Earlier this month, I designed a Mother’s Day card for family, friends and clients. It was symbolic in nature—a mother in red surrounded by her kids, depicting the hen-like protection a mother gives to her young. Hills and valleys in the background depicting the low times and high times when she has to be with her young and it goes on.
What I loved most was the reaction of one of the mothers we (HOA) gave the card to: she was almost in tears as she gave me a hug to say thank you. Mothers and ladies truly deserve to be honoured and cherished.
So yesterday I met up with my sister—another who greatly loved and appreciated the card—and she asked me if I had designed any cards for Father’s Day. My response actually led to the birth of this article: “there isn’t much inspiration and people wouldn’t buy the cards.” As far as I was concerned, many people I know either don’t talk to their dads, haven’t seen their dads in years and simply don’t care about them. It’s sad but true.
So what makes a father a father?
Many just assume that fathers are ATMs, that is, money providers without emotions. But this is far from the truth. A fathers role is weighty and very spiritual as he must constantly look beyond the present and the natural. He is the gate-keeper of his family, and every decision he makes can either open his family up to major curses or mighty blessings. He is the spiritual covering, a mentor and key resource provider. The role of father is a role that can only be played perfectly well by a father who knows how to connect deeply with God concerning his family.
So what makes a good father? Three key elements came to me and the first is to support his young. The best way to explain this first point is with my own story. After university, I had failed in a ton of courses, I loathed school but couldn’t leave, and struggled to enjoy sitting in class studying the stuff I was being taught. I planned on starting my first company immediately after school so I could escape the conversation of being labelled a failure by my parents. I hid my transcript from them till I could no longer. And finally when I showed it to my parents, my dad said a couple of words to me that changed my life: “life is not a race, all the people you admire, Steve jobs of Apple etc, failed many times and even dropped out but look at where they are now.” These words gave me all the strength I needed and propelled me greatly. He supported me at my lowest moment, when most of my classmates had completed school and I was left with nothing more than a ton of “f’s”.
The second is to invest. One of the core responsibilities of a father is to guide and mentor his young ones till they have attained maturity. This however is an ongoing process, for as long as a father is alive it is his responsibility to pray with/for and to pass down wisdom and good counsel to his children. This responsibility goes beyond money—it’s more valuable than money. The greatest investment in a child is wisdom, for it is with it that a child can protect or value any other investment made. As we see in a father’s words to his son in Proverbs 2:11-18,
Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
It takes a wise child to value an inheritance and thus wisdom is the principle investment.
The third is time. Time is another factor that separates good fathers from the rest. The goal of a man is to tender the garden that God has given him—he is to discover and fulfil his purpose. He is to get a job and take care of his home—money is a by-product of the garden-tending process. This garden, however, is also the avenue or place through which many homes are broken apart. Many dads never have time for their kids or ever get to see them because of work. They never know the fears of their kids or their struggles. They know nothing about their kids because they don’t have time for them. Meanwhile, it’s only by spending time with a child that you get to know his/her interests and future career paths. It’s only then that you can invest in and support their dreams. One thing many father’s don’t know is this: every father’s own dreams are supported when he supports the dreams of his offspring. You see, God is a builder and every dream he gives a child is built upon strengths, stories or something unique attached to the family he is born into. This is why fathers are to look beyond their own selfish visions and tap into what God has in store for the family at large.
Back to the topic of careers again, it’s on this field as well that father’s are opened up to many temptations—the very temptations that cause them to destroy their homes and to abandon everything they built. Always remember as a father that both the devil and Eve were in the garden of Eden. It’s means when you discover your purpose, there will be devils or temptations in that beautiful garden that can cause you to fall as a father. Many times it takes a loving wife to help keep her husband grounded; a woman filled with wisdom, one who doesn’t drive her husband into the flesh and away from home. The truth is this, when a woman opens her mouth to talk without wisdom because she is moved by her emotions and is listening to the serpent at this point without knowing, she drives her man away from her. In other words, when she takes a bite of the fruit (indulges in the flesh) and falls, and she causes her husband to take in a bite as well (indulge in his flesh) they will both loss the covering over their marriage and open it up to further attacks from the devil.
Marriage is a team sport and most of all these fatherly roles cannot be played effectively without a wise and supporting wife.
The first instance of fatherhood doesn’t manifest after marriage but begins in your relationships: your girlfriend, your juniors in school who look up to you, your siblings. These are the various testing or training grounds for fatherhood. If you cannot support your girlfriend’s dreams for example, make time for her, or invest in her—pray with her, care and provide as needed—then you aren’t ready for the roles that comes with fatherhood. Likewise, if you can’t support your siblings, or even that younger person who looks up to you, then you aren’t ready. For it’s only when you learn to play your roles in the lives of these people as a father, that you can learn to play it in the life of a totally naive piece of work who looks up to you for everything. Lastly, anyone can make a baby, but a father is one who has been moulded and shaped by God to impact the life of one soul and then a generation.