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Somewhere Down the Road
by John William Smith

    I firmly believe that our earliest, and often most critical and lasting, notions about God, our heavenly Father, are formed by our earliest notions about our earthly fathers. The way we regard our earthly fathers dictates the respect, the obedience, the honor, and the love with which we regard their presence and directives — and so it is with our heavenly Father. Those notions begin very early and take shape slowly, expanding and being redefined with specific incidents, maturity, and perspective. I think of my father much differently now than I did when he died in 1963.

    Mothers are most appreciated when you’re small and when you’re growing up. Often, father’s don’t get appreciated until much later. Sometimes you have to be fifty or sixty before you really understand what they did for you. Fathering never stops — and some of the most important fathering my dad ever did was

when I was grown.

    The challenge to today’s fathers is to be worthy of the name. Our culture has eroded and demeaned both traditional and biblical concepts, leaving only frustration and confusion. Fathers who are half apologetic for bringing their children into the world; who are so concerned with their family’s self image that they teach them nothing; so afraid of being a tyrant — or even worse, out of touch — that they fail to discipline them; who want to be a buddy more than they want to be a father; who bow to their children’s every whim, rather than risk offending them; who leave parenting to their wives — these kinds of fathers are very misleading examples of divine fatherhood.

“Fathering never stops...
    What is a father? Fathers have jobs — they bring home money. Fathers work — even when they are sick, when they hate their jobs, and when they see no hope.

    Fathers are fixers. They can fix anything — plumbing, bicycles, lawnmowers, and toy trucks. And when they can’t fix it — they say they don’t have the right tools or that we needed a new one anyway or that they don’t make them like they used to. They even fix cuts, bruises, and disappointments —

or make them unimportant.

    Fathers are not afraid of the dark, the neighbor’s dog, or the boogie man.

    Fathers should be storytellers. Almost everything that happens should remind them of another time, and when they tell those stories, they must stop being businessmen, plumbers, electricians, computer programmers, and salesmen — and become the boys they once were — and never will be again —

but they should never stop longing or trying.

    Fathers need to be decision makers. They need to know where they’re going, and they need to accept responsibility when they go wrong. Fathers need to defy a culture that seeks to emasculate and feminize them and turn them into junior partners on the family board of directors.

    Fathers need to provide spiritual leadership for their families. They should not be ashamed to be seen praying or reading their Bibles. They must be careful to act and talk in harmony with scriptural injunctions and precedents — and when they go wrong — they admit their error, ask forgiveness, pray about it, and leave it behind them.

    The Bible portrays four major characteristics of God that every father should emulate. First, God is dependable and consistent. God keeps his word —either yes or no or not now. Second, God is understanding. When we tell God, “It wasn’t my fault,” he may say, “Yes, it was,” or “I know it wasn’t” or “It really doesn’t matter, now does it?” Third, God is forgiving, which means that sometimes I don’t get what I deserve and sometimes I do. Fourth, God is loving, and that means that he always acts in my best interests.

What kind of a father are you? What notions about God do your children have?
From the book My Mother Played the Piano, by John William Smith, Howard Publishing, 1997. Copyright Howard Publishing, used by permission.

HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
© 1997, Howard Publishing, used by permission.