Shortly after my first son was born, my sister sent me a T-shirt for Father’s Day with the words “Dad, the toughest job you’ll ever love” on the front. It was a half-joking reference to a US Army recruiting slogan and it gave me a laugh before I folded it up and put it in the back of my closet. It stayed there until a few weeks ago when I found it while looking for something else. Having several years of being a father to look back on, the T-shirt spoke to my heart in a way that it didn’t when I first saw it and thought of it just as a cute, funny little joke.
Being a dad really is tough, but I really do love it.
There’s a lot of things about being a dad that are really difficult. Paying bills is probably the most difficult part, especially since so much of my money goes towards paying for things I wouldn’t need if I didn’t have children and so I can’t spend that money on things I want for myself. An easy example is the grocery bill for myself, my wife and our two growing boys, which is so much larger than it was when I was only feeding myself. Then there’s books my sons need for school, clothes and shoes they outgrow almost as fast as I buy them, toys, and the list just goes on and on.
But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and most dads out there would probably agree with me.
I’m saying this because I know that there’s a lot of young men (and some not so young) in the Body of Christ who are afraid of “making a commitment” to getting married and starting a family because they’re afraid of missing out on all the fun that is available to a single person.
I won’t lie to you boys, there are things about my single life I do miss sometimes. I miss my time and money being mine to do with whatever I wanted. I miss not being responsible for anything or anyone but myself.
But what I’ve gotten in exchange for these things is priceless.
It’s also true that in recent decades throughout the Western world, fathers and the nuclear family in general have fallen on hard times. So much of secular culture holds fatherhood and masculinity in withering contempt, deriding traits and patterns of behavior that in previous generations were respected and admired.
It has become very trendy, even among Christians, to be opposed to this thing called “the Patriarchy” and, another thing called “toxic masculinity” which can mean almost anything the person using the term doesn’t like about traditional male roles.
Sadly however, the term “toxic masculinity” and general criticism of “the Patriarchy” isn’t entirely invalid , as some of that stuff previous generations admired in men was indeed harmful to women, children, and even men themselves.
But the word “father” appears 1,583 times in the NASB version of the Bible, which indicates to me that God thinks it’s pretty important. God created human beings and designed them to be organized into communities, with nuclear families being the foundational building blocks of communities and extended families being the next step up.
In the nuclear family, there are no unimportant roles. But the role of fathers is uniquely important because it’s the one role that if it’s functioning correctly, everything else will probably function too. But if it isn’t functioning correctly, nothing else will, and the dysfunction suffered by that family will send ripples of dysfunction all through society. Among extended families, a “Patriarch” who provides an example, advice and support to the fathers, uncles, brothers and sons in that extended family is vitally important. I would argue that congregations and communities of Believers need several such “Patriarchs” to reach their full potential.
That is not something I made up. That’s something God made up.
It is the pattern that can be observed throughout the entire Bible and it’s a pattern that the Church of Jesus Christ in 2021 desperately needs to work on getting back into. The House Church movement in China operates according to this pattern to a very large degree, and that’s one of the primary reasons it’s doing so well. The congregations in many Western churches have lost their footing in regards to this pattern, and that’s a big part of why we’re struggling so much, especially in the all-important task of keeping our young people from leaving the faith shortly after they leave home to study in university or join the military or whatever.
So, to sum up, I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to those who are reading this and I want to express my respect and admiration for all the fathers, grandfathers, husbands and uncles out there who are working hard day and night at the toughest (and most important) job they have of loving their families, cherishing their wives and children and teaching them to follow the Lord, supporting their extended family and community and just in general being the GLUE that holds civilization together.
Keep up the good work!
For those males who are struggling to find your footing in the adult world which you chronologically belong to, my suggestion is to spend time with your Heavenly Father by reading His Word, praying to Him, listening to Him, and listening to the counsel of the pastors and elders of your congregation who He has appointed to hold positions of Spiritual authority in your life. They can help you grow into the role God has for you in your family, your community and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
You do that, and someday maybe YOU will be ready for the toughest job you’ll ever love.