many ‘moments’ as possible for my four little ones: surprise picnics in the park, sleeping all together downstairs (when we had perfectly good beds upstairs) and impromptu beach barbecues in the middle of winter. My finest hour, however, was probably the first Christmas I spent apart from them. I’d hired a snow machine and when they came back to my house on Boxing Day ours was the only house and garden covered with snow. Their faces and the memory were priceless.
Steve Legg, editor of Sorted magazine
Within every relationship there are series of relationships. And that’s the case whether it’s a marriage, a friendship or a relationship with your father. As a boy I adored my father; in my teenage years I hated my dad and wanted to kill him because of the way he treated my mother. Today, my father – ‘my old man’ – and I are the best of friends because we have learned to forgive each and to talk about the good and the painful things of our shared past. To be a father is a sacred trust. Who can do it without the Father’s succour?
Dr Rev David Muir, founding director of Faith in Britain
In the build up to becoming a father for the first time, I read everything I could on ways to be a good dad and listened to as much advice as possible. What a waste of time! I quickly realised I had no clue and that trial and error was probably the best method. Over the past few years I’ve actually learned a number of lessons about being a dad. Well, more accurately one lesson: develop a good and healthy relationship with your heavenly father. I want to model something godly to my son that I know I can’t do in my own strength and that means I need to prioritise my walk with God, be a worshipper, love my wife and run hard after Jesus. I love being a dad!
James Silley, an elder at New Community Church SE London
Dad - when you first hear that word from your offspring, or maybe Dadda or Daddy, it fills you with privilege and responsibility. You will experience fun and frustration, laughter and legacy and touch the deepest emotions. Embrace the moment because the rollercoaster ride of being a dad is an amazing experience. Being a good one, I don’t think any of us would admit to, but the model that we have in God’s fathering us is a brilliant model for us: with love in actions and words with a big red ‘L’ as you journey through the process.
Roy Crowne, executive director, HOPE
Washing up had a vital place in my relationship with my dad. Most meals, my mum cooked, and my dad and I would wash up and dry up. He showed me that men and women both do housework, and that it needn’t be perfect. But the clever bit was that it meant he and I had a good conversation most evenings while I was in my teens, about whatever was on my mind, usually just the two of us while the rest of the family were elsewhere. In those days I was mostly silent, so he did well. I’m grateful.
Ben Niblett, head of campaigns at Tearfund
One of the great reliefs of being a father is that the centre of the universe shifts from being yourself to that of your child. I suddenly understood what unconditional love was. I think a light bulb actually flashed at that very moment. So if that is what God promises to each of us, then I know it’s an awesome undertaking.
Andrew Green, press officer, Evangelical Alliance