This is post-dated (as Father’s Day is over) but I thought I should talk about it nonetheless since fathers father their children everyday, and not just once a year. But since I’m on the topic of parents, I thought I should share my thoughts on active fatherhood.
I want to urge you to appreciate your father and not take him for granted – especially if you have a good father to look up to and model after. Godly fathers are a blessing from the Lord. Do not wait for him to disappear from your life before you learn to be grateful for him.
I tweeted this recently and mentioned it in my prayer during the Father’s Day service I emceed at GII:
Mothers are critical in a child’s upbringing but fathers are central to it; Dads, are you placing your family in the centre of your life?
Fathers, listen closely… You have nothing to lose except your family.
If you are a father reading this, regardless of whether you just became one or have been one for decades, please take heart and continue to be that father who inspires, influences, insulates and instructs your children. I don’t know about you, but I desire so much to be a father with a spark in my eye.
This reminds me of Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World”, one of the first books I read that left a vivid image of the type of father I’d want to be to my children.
I used to say that I’d want to be a father to my children that my father never was to me, but in recent years, I’ve decided to stop saying that simply because I believe God wants me to use my perfect Heavenly Father as my benchmark instead of my imperfect earthly father.
Well, for now, this video (put together by my shepherd, the vivacious Andrea Chan, and her team of Befrienders) goes out to my spiritual fathers – Ps Ronald Yow, Peter Lim and Chia Jenn Hui – who have seen me through the various seasons of my life since I became a teenager. I will always be indebted to them for taking the time and effort to walk with me.
My children, listen to me. Listen to your father’s instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my teaching.
Proverbs 4:1-2 (New Living Translation)
It was my turn to “teach” a lesson from EC’s outstanding handbook, “Mentoring Paradigms”. (Now, I actually don’t quite understand how I was supposed to teach a lesson that is supposed to be self-taught by simply reading the book and reflecting so) I took the liberty to teach outside of the book; after all, the book is supposed to be self-explanatory and the leaders present at the meeting are old enough to digest the wisdom for themselves.
The gist of the paradigm that I taught was on God’s efficacy. (The book is on my office desk, so I’ll update this post again and list the key lessons I’ve learnt from EC’s teaching.) And so I brought everyone’s attention to the three parables placed one after the other in the Gospel of Luke – The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. I thought it was appropriate for the leaders to see for themselves God’s efficacy at work in a dynamic manner in these three examples. In my reflection, I think it’s common to hear that nothing is wasted in the economy of God; I’d turn that around and say that in God’s economy, there’s no such thing as nothing!
Observe, for the lost sheep, one in a hundred went missing; for the lost coin, one in ten went missing; and for the lost son, one in two went missing – the stakes are upped dramatically. Observe again, the shepherd left ninety-nine and went out to search for that lost sheep; the owner (went in and) turned his house upside-down to search for that lost coin; and the father could do absolutely nothing when he lost his son. Actually, to better phrase it, it was his son that decided to lose him.
Now, from this juxtaposition, I’ve learnt that the closer the missing subject (a person, usually) is to you, the lesser you can do about it should he or she decide to leave you. There are some people you go out to hunt for, some you turn your ransack your house for, and for some, you are simply powerless to do anything about it – and yes, it is extremely heartbreaking because you can almost see their outcome.
Around three years ago, I experienced that with my beloved sister. I remember the two-hour conversation in the car. It was then that I had to let go of her as my younger sister so that she can become her own woman. Letting go of a younger sibling that you protect is a lot more difficult than letting go of a young person that you shepherd. Without getting into details, I basically realised that I couldn’t and shouldn’t protect her in the same manner anymore, for she was old, mature and experienced enough to make her own decisions, and be responsible for them. (Sometimes, I wonder if it’s painful because I am relinquishing my status in her life – I don’t ever want to be a redundant elder brother.)
I had to learn to trust God for her eventual outcome and while it’s painful for me to let go of my sister because I love her so much, I must remember that God loves her so much more than I do and so surely He will look after her well-being better than I ever can. Hence, I shall have no fear for my Lord is in control of my sister. Either way, God has a plan for her and already knows what He is doing with her, way ahead of me. At the end of the day, I’m actually left with no choice, but learn not just to trust her, but to trust Him, whom I’m entrusting her to.
On that note, I believe that parents put so many restrictions on their children in this generation not because they don’t trust them, but because they don’t trust themselves – they are not confident of their own upbringing of their kids. I’m not yet a father so I write this callously, but I’d like to believe that when it’s time for my children to make their own decisions and account for themselves, I will deliberately and gladly let go of them, so that they can grow in an exponential manner apart from me. I will do this partly because I trust them, but mainly because I trust the good way that I would have brought them up. I guess I’d only be able to put my money where my mouth is when my children reach that age of reckoning.
On a side, random and personal note, I am absolutely and unashamedly confident that I will make an imperiously outstanding father. And just like in RD’s “Danny The Champion of The World”, I will become that father with the sparkle in his eye. Perhaps the absence of it makes me pine for fatherhood so much more, but somehow, I have this unquenchable, untamable conviction that of the many things that I will excel in in life, fatherhood is one that I am most certain of because it is something closest to my heart.
I have no idea how this evolved into a piece on parenting but I’m glad anyway.