|Faith, Dads, and Children|
|Written by Toby Sumpter|
|Thursday, 26 August 2010 13:06|
Will my children turn out? Will they embrace my teaching, love my Savior, and grow up to be faithful members of the body of Christ?
The answer to these questions is fundamentally the same answer to the question, ‘Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?’
Do you believe?
But faith is not merely a mental acknowledgment that certain sentences are factually accurate. Faith is a kind of knowledge and embrace that requires our entire soul and body to accomplish. The total sum of faith in the God of Heaven is love of God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Every fiber of your being cries out for this.
There are profound mysteries to faith. Faith means faith in God, which means an attempt at embracing the sun. Not only is this a fire hazard, but you are likely to be obliterated before even getting close. Not to mention blindness.
And the mysteries include hard cases. Believing God’s promises for our children is not a truth by which we may manipulate the sun. God is free and good and wise, and faith submits to the depths of God’s wisdom and decrees. But true submission to God’s sovereignty does not produce apathetic gamblers. Parenting is not 18 years of dice rolling, with odds slightly in your favor.
The reason the question about children and faith in Christ is roughly the same question is not because of what faith is primarily but what faith does. Faith in the crucified and risen Jesus knows, loves, and embraces this Lord. And those actions directed toward the Messiah, exercise (and exorcize?) our bodies and souls in ways that necessarily spill out into all relationships, even the parent/child relationship.
Faith is a kind of knowing, a kind of loving, a kind of embracing that is absolutely necessary for all other relationships. As we know, love, and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, He teaches us to know, love, and embrace the neighbors all around us. This doesn’t mean that our faith is in our neighbors; faith is always grounded in the Triune God. But it’s the same muscle at work, and it only works when it’s clinging to Jesus.
To apply this in one direction more specifically: We cannot underestimate the difference that dad makes. Homeschooling, Christians Schooling, Coop Schooling, Tutors, and whatever else along the way: When dad is engaged, and knows, loves, and embraces his children, that makes all the difference in the world. When dad is not engaged, various forms of Christian Education and Church Programs can slow or mask the problems, and sometimes in the grace of God, the body of Christ in various ways is able to make up the difference where dad has abdicated or is completely absent or has abandoned his family. But typically, dad makes all the difference.
But it’s not just dad being in the same room, in the same house, in the same car. It’s not merely words exchanged, instructions given, even prayers said. Of course it is all those things, but it’s all those things while seeking to know, love, and embrace those children. And in some ways, we are trying to put words to what is beyond words, but this is the same kind of thing we try to describe when someone goes to church for many years, reads the Bible, prays, sings, etc., and then suddenly it all “clicks.” Or what is more common is the gradually realization and embrace of various realities along the way, with periodic “clicks” and “Aha!” moments, all the grace and mercy and goodness of God to us.
But dads need to work hard at having those “click” moments and “Aha!” moments with each of their children. We don’t base our parenting report card solely on those moments and occasions, but if we never have moments and occasions where we know we have connected in meaningful ways, there is probably something wrong, just as if there are never any “click” moments in our Christian lives, we ought to wonder if we know Jesus or if we’re just saying His name a lot.
And saying words like “covenant theology” and “federal headship” and “family devotions” and “obedience” don’t mean there is any faith involved any more than me talking about abs and stretching and reps and cardio means I regularly exercise. There are some real warnings here for people who are checking a lot of boxes but who are not actually connecting with their children.
But the real reason why I wanted write this was as an encouragement: There are many families with dads who are connecting with their children, who love them, who know them, who laugh with them, who embrace them, and who love to tell stories about them with admiration and thankfulness pouring out of their mouths. These dads are engaged. And these same dads (and moms) are also up to their necks in exhortations and spankings and discipline. And some of them have real puzzler children who take an extra three doses of love and compassion and several extra trips to the wood shed. Some of these families have kids whose lineage to Adam seems unmistakable and terrifyingly obvious. But these parents don’t just stand there and freak out. These parents aren’t sending their kids off to day care or the grandparents and taking month long cruises in the Bahamas to get away from the “little brats.” These parents are on their knees crying out to God for more grace, they are regularly checking in as husband and wife/mom and dad to make sure they are on the same page, and they are rolling up their sleeves every morning and giving it all they’ve got and collapsing into bed at night thankful for another day on the battle field
And you need to know, that your prayers will be heard; your faithfulness will be blessed. You are engaged, your faith clings to Jesus, and that will be the difference. Our heavenly Father will not give us a stone when we cry out to Him for bread.