Dr. Andy Pate
The Orange Leader
One of the great personal struggles of the 21st century has to do with fatherhood. How to be a good one? The definitive book on the subject is yet to be written; or if it has, it certainly hasn’t crossed our desk.
Father Knows Best was a popular television program of the 1950s and 1960s. In terms of accuracy, the closest TV writers of today might come to that program could well have just a two-word title, “Where’s Dad?”
That very question underscores our current dilemma. Too many dads are . . . well, simply absent.
Is it too old fashioned to suggest that dads of today need to return to some basic insights about living that were practiced diligently by American fathers of the past: (1) Step up; (2) Accept responsibility; and (3) always be there for your wife and children?
And being “there” did not mean always giving in. It meant rather: “to have a strong presence.”
Who can forget the wayward nature of the Prodigal Son in the story Jesus told about him? Equally memorable is the Waiting Father of that story. When the Prodigal finally decided he’d better return home, his dad was there with welcoming arms.
“Well, I’m too impatient,” says the modern father. “I want what I want now! And if I can’t have it right now, forget it. I’ve got other things to do and other places to go”
Often, to be honest, 21st century dads have little choice. Ours is a fast-moving world in which, if anything, mothers are even more on the run. They, too, are caught up in and pushed around by the mad, mad rush of modernity. The consequence: every family member suffers, especially the children.
Slow it down says the Waiting Father. Be patient. Wait for the right opportunity. Restore and build integrity within yourself and tie those family knots tightly.
Yes, tightly. We fathers have forgotten how to bond. The knots we tie are ever too loosely wrapped. Little wonder that we ever so quickly disconnect from others, including from our very own children.
It works both ways, of course. The Prodigal Son had to go home. If he’d stayed mired in that Pig Pen he’d have been lost forever. To be a good father a man in any historical period has to have children who want more of him than financial backing and who, at the same time, care about his personal well being.
Human beings, all human beings, have personal worth and value to God the Father. Being a good dad begins and ends right there.