by Alan Stewart
When I was two years old, my father walked out and abandoned our family. Less than a year later, the Lord placed into my life a man who would become a dad in every sense of the word.
I called him "John-Herbie." My heart was always thrilled to see him come strolling across the front lawn with his t-shirt, rolled up jeans, and slicked back hair. Neither one of us knew it at the time, but he was becoming exactly what I needed in life-a hero.
A hero is someone who shows up just in time to prevent a catastrophe, and that is precisely what he did. It may have been simple gestures of kindness to him, but whether it was letting me ride on his shoulders, sitting me on the saddle of a horse, raising me up to get the ball out of my grandmother's gutter, or merely helping me onto the high stool, he was always giving me the lift I needed. There are just some things a child cannot do without the right boost in life. I shudder to think where my life would be and what I might have become had "John-Herbie" not set such a wonderful standard in my life.
In Ephesians 6:4, Paul writes, "and ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath..." The word "provoke" means "to exasperate." It is the picture of a child preparing to jump over a bar, but before he is able, the bar is raised, making it impossible to get over. It is describing a child who can never measure up. Do you realize the difference between a father who raises the bar versus the father who sets a standard? The father who raises the bar only elevates the bar, while the father who sets a standard elevates the child.
Not every father is sensitive to seize such moments in life. Just how does a father set a noticeable standard for his children to follow?
He must learn correctly.
When Proverbs 22:6 reads, "train up a child in the way he should go," it is
understood that "the way" is already known to the one who is doing the training. A father can only effectively teach those things to his children that he has learned himself. In Judges 13:8, Manoah recognized the depth of this truth as he prayed before Samson was born, " teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born."
Many a man wishes he had known earlier in life the truths he would discover later on. However, much of the wisdom we possess today would not be accessible to us had someone not first made a mistake. While "John-Herbie" is just a man filled with imperfections, he never failed to teach me that every problem I would ever face had a solution found in the Word of God.
He must live candidly.
In Genesis 5:24, the life of Enoch is summed up in the words, "and Enoch walked with God...." However, what most may have missed is the fact this change occurred in his life after the birth of his first child. Enoch became a different man, and made a new dedication of himself to the Lord. In Psalm 119:59, David put it this way, "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies." He was speaking of a life that was open, honest, consistent, and free of carelessness. You may not be able to leave your children millions of dollars to fight over in court, but every father has the ability to leave his children a good, honorable name. The fathers who maintain their character, dignity, and respect are those who have realized how to spend their lives for a purpose that will outlive them.
He must love compassionately.
When the prodigal son returned home in Luke 15:20, "his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." The world has taught us as men that it is not macho to express our feelings or expose our emotions. But, has it ever dawned on you that symbolically a father is to his children what God is to His saints? Imagine the encouragement Jesus received when the Father said, "this is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."
Imagine the motivation Moses received when God said, "Certainly I will be with you." A love that is worth sharing is a love that is worth showing. "John-Herbie" had no prestige, power, or position to offer my young life. But, out of a heart full of a love for me, he gave my life identity, insight, and inspiration. A godly father's love is an influential love that carries dividends worth making as an eternal investment.
He must lead confidently.
In Joshua 24:15, when Joshua said, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," he did not take a family vote nor call for a round-table discussion of other options. It was the fixed voice of a father who knew what he wanted for his home and how to get them there. In Genesis 18:19, the Lord said of Abraham, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him ."
A man may call himself a leader, but if no one is following him he is simply taking a lonely walk! Scripture often records of a child that "he walked in the ways of his father." Whether they be good or bad, a father's steps leave lingering impressions on the road of life that can cement the destinies of his children's lives.
Are you a father who sets a standard or are you a father merely raising the bar? Any man can bring a child into the world, but it takes a special sort of man to be a father. "John-Herbie" is such a man. Today, his stroll across the front lawn is a little slower, his jeans and t-shirt a little looser, and most of the hair is missing. However, as he has matured, so has my perspective of him. I see a man who is still teaching me how to be a man. While it may not be his arms that are doing the job any longer, it is his heart that is giving me the lift I need in life.
© 2007 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart pastors Rechoboth Baptist Church in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.