Utterly Invigorating Fatherhood
A reflection on fatherhood
This was a quote about the responsibility of a father from Stephen Mansfield’s book titled Manly Men: An Utterly Invigorating Guide to Being Your Most Masculine Self.
“Many men are convinced it is somehow manly to produce children yet unmanly to take responsibility for them. This is why there are American households teeming with children but absent fathers.”
Stephen Mansfield basically summarized for us the cycle of dysfunction within the family system, and sadly this is not just in America but in every part of the world.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family with an absent dad has led me to wander the world with fear, anxiousness, and immeasurable insecurities. Carrying baggage from the past, I used to think about the future: Whether I’ll be a decent father to my future children or simply another absent father. I used to think of relationships as frail and disposable, and marriage isn’t really attractive, much alone a possibility. Building meaningful and lasting connections is difficult for me.
But everything changed the moment God reached out to me back in college and restored what had been taken from me. God reintroduced Himself to me as a loving Father and shifted my view on marriage and relationships. But because I’m far from perfect, He continues to work with my internal issues as I walk with Him. Especially when I became a father myself.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned as a father.
I learned that being a father brings me an inch closer to knowing and loving God fully.
There are things that I learned about God’s character as a Father that I won’t experience and learn if I were not a father myself. It’s that sense of sacrificing your entire life for someone that is fragile and vulnerable. The strength comes from the reality that there’s a little human being fully depending on your strength. It could be that God endured us because He knows that we need Him more than anything the world can offer.
God’s character was summarized to us by Moses when He said, “…The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV)
If I want to be a good father to my children, I have to imitate God’s character; I need to be closer to God so that I may imitate Him in front of my children. And that is only possible through an intimate relationship with Him. Walking an inch closer to knowing Him and learning to love Him daily.
I learned that being a father builds us up to be more like Christ.
Fatherhood brings you great joy and happiness, but wait, there’s more. It also brings you hardships, challenges, burn-outs, and pain. Because fatherhood is a mixed bag of goods and the not-so-good.
Being a father of a toddler and a newborn is a joy, but with that joy comes carrying both kids when they cry in the middle of the night; or protecting the newborn from the toddler who loves to jump above the little one’s head. Being considerate of the needs of the toddler while considering the many needs of the newborn without making the toddler jealous.
It’s fun to have kids coming at you when you go home after a tiring work day. However, the fun will sometimes progress to stress when the toddler is being a toddler. Being a father is a great magnifier of our true character, as well as a good avenue for character building.
Just like marriage, it brings out the beast in you, sometimes, but it will eventually bring out the best in you.
Lastly, being a father is more than just having children, but embodying the responsibility of that title.
Going back to Stephen Mansfield’s quote, fatherhood is about taking responsibility for your children. It’s a great responsibility or task that needs a lot of power and energy. Now that I’m experiencing all these, I learned these the hard way. It could be the result of growing up with an absent father, but God has never failed to supply our needs. Especially in times of uncertainties, anxiety, and insecurity. God will provide beyond measure. (That is a mark of a good, good father!)
To those who grew up with absent fathers, there’s still hope. Father’s day might be a reminder for us of the things we somehow missed growing up; or would cause pain and anxiety to some. Know that God never fails to provide for His children.
God is a generous Father who would lavishly love His children. Know that you have a Father in heaven who breaks the wall of realities and impossibilities just to be with you.
To the fathers, let us carry the weight of fatherhood forward. God, being our ultimate model of fatherhood, enduring this season one step at a time, an inch closer to being Christ-like. And when all is said and done, when our kids are asleep, and the weight of fatherhood kicks in, never forget that you are also a son. You can always call on Him as your Abba, Father.