Our Father, Which Art Inactive
- Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Men have long striven to give their children “a better life than I had.” They establish trusts and college funds; they pull strings behind the scenes to get jobs for their children; they pave the way however they can.
But the material things, in the long run, may mean little. Nothing substitutes for example. The child needs a father, not a guardian angel. The child comes equipped with a guardian angel as a standard feature. But to have a real father should also be a standard feature, not a luxury option.
The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
I have been far from the perfect parent. I wish I had a better track record to report. But once I began to make Nancy my joint heir, to appreciate rather than depreciate her, parenting became a less tumultuous effort.
But parenting is still life’s greatest art form.
Today my son, Paul, is one of America’s leading Christian television producers. But the day he kicked a hole in the door we both could have become losers. That was the day we both learned the meaning of courage.
Life and death are in our decisions.
My daughter, Lois, marched through law school and passed the bar with a flourish. Today, she is a deputy district attorney in Orange County, California. But, there was a day when Lois’s future hinged on my willingness to make the right decision.
For five years I had been the president of a denominational laymen’s organization, with five thousand men and four thousand boys under my care and leadership. The job required ceaseless travel, absences from home, and I spent much of my time ministering “on the road.”
Nancy welcomed me home one day with a tense expression on her face. Lois seemed to be slipping away. She had always been an exceedingly popular girl, always in the social limelight. But now she was letting the peer pressure get to her and affect her attitude and behavior. She was getting involved with friends who did not hold to the same standards of Christian life that we held in our home.
I looked at my job. I loved it. The nationwide travel and speaking engagements suited me fine.
And yet my daughter needed a father.
I did not know then what I know now: that today’s society is suffering from absent fathers. Nancy and I agreed that it would be best if I were home more consistently. I resigned my position, accepted the pastorate of a church, and settled in to become more of a full time father.
It was a quality decision. And the right one.
Today, Lois is a deep rooted, exuberant Christian woman, married, the mother of a beautiful baby—and a very successful attorney.
My younger daughter, Joann, is a missionary to Japan, teaching English and the Bible. She graduated summa cum laude from college and, soon after, accepted God’s will for her life to serve Him in Japan.
Nancy and I thank the Lord for our children and how they are today. I wish I could take credit for them—but I really have to give it to the Lord, their mother, and friends.
Earl Book is a friend. While I was with him in Albany, Oregon, many years ago, Earl gave me a piece of wisdom that I have never forgotten—I made it a real part of my family’s life.
While I was with him, I could not help but notice his children, their demeanor, attitude, manners, and spirit. I lauded Earl for the great work of fathering them that he had obviously done.
“I can’t really take much credit for my children,” he said humbly. “I learned a powerful truth from a couple that were with me in a missionary convention. They had a tremendous effect on my children. After they left, my children were still being influenced by the visit of that couple.
“I realized at that time what a potent influence others are on my children. I determined right then to have as many godly people in my home as possible, so their influence would take effect on my children.”
Earl was too humble. His own godly influence was a major factor, I’m sure. Yet the lesson he shared influenced me to make an effort to do the same with my children. I believe the success of that endeavor is obvious today.
The modern American father thinks all too often that fathering is paying the bills, providing a home and education, allowing recreation, administering an occasional lecture, and, at various times and in varying degrees, being the disciplinarian.
But fathering is a comprehensive task. It requires maximized manhood.
It means thinking, studying, monitoring, recommending, influencing, and loving. Remember, love is the desire to benefit others even at the expense of self because love desires to give. Lust desires to benefit self even at the expense of others because lust desires to get. This is true in the home, business—in every circumstance.
Even at supper.
For years we have known that young people learn to have good interpersonal relationships from their encounters at the dinner table in their homes. The dinner hour is one of the most important hours in a child’s life. It’s the hour that is made for listening, as well as sharing the hurts, pains, victories, and blessings of the day. It is a time for learning to communicate.
But many of today’s men minimize this opportunity. They lose valuable time that needs to be spent as quality time with the family. It is a tragedy in the American home today that instead of utilizing the dinner hour to establish relationships and strengthen ties in the family it is squandered.
Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”
Much of television is like a thief.
It steals time, it kills initiative, it destroys relationships.
Watching the news on television during the dinner hour can wreak havoc in the home. Children who spend their dinner hour watching crime, war, disaster, divorce, and tragedy are themselves victimized, even traumatized.
Instead of the father allaying fears, giving comfort, imputing truth, healing hurts, or bringing encouragement during the dinner hour, he lets negative factors cause disturbance, disorientation, and displeasure to his children.
One father I know complained about his daughter not having an appetite, never wanting to eat at home, but always eating heartily when dining out in a restaurant. What he needed to know was that there was no television when they were dining out. He thought she was only trying to spend his money. She wasn’t.
While speaking at a men’s retreat at Hume Lake, California, I made the tragic statement that the average American father only gives three minutes per day of quality time to his child. After the session ended, one of the men challenged me on my facts.
“You preachers just say things,” he chided. “The latest study shows that the average American father does not give three minutes per day, but only thirty five seconds of undivided attention to his child each day.”
I accepted that because he was the superintendent of schools for the central California area. In fact, he gave me another startling statistic.
In a California school district, there were four hundred and eighty three students in a “continuation” program. That’s the program for students who need help in school. Out of that number of students, not one had a father at home.
In one school district on the outskirts of Seattle, 61% of the children have no father at home!
The absentee father is the curse of our day.
And—it may well be that the father is home every day but does not spend time with his children. Corporate life with its pressures to produce loyalty to the logo, and affection for ambition creates havoc in the home. Many wives know that their husbands’ adulterous relationship is not with another woman, but with their jobs. Other men hide in their hobbies.
Quality time is when the family eats together, prays together, shares friends together. The prayer that produces intimacy between a man and a woman does the same in the family.
The man is the leader.
Leading his family in righteousness is his prime responsibility and priestly ministry. To abandon it for personal pleasure, forfeit it through moral cowardice, or shirk it because of irresponsibility is a sin. Sin.
The father’s noblest action is giving himself to his children, and to God. The true legacy of the father is in the spirit he gives his children.
Taken from Maximized Manhood. Used by permission. Edwin Louis Cole ministered for 50 years before his death in 2002 and was considered the father of the modern Christian men’s movement. His complete teachings and men’s discipleship resources are at edcolelibrary.com.
Reprinted from Global Pastors Network, 100 Lake Hart Dr. - Dept. 2100 - Orlando, FL - 32832. All rights reserved. www.globalpastorsnetwork.org
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