By Paul Koch –
As a father of 5 you might think that I am more of wreck than I let on, or at least I should be. Of course, there is the constant desire for that elusive thing called a “quiet house”. Or my fleeting hope to be able to take the family out to eat for under a hundred bucks (even as I endure the strange looks on the hostess’s face as they push two tables together for all my kids). But beyond that, there is a relentless flow of heartbreaking news that pours into our lives placing great stress on my family and preys upon my fears as a father.
The 24 hour news cycles and constant updates via the inter-web allow unfettered access to all the brutal and ugly things of our world. These things ought to make me worried about the future of my children. With the terror of Christians being beheaded by ISIS still in our memories, we turn the channel only to be faced with the riots in Baltimore. We turn off the TV and open our computers to be greeted with the horrific news of a discovery of a newborn baby’s body parts found in LA County. Then with all these images floating around my head, I sit down to dinner with my family. There, five young and (mostly) ignorant faces join my wife and me in prayer unfazed by the insanity of it all. When I look at them I ought to weep. I ought to be consumed with worry. I ought to be a complete wreck.
But on this day, my 5 year old son says to me with all the confidence in the world, “Dad, you’re the awesomest!”
Now that may just sound like a funny thing a kid says about his dad. It might simply bring a smile to the faces of every father who sips their coffee out of a “#1 Dad” mug. But those words are a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) reminder of the power of fatherhood. As I sit down to dinner with my family gathered around me I’m not just a helpless victim of a broken world. I don’t have to just watch powerless as my children are tossed to the wolves. I’m a dad, and that is no small thing!
By design I have far greater influence on my children than the terrors of this world.
I can deliver strength and safety and assurance within the home that is unmatched in our society. I can inspire revolution and obstinate resistance to the ways of our culture in the delightful anarchy of my family. In fact, even the Law and the Gospel are products of my words and actions long before my children learn them in church.
The problem is we are quick to forget this power of fatherhood. We are soon convinced by the relentless shouts of the world and the many portrayals of fathers as impotent and bumbling fools so that we begin our retreat. It’s not that we want to concede the field, but the deck seems stacked against us. This retreat from our position and vocation is aided by two things above all else: our own brokenness and the silence of our children.
Notice, it was my 5 year old son that said I was the awesomest and not my 15 year old daughter. Its not that she wouldn’t say it, but it certainly doesn’t flow as effortlessly as it did when she was little. As our children grow they also begin to trust the narrative the world tells. Just as they no longer believe in the magic of their childhood when scientific explanation replaces the wonder and awe of nature, so too the magic of their father’s power and love can be shaken by the disturbing realities of our culture. They also hear the cries to look elsewhere for strength and protection. They become aware of the failures of fathers. They quit reminding us of our power, for they begin to doubt it.
This abridged reminder from the lips of our children is complimented by our own brokenness. As we struggle with sin, as we fail over and again with the same old temptations and perversions, we begin to think their hushed voices are warranted. How can a man like me, a man full of doubts and fears, a man who fails more than I would ever let on, a man that feels small and helpless in the face of such opposition, how can I actually change things? What can I really do in the face of such atrocities?
But then again, I am a dad.
I can shape the vision of what sort of husband my daughters will desire more than any TV show. I can show them day in and day out how a man should treat a woman. I can protect and guide better than any other force in their lives. I can teach my son more about strength and fear than the nightly news. He can learn more than kneejerk consumerism and dead-end nihilism. He can learn honor and friendship and compassion from me.
And here’s the thing, we fathers can be this powerful force in the face of our own brokenness and despite the depravity of our souls. For though our world drowns out the voices of our children, though our sin is clearly reflected in the Law, we live in the love of our Father. It is a love that forgives and makes whole. It is a love that doesn’t just say “it’s alright” but actually does something about it. A love that was born, suffered died and rose so that you might die and rise to new life. And so you are new! You are fathers bearing the love of the Father and the world cannot stop such love. “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
To put it simply – you are the awesomest!