ABC Extra – A Father’s Love

June 20, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

One of my favorite country songs is by Rodney Atkins.  It describes a father whose son seeks to emulate him, sometimes for good, but also sometimes for ill.  As the song opens, Rodney sings about a non-descript curse word that his son learns…from him!  Rodney confesses how ashamed he is that he, no matter how inadvertently, taught his son such language.  As the song continues, however, we also hear about how his son watched Rodney pray and so prayed like his father.  I love the song’s refrain, sung in the guise of Rodney’s son:

I’ve been watching you, dad ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are.
We like fixin’ things and holding momma’s hand
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad?
I want to do everything you do; so I’ve been watching you.

With touching lyrics, this song expresses a simple truth about how a boy learns to be a man – he learns from his father.

Sadly, though a boy can learn good and magnanimous things from his father, he can also learn sinful and aberrant things.  From his father, a son can learn how to cuss or how to pray.  From his father, a son can learn how to abuse women or how to be faithful to one woman.  From his father, a son can learn how to nurture his kids or how to neglect them.  A father’s influence can hardly be overestimated.

With fathers carrying such a heavy responsibility to faithfully parent their children, to whom can fathers turn to learn how to be men, especially if they did not have good role models in their own fathers?  The apostle Paul helps us answer this question when he writes:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28)

Two things are especially notable about this passage.  First, though this passage does not describe the relationship between a father and his son explicitly, if a father wants to raise his children well, he should always have these verses about his relationship with his wife in the forefront of his mind.  As Theodore Hesburgh reminds us, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”  A father’s most powerful example to his children of what love is and looks like is how he loves his wife.  If he claims to love his children, but does not show love for his wife, that father’s positive influence will be greatly diminished.  Thus, a father must love his wife well.  Second, we learn from this passage that a father learns how to love his wife – and by extension, his children – by how Christ loves him.  Paul says, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives.”  Husbands are supposed to love their wives and children “in the same way” as Christ loves them.    How does Christ love His men?  He loves them with compassion and mercy and patience and bravery.  Husbands ought to love their wives likewise.  This way, when a son watches his father, he will see not only how his dad loves his mother, he will see how Christ loves him.

And so, fathers, love your wives and your children!  For your kids are not only watching you, they’re learning from you.  May they learn Jesus from you!

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