To father is to be fathered.
This is a relevant truism for anyone who wants to be a better father. I’m 23 and single, so in many ways I feel inexperienced to comment on this topic – but this principle is one thing I’m starting to learn as I explore what it might mean to father others.
We can’t father others until we first know what it means to be fathered.
It’s a subtle point, but it has powerful implications.
What was your father like? Intentionally affirming, offering unconditional love? Or cold and distant, making you feel that you never quite measured up?
The reason I’m asking this is that we tend to replicate the image of fatherhood that we’ve been most exposed to.
we naturally replicate the model of fatherhood we’ve been most exposed to
If our fathers were cold and distant, we may well find ourselves exhibiting those tendencies towards those under our influence. If our fathers made every effort to affirm us, we’ll probably do the same towards those around us. If we never felt fathered, we will struggle to father others. When we feel fathered, we will father others naturally.
This explains why our priority should not be so much on fathering, but on being fathered. We can see how, if we naturally replicate the model of fatherhood we’ve been most exposed to, it becomes crucial that we are being fathered in the best possible way.
Sadly, many of us have bad experiences with our genetic fathers. And even good fathers have character deficiencies. Where, then, can we go to get fathered?
The bible gives us the promise of knowing God as Father. Our relationship with him is directly related to our ability to father others.
Only when we get his divine approval can we go about giving approval to others
In him we get the affirmation and support we need as men. He is the best person to answer that deep-seated question, ‘Am I ok? Is my dad pleased with me?’.
Only when we get his divine approval can we go about giving approval to others. When we are fathered by him and we meet someone who needs fathering, we can’t help but act as father to them because we no longer crave acceptance from people, but have a surplus that we can give to others.
This was the reality that the apostle Paul writes about: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction…’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Only because he knew the mercy and comfort of God was he able to pour it out to others as well.
To father is to be fathered.
If you want to father other people, ask ‘What things can I do to be a better father?’ – but far more importantly, ask ‘Am I aware of the fatherhood of God?’. Am I in a place of receiving his affirmation and approval? Is his continued acceptance a regular feature of my life? When you know what it is like to be fathered by God, you won’t be able to stop fathering others.
By Adam Gye
Photo credit: Joseph Emmerson