These are days when many dads duck their duty. Hard choices are unmade or left to moms. It is not right. A burdened father speaks from his heart with some . . .
Adam shirked his responsibility to lead Eve into surrender to God's will. Men despise responsibility. The constraints of accountably chafe. We would like to be footloose. We feel insecure. We hide.
We know we're responsible for our wives and children: to provide, to love, to teach and train them. We know we're responsible to pray and study our Bibles. Often, these responsibilities frustrate us. We habitually fail in certain areas. We seesaw in our desire to overcome sin. Why don't we grow, even after years of agonizing over the same character flaw?
There's a key in the Scriptures that prescribes the duties of husbands and fathers. Consider Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church" or Ephesians 6:4, "Ye fathers...bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The key is Christ, the touchstone of responsibility. The love of the husband is tested by the love of Christ. The nurture fathers give must be the nurture of Christ. But how can I love just as He loves or nurture with the nurture that belongs to Him, unless He is alive and reigning freely in me?
Christ is the key to fulfilling our responsibilities.
Fulfilling the responsibility to have regular family worship is a very good thing. Being disciplined enough to systematically check my children's work and keep them on schedule in their subjects is important. Without Christ's Spirit, however, the most orderly system fails to produce true benefits. On the other hand, a truehearted consecration to Christ will accomplish two wonderful things. It will produce the eternal fruit that is the highest goal in our parenting; and it will make up for a lot of failure in personal discipline and orderliness.
The most effective way to deal with our failures as fathers is to become more like Christ. Galatians 5:22,23 teaches us that self- control (the meaning of the KJV word temperance) is a product of Christ's rule in our hearts. The disciplines of good schedule- making and planning are best achieved by first surrendering to our Lord. A surrendered life growing in personal discipline can accomplish eternal goals, in spite of personal shortcomings.
Christ brings us back to the responsibility that Adam shirked. Accountably to Christ increases security. We begin to love our bondservant position, and to despise the instinct to flee hardship and responsibility. We come out of hiding. We take up a loathed responsibility less hesitantly, and find ourselves enjoying it, at least mostly. We recognize that sensitive area, where criticism used to produce an irritable ouch! And suddenly it makes sense to undergo the knife of that criticism and the ownership of sin, so that we can find healing for the pain. Paul said it, in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
Going to Christ is the key to becoming responsible. What does that mean in practical terms? It means that personal devotions are transformed into personal surrender. Bible study becomes a driven search for the living Word, who meets me in my sin, in my desperate need to grow up, in my failures to lead. Prayer rises to a true-hearted cry of Thy will be done! in the only corner of earth over which I have any say -- my own heart.
Being reminded that we have a certain responsibility often irritates us, since we don't like having to answer to someone else. But surrendering to Christ dispels that reaction. I lay everything down before Him, including myself: my right to hide from responsibilities, my right to independence. I take up His Word as my passion for life. Its value grows; it becomes the only treasure in the vault of my heart. Duties are no longer a matter of trying to live like everyone says I should: making out schedules, trying to find the time and energy to teach my children the Bible, adhering to a family budget. His duties are my passion. Involvement with my children becomes the most satisfying activity I can undertake in the moment. Blamelessness is transformed from the burden of hiding secret shames, into the fruit of the imitation of Christ. The fatherly authority God has given me empowers me to serve my "weaker" wife and children.
Breathing the air of responsibility enlivens us and enables us to fulfill our duties. We wonder how to be more involved in our children's lives. We desire a blameless character. We tremble at the authority we wield. Christ invites us to respond to His voice, and promises to make us adequate for our responsibilities.
This article, which was published in Vol. 9, No. 2, of CLE Parent Lines,
is used with permission from Christian Light Education.