A friend narrated to me a rather sad childhood situation that involved his father. He had been sent by the father to pick something from the house. Though he didn’t clearly get what his father wanted, he feared to ask and clarify for fear of a violent response from him (the father). In general, around his father, there was always a climate of fear with everyone walking on tenterhooks. This is not an isolated incident and there are many other unique types of fathers behaviours, almost as unique as the number of families. Indeed for many the mention of the word “father” conjures positive memories and experiences. But for some, they bring up negative connotations: abusive fathers, absentee fathers, violent fathers, angry fathers and distant fathers. In a legal aid clinic in rural Bangladesh, I met about ten young girls all with the same case – their husbands had abandoned their homes to pursue selfish ambitions.
These childhood experiences powerfully shape the narratives of our adult lives and effectively define how we perceive the role of the father in the home, society. Each day, the fathers of this world are actively forming an image in the minds of their children of the role of the father. Another friend once told me, “when my wife will misbehave in future, I will not hesitate to beat her”. I asked him if his father beats his mother. He answered in the affirmative and I understood where the problem lay.
A poor relationship with your father will distort the way you view everything in your life: the way you view authority figures, the way you view all men, and your marriage. A father will either build up a child or tear him down. In addition for the christian, it also influences your relationship with the “heavenly Father”. There’s a relationship between our relationship with our earthly father and our heavenly Father. John Bishop’s book God Distorted: How Your Earthly Father Affects Your Perception of God and Why It Matters explores this into details. For instance, how do you communicate to such a person that God is “our Father” without conjuring up images of his earthly father, abusiveness and all. But what does the Bible about a father? In Isaiah 40, it says:
He tends his flock like a shepherd;
he gathers the lamb in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
So how does one respond. For any young adult going into fatherhood, the first step would be to identify which of his behaviours and perceptions of their fatherhood roles could have their roots in such childhood experiences, and compare this with the characters of God the Father as revealed in the Bible. You can then reflect these in his own family by being merciful (Luke 6:35-36), providing (Matthew 7:9-11), forgiving – even the prodigal sons (Luke 15:17) and most importantly, loving his children (John 16:27).
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1). May you experience and reflect this love in your families as you learn more of the truth about your ‘ABBA’.