Following His instructions is the way
By Tek Chong
I was brought up in a Chinese non- Christian family so the Bible teaching on husbands and fathers was new to me. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands …..For the husband is the head of the wife…..Fathers, do not exasperate your children instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:23, 6:4). I noticed the important role of the husband and father in the family. How did I measure up?
In our family it was my mother who was involved with most of my growing up activities. My father was busy working, running his business. Mother supervised my school work. I shared with her my activities, my problems, my feelings. She taught me family values, spent time with me and meted out discipline. Occasionally my mother would refer some major decisions to my father but usually he left our upbringing to her.
Eph.6:4 says it is the father’s responsibility to take care of the children in the family. It is his duty to keep the family functioning. Wives are to help but the man is to lead.
It was after my marriage, when my wife and I attended a workshop on Christian Family that I began to see that God had some very specific instructions on marriage and parenting. I then realised my responsibility as a father for bringing up my children.
I recently did a google search on ‘Fatherless Society’. The result was 442,000 articles, some with amazing, screaming headlines on the importance of father taking up his role of leadership in the family. *
There are many reasons for absent fathers in our present society. Nowadays with modern jet travel, businessmen have work that demands them to be away from home for days. More marriage break- downs result in many single mother households. Hence more fathers are not taking their position of leadership, forcing mothers to step in to take on the fathers’ role.
This trend is also rapidly infiltrating into the Christian church. In the Christian community it is also becoming a common phenomenon that many fathers are shirking their God- assigned task. It is time for Christian fathers to wake up and heed the clear command to be the head. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, issued two components to the decree to fathers. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4
Do not exasperate
In one of a marriage workshops we conducted, we invited the participants to share as icebreaker: “Share a lovely moment you spent with your father.” One member could not speak because she was weeping bitterly. Later when my wife took her aside, she confessed, ‘My father never loved me. He was always very harsh on me. Not once did he ever praise me, even when I became the top girl in the class. He was always expecting me to do better.” Sadly her stern father exasperated her by demanding extreme success.
Other ways of provoking or irritating children are humiliating them with sarcastic insensitive jokes. Showing favouritism, dishing out discipline arbitrarily and harshly. I wonder if we are aware these exasperate our children.
In the Lord
On the positive side as a father I take heed to bring up my offspring in the Lord. “Bring up” in the original language has a very soft and tender tone. It implies watching over them with kindness and great care. Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones the respected London physician- pastor challenged the parents in his congregation to give as much care to their children as they rear their pets and flowers.
To be a good father I look after my family by providing proper food, clothes and shelter. But as a Christian father, my responsibility of care must include spiritual nourishment. I must also exercise protection against evil forces’ infiltration, e.g. know the programmes my children watch on their computers, TV and be ready to discuss the pros and cons of the contents of the mass media that pass through your family. We were horrified to pick out a detailed illustration of homosexual relationship in a book from our daughter’s primary school library. We need to be vigilant to keep away filth from his family.
On the other hand, a father must introduce godly habits & healthy tastes. While visiting our grandchildren in London we saw that their parents often took them to the City Library and the many excellent museums. From young they are encouraged to appreciate good books and beautiful art.
Pray every day
An important lesson I learned was when my wife Goldie shared with me the example of Dick Eastman who gave his girls a gift of a year of Wednesdays which he set aside to pray for them. So for the last 20 years every night without fail we pray for our children and our grandchildren. We deliberately keep our prayer list short and pray specifically for them. We also keep a book to record what we notice are our growing grandchildren’s needs.
In our marriage/parenting workshops we always maintain the best gift a father can give to his children is to show love and respect to their mother. When a father shows this loving behaviour it gives the children a sense of security in the home.
As a father I must make deliberate effort to spend quality time with my kids.
My son in law Andrew has taken each of his three kids on a trip on their 12th birthday to give them a treat and to bond with them. Children appreciate time spent especially with their fathers and will feel affirmed and loved.
A father wrote in his diary: “Son’s birthday. Took him fishing. Caught nothing. Disappointing, nothing achieved.” Many years later his son wrote “Father I write to thank you. Today is my son’s birthday. I am taking him fishing. I remember your birthday gift to me. Spending time with you on that day was the best gift you gave me.”
Their love language
I found each of my daughters has her love language. One loves Italian pasta so to give her a treat, I should not insist on going to my favourite Chinese dim-sum although I have no love for pasta. So I must love her the way she feels loved.
I need to discern the right time, right place and right action to impart God’s love. God told us “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deut.” 6:6-9
We try to bring in spiritual content at family gatherings. At one get-together we printed the parable of the prodigal son on sheets of paper and passed a copy to everyone. (Rather than taking out bibles, a sheet of paper is less threatening.) After our discussion, a few months later, our grandson confided that it was that day he was convicted of his rebellious attitude towards his Heavenly Father so quietly on his own he repented and committed his heart to God. Taking opportunities as they come will assure God will work at one time or another.
I am still learning and gaining insights into how to be the father and Grandfather God wants me to be. I long to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful parent!”
*Titles of some of the articles I googled: •
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