The father receives his power from God (and from his own father).
Alice Miller, For Your Own Good
Are fathers really all that important? Dr. James Dobson believes that our very survival as a people will depend on the presence or absence of masculine leadership in millions of homes across the country.2
But being a good father isn’t about what kind of parent you are as much as it is about what kind of person you are. What kind of character do you have? How do you approach life and your responsibilities as a father?
Fathers have an innate ability to influence their children and the community around them. I call it "Father Power" in my workshops for men. It’s not the physical power of being bigger and stronger than their wives and kids but the generational power with which God has endowed them—the power that allows fathers to affect people’s lives positively or negatively, for good or evil, for hundreds of years. A father will impact people he doesn’t even know and will never meet. Stu Weber says,
The great river of fathering that leaped from the primordial mist of Eden rolls through time and into eternity. How will you bend the course of the tributary that flows in your family? You will affect it, you know. Whether you work at it with all your heart and soul or close your eyes and ears and put your hands in your pockets and pretend it doesn’t exist, you will channel that river in one direction or another. That’s the nature of fathering. You can’t hide from its potency and power. Whether you like it or not, whether you accept it or not, whether you believe it or not, your influence will span generations long after you’ve left this earth.3
For instance, if a man sexually molests or abuses his son or daughter, the abuse will adversely affect that child’s whole life. In all likelihood, it will also affect that child’s children’s lives as he or she exhibits the same abusive behavior. And so on it goes throughout the generations until someone courageously breaks the cycle of pain and finds healing. Conversely, men who father intentionally and put their children’s needs ahead of their own start a legacy that snowballs with positive ramifications down through the centuries.
I know one woman whose lineage has been fraught with fatherlessness since her great-grandmother’s time. As a result, each successive generation of young women have themselves become unwed teenage mothers. The legacy is passed on from generation to generation of daughters. These women’s desperate search for masculine love and affection causes them to make choices that confuse sex with love.
So what is this power that fathers seem to possess yet are clueless about or unwilling to acknowledge? I know of no man or woman, regardless of age, who doesn’t still yearn for his or her father’s approval and love. I’ve met seventy-five- and eighty-year-old men and women whose only regret in life is that they never heard their father say, "I love you," or "I’m proud of you." That is a huge power.
Stu Weber states it this way: "There are two ways to recognize power. One is to see it at work. The other way is to measure what happens when it is gone. Either way, Dad is pretty potent. Present or absent. Positive or negative. The power of a father is incredible. . . . There isn’t much of anything in life children can’t face with Dad’s strong hand wrapped tightly around theirs."4
Another power that God has endowed us with is the power to create life. No man should plant his seed in a woman, impregnating her, if he is not willing to accept lifelong responsibility for the child he created. With the power to create comes accountability. God holds you responsible and accountable for the welfare of your family. Maturity in a man begins not with age but with the acceptance of that responsibility.
As fathers we have the power to impact generations of lives. Make sure your impact on the twenty-first century is a positive one.
Next Month: Fathers as Spiritual Leaders
Excerpted from Better Dads, Stronger Sons by Rick Johnson. To read Part I of this 4-part series on Christian Fathering: Rising to the Challenge of Christian Fatherhood.
Rick Johnson is the founder of Better Dads, a fathering skills program designed to equip men to be more engaged in the lives of their children. Rick develops and delivers father training workshops for businesses, churches, schools, and other organizations across the Northwest. He previously authored That's My Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character. Rick, his wife Suzanne, and their two children live in Gresham, Oregon.
Used with permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.