Being a father in a biblical community comes with a list of expectations and responsibilities that are as overwhelming as they are complex.
We are told to be “spiritual leaders.” To exhibit “manhood.” To “love our wife well.” These all sound great, but if you tried to find a list of activities that could define what they actually mean, you would be hard-pressed to find it.
But what if we could distill the complex role of fatherhood into simple terms? This distilling process is similar to what Jesus did when he was challenged to define the greatest of all commandments in Matthew 22:36-40:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus was given a seemingly impossible question that was designed to create failure. But without hesitation, He answered simply.
Fatherhood is a complex task. And fatherhood in foster care…yikes. But just because fatherhood is complex doesn’t mean some simple steps can’t guide us.
Step 1: Know the objective.
Do you know what you are ultimately trying to do?
You were not a father when you came into this world. You were not a husband. You were not an employee, boss, friend, or much of anything. God didn’t limit your development with the sole intent of fatherhood when you were fashioned in the womb. Nope, you were made for more. Fatherhood is only one aspect of you. Don’t let its complexity confuse or distract from your main objective.
Step 2: Decide now how you will handle hard things later.
Do you know what you are commanded to do?
There are some points of life that we are blessed to have commands that get to override decision making. Since my life is surrendered to Christ and His revelation in the Scriptures, there is no longer a need to think about every decision. I don’t have to think about tithing. I don’t have to pray about preserving my marriage. I don’t have to decide if I will honor my parents, even as an adult. These things are already decided. They don’t require prayer, thought, or decisions. They simply require obedience.
Hard fatherhood decisions aren’t always complex. We know what to do. We may be exhausted or concerned about the emotions behind what we are going to have to do. Still, decisions themselves can be made in advance and become quite simple even in the most complicated circumstances.
Step 3: Develop predictability.
Do your children know what you are doing?
No one gets frustrated with a school bus that stops at railroad crossings. There is a sign on it that says it will. When you hear the sirens of emergency vehicles, you can trust that they will be coming quickly, and they will not follow regular traffic laws. These signs and sounds have made uncommon behaviors predictable.
As a father, you will bless your family if they can trust your conduct. They should know the principles of your parenting with bumper sticker-sized simplicity. Speak these principles out loud and often. You can print them and post them on your walls. When these principles are Biblical, they become unchanging and objective. A product of this level of predictability is that your children will grow in greater independence and will learn to see that beauty in a Biblical life.
Albert Einstein gets credit for saying, “Genius is making complex ideas simple.” And Jesus put his genius on full display by distilling the principles of the entire Old Testament into two succinct commands. The more complex the task, the more essential it becomes to understand it in its most basic form.
Fatherhood is a complex task, but that doesn’t mean some simple steps can’t guide us.
What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments!
Tony and his wife, Selena, are parents to five amazing kids. As a family, their commitment is to glorify God by boldly serving families and vulnerable children, and with Biblical principles and Christ-like character, continue to grow in mind and body. In addition to being foster parents, Tony and Selena are Advocates with The Forgotten Initiative in Middle Georgia.
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