WHEN our first child was born, it seemed as if I--the husband-- belonged in the role of nurturer, while my wife seemed best suited to be the provider. My wife and I accepted our roles willingly. And even now, as our children have grown a bit older (our youngest is seven) and I have adopted a profession, I still am the main care-giver during the day for the children. It seems that a greater number of families in the nineties are structured this way. But whether or not a dad stays at home with his kids, every father should be a care-giver, both strong and tender.
The Bible offers wise counsel (needed in the 1990s as well as every other age) on the subject of fatherhood. Christ Jesus once said, ``Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven'' (Matthew 23:9). What better keynote could there be for any parent? If we take seriously the fact that God is the universal creator, then we realize He is the Father of all. And man is in truth His spiritual offspring, or image.
The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Father-Mother is the name for Diety, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation'' (p. 332). At another point in this book, she writes, ``Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong'' (p. 57). Each one of God's children is created to express these spiritual qualities.
Basically, being a good dad is a result of being a good man. Children need a role model of true manhood, which includes goodness, love, and purity, rather than the false images of manhood as aloof, preoccupied by sex, or even violent--flashing before kids in movies and advertisements and news stories.
Could there be any better model of manhood than Christ Jesus? It's true that Jesus never had children. Yet, his relationship to his disciples parallels a father-son relationship in many ways. Throughout his healing mission, Jesus loved these followers. He showed compassion for them and did not hesitate to serve and help them. He made strong demands on them to discipline their thoughts and actions, he rebuked them when needed, and he constantly prepared them for the day when they would go forward on their own.
Christ--the spirit of Love and Truth that Jesus represented-- remains to guide us. Thinking of Christ as the head of my household has helped me to be a good parent. One experience stands out now. As my daughter entered school, she felt ready to challenge her older brother on various issues. Occasional bouts of squabbling ensued. I knew such bouts, if not checked, could hinder the joy of family living, so at first I dived in and ``settled'' these disputes quickly. You know--``Just stop it!'' But after a while, that didn't stop it. The squabbling just smoldered beneath the surface, only to flare up again later.
Then, I began to respect Christ as the head of the household. I acknowledged that the children included the love and sense of right necessary to solve these disputes without interference from me. My job was to bear witness to the constant presence and activity of Christ.
Oh, the squabbles did not disappear all at once after this. But gradually they lessened and grew less severe. All along, I continued to recognize consciously the presence of heaven-sent wisdom and patience and tenderness. Thinking about it now, I realize their disputes are few.
The Bible joyously proclaims, ``Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever'' (Hebrews 13:8). This, to me, is the saving grace for fathers in every age!