What Dads Today Can Learn From Joseph
- Friday, February 21, 2003
Coming From Good Stock Really Begins With You
"Because we adopted [our daughter], Joseph's story is of great interest to me. I've always believed he adopted Jesus as his own. Like my stepfather, who wanted to adopt me, I think he made no distinction between Jesus and his siblings." ~~ Jeff, a dad.
I read the multiple-paged, handwritten letter with great care, wanting to discern honestly the words that had been printed "front-side only." The tone was straightforward, written painstakingly; a torrent of love and regrets poured from pen to paper. Occasionally I imagined myself as the intended recipient rather than someone who had merely been asked to read over it.
How would the little girl feel when she became a woman, I questioned, as she sat and read the words penned to her from her daddy who-at the time of the correspondence-was locked away in a penitentiary, serving another sentence in what seemed to be a lifetime of sentences?
The letter had been sent to me on purpose. I wasn't eavesdropping into a private moment. "I want my daughter to know the truth about my regrets," her father had written in an earlier note, "in hopes that she will understand, forgive me, and will not follow my path. Will you," he continued, "read over this for me and let me know if I've written it well? I want it to be perfect for her...when she reads it on her eighteenth birthday."
Grammatically, it was not perfect, but the message was clear: you don't have to copy the lives of your parents, family members, or ancestors. Each and every human being has the opportunity to build "good stock." It begins right here, with you and me.
It seems strange-as a mother-to be writing to fathers, but in the wake of my articles concerning what moms today can learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus, it only seemed fitting to take a look into the life of the man God chose to paternally parent His Son. His name was Joseph and what we know about him is nearly as fragmented and sparse as what we know about his wife Mary.
According to the Hebrew Names version of the World English Bible, Joseph's immediate family tree looked something like this:
Ya`akov (Jacob) became the father of Yosef (Joseph), the husband of Miryam (Mary), from whom was born Yeshua (Jesus), who is called Messiah. (Matthew 1:16 parenthetical inserts mine).
This is, of course, just the tip of the proverbial family tree for the man we call Messiah...Savior.
I come from the South. "Born 'n raised," as we say. One thing about Southerners, we are very particular about "family trees." I'm fairly certain I hear snickers across the Internet as this is being read, but hear me out. While it's true we've been known to crossbreed within our own genealogy, the phrase, "Who is her daddy?" or "Who are his people?" originated right in the heart of Dixie. Many a Friday night date has been cut in its prime when an appropriate answer to the above mentioned questions couldn't be given.
"It's not proper," a high-brow father would say to his son, "for a boy of your background to be seen dating a girl of her people's caliber."
"But, Dad-" the boy might argue, though to no avail.
It's the same story for girls, though somewhat in reverse.
Back to the Bible
The young virgin, betrothed to the carpenter named Joseph, most likely didn't have this problem. According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, under the heading of "carpenter," it reads: "In the cities the carpenters would be Greeks, and skilled workmen; the carpenter of a provincial village could only have held a very humble position, and secured a very moderate competence." Though Joseph worked a humble trade, he came from a royal line; important when you understand that in order to fulfill the Messianic prophesies, Jesus must come from the line of David.
But that royal closet was filled with an assortment of rotten skeletons, including four Gentile women who were anything but virtuous.
And it all "begets" around "begoting!"
In other words, "who's your daddy?"
In Joseph's case-though from the great King David-you don't really wanna know!
Application for Dad's Today
We don't know an awful lot about Joseph, but what we do know is measurably good. We can assume (and correctly, I'm sure) that Father God would not choose just any ole carpenter to raise His Son. Joseph was a man of honor, hard working at his trade-enough that he was known by what he did professionally. ("Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? -Matthew 13:55) He raised Jesus to work in the same profession (Mark 6:3 reads: "Is this not the carpenter?"). We should rightfully presume that Joseph taught Jesus to perform at his job well. After all, what righteous father would train his son to fail?
I well remember the afternoon my husband taught our son, Chris, the fine art of cutting grass. (It should be noted that my husband has a landscape design and maintenance company.) Having given the twelve-year-old apprentice the right tools (a mower) and carefully explaining the details of how to use it, push it, pivot the wheels and turn it to the opposite direction, he stepped onto the front porch, joining me where I stood observing. After a few painstaking minutes of watching our boy push the mower back and forth, around and over, my husband shook his head as it hung between his shoulders. "Our yard looks like a jigsaw puzzle," he said.
But when Chris was finished, his father praised his efforts, then went over some of the finer details of perfection. Years later, Chris-as an adult-went into business with his father. Though the joint business venture was short lived, it certainly proved that the son had learned well from the father. Allow me to be the first to tell you that when our son called to tell us he and his wife were expecting a baby; my husband said to me, "Chris will make a good father."
"He learned from the best," I replied.
"I could have done better," he said. In that moment, I remembered the boy and the mower.
In speaking with several fathers about the role models they had versus the role models they wanted to be, I discovered that Christian father's of today have a fairly clear understanding of the relationship between themselves, their children, and their Heavenly Father. One father told me, "As an earthly father, it's my goal to be godly in front of, and to my children. I want to be a father of unconditional, sacrificial love, forgiveness and mercy, while upholding the importance of obedience, respect and discipline (consequences), while not denying who I am - a man who would be lost without Jesus. It's a delicate balance at which I typically fail miserably, but it's a goal!" Another dad said, "If [my children] see me act kindly or offer hospitality and help to those in need, those less fortunate, or those who are simply cranky, they see that grace is better than callousness."
Another father told me that while his dad had not been a "bad" father, he wasn't an especially good role model. "The one thing I didn't have with my father was his attention and time. I promised myself that I would listen to my children. I tried."
In other words, Dads, the issues of what it takes to be a good father begin with you.
Raising your children to be men and women of respect has nothing to do with who your father was or his father or the father before him. It has to do with who YOU are, how you act, how you respond to people around you and how you deal with business. As Joseph's example proved, coming from "good stock" begins with you.
Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams & Summon the Shadows and an award-winning national speaker. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com or you can go to www.evamarieeverson.com
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