Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Four Fathers

Tonight I’m going to London. The reason I’m going to London is to spend some time with two of my fathers. I’ve actually got four fathers. And my father died five years ago.

Sorry for my riddling. On Thursday I’m going to spend the day walking in Regents Park, praying and listening to God – that’s father number one. I’m staying with my father-in-law – that’s father number two – and on Friday we’re going for a walk together in Epping Forest. Father number three is my pastor in Coventry – a spiritual dad. And father number four is Dad – who died in 2001.

This year I’ve been reflecting a lot on fathers: reading, pondering, thinking through the implications for my own life – and, of course, I’ve been being a dad to my own daughter and son.

There’s a lot to consider. A lot of the thoughts I’ve arrived at are really rather obvious – but that doesn’t mean they’re not overlooked.

Like: sons need their dads. They need them to teach them how to be a man. Not a woman, not a mouse, nor an ogre – a man. With all the strength and compassion that being a man ought to involve. But fathers are often absent (physically or emotionally), sometimes very imperfect, never perfect. So men everywhere grow up with what some writers call ‘the father-wound’ – the result of an ultimately unfulfilled longing for a true father-son bond.

Sometimes the father-wound results in feminisation; sometimes in aggression (the number of ‘bad’ fathers who were badly fathered...); sometimes in homosexuality; sometimes in heterosexual promiscuity; but probably most often in an ill-defined but deep-seated general insecurity.

The answer? Well, it can’t be a pat answer, but the answer is Father God. It is in relationship with Father God that men begin to find healing form the father-wound. And in relationship with Elder Brother Jesus (and His Spirit who teaches us to call God ‘Abba Father’) that they learn how to be a true son.

Yet it goes wider than that. Fathered by God, men come to know their need of real relationships with other men. Not beery joviality. Not going fishing and sitting in gloomy (but at least male) silence. But brotherhood. And with brotherhood comes fatherhood – men, in the church of Jesus are fathered by one another. It starts with knowing God as Father (and Jesus insists we must replace Him in that role with no man – Matthew 23:9) but it grows from this to (usually older) men in the church fathering other (usually younger) ones. And so Paul called Timothy his ‘dear son’ and John writes to ‘fathers’ and the ‘young men’ they father in his letter.

I had a relationship with my Dad which was full of longing which was rarely (not never) fulfilled. He found it difficult to connect emotionally largely because of a difficult relationship with his dad. When I came to know Father God, aged 16, He began to meet my need for fathering.

But, as I reflect on those early years as a Christian, I realise that I saw God as a mother. Oh, I sang songs about ‘Father God’ – but He was warm, He put His arms around me... He rocked me to sleep and called me diddums – well, not quite, but it was certainly in primarily maternal terms that I saw God.

And not surprising. I always had a secure, loving relationship with Mum. She was a great mum – I owe her more than can be expressed. But she wasn’t a dad. And because Dad was never quite able to call me away from the maternal into the male, I’d got stuck.

What changed things? God led me to other men in His church. Men like my spiritual dad in Coventry. And, later, my Christian father-in-law. I joined a church with a strong emphasis on brotherhood. God started to show me what a man of God looked like.

It was terrifying at times. I remember one particularly vivid experience. I’d been thinking about John the Baptist and I suddenly realised I was scared witless by him. This wild, shouting, unpredictable, hairy man. Nothing maternal about him. I got beyond the cardboard-cut-out Bible character and suddenly realised the kind of men God hung out with! And the Spirit showed me that it is through John the Baptist, through the ‘wild man’, that I ‘behold the Lamb of God’ – Jesus.

I started to make friends with masculinity and not to be afraid of it. I’m still very much on that journey. And God, and my fathers – and my brothers and my son – are helping me get there.

(Daughters need their dads too – and dads their daughters... but I’ll save that for another post...)

19 comments:

dee-braveheart said...

James My self and salome have read this post thanks it provoked a conversation that i have been meaning to have with her for a while
I asked her if growing up with out a natural father in her life had inhibitited her ablity to worship God as father
Her response has blown my head
She feels that God had provided many role modles through her life that has given her the ablity to feel that she has not missed out on fathering through her life.
some of the folks that she felt were her role models surprised me but I see Gods provision for her
I asked her if her experinces with her natural father had ment she had barriers between her and God her response was if she had had a relationship with her natrual dad she would be damaged beyond repair
so I guess my point is that God more than provides for us just as he clearly has for you he has for Salome he is a wonderful Father who is able to more than supply for his childrens needs
thanks for the post

your wife said...

....don't really know what to say just that i have to say something! I think it's just that i know what an honest post that is and it's beautiful. Made me sit in silence and think.

I was asking my mum (married to the 'father-in-law') where they learned to parent as they didn't have straight forward upbringings. Her answer was that they had both learned loads by being involved with christian families while they were single. They saw wholeness, discipline, family. Yes Dee, God is awsome the way his church fills the lack in us and provides. I'm just left praying for the grace as my family is the first that some of our friends have encountered...

Piers said...

Good stuff James. You're on the right track, and the floorboards are getting renewed.
Philadelphia.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beefan said...

hmm..

Adrian said...

Anonymous, I think are missing the point a little bit. I grew up without a father, and while my mum did a great job and I love her a lot, she is no substitute for a dad.

HR?I said...

owch.

tschaka said...

Arrows aimed to hurt others usually make the hater look like a fool.

Anon's above is a perfect example.

TJ said...

On the kids need a positive male role model I agree.They need a good male role model as much as the do female and I think that goes for both the boys and girls and will be interested to hear what you have to say on the 'daughters and their dads'

Anonymous said...

To Mr Tashka. Or adds creadence to his argument if you kewn the fool. I know I am a fool better to know that than be a blind fool like youself who thinks he is wise. Not

me said...

ah but he didnt say he was wise... im intrested on the daughters one to. as much as its going to hurt...

tschaka said...

Dear me, he even returns to see what effect such dull, targetted cruelty might achieve.

Ridiculous and ridiculed.

"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."

normal said...

Yes, I removed anon's comment. I don't mind the challenge and open debate is fine, but swearing is off limits. This is a family show.

Anonymous said...

Very good Mr Tschka we have another saying and its let "sleeping dogs lie" I do feel your responses and co's where very unchristian for a so called christians. I expect better examples to be convinced. I'm not a Christian so what's your excuse ?

Thank You Normal for removing the post and protecting my diginity it was getting a little embarassing swearing is not something I do often. It wasn't a personal attack on you just the idealogy which I find a bit difficult to fathom at times. I agree with some of what you say but also alot of it I find flawed but will leave that for another day. May your God bless you and go with you.

Supernatural said...

I see a beautiful work taking place in my brother's life. And I see that work in the lives of many others too. And it's truly good. Some are deeply moved by this posting; others are provoked or offended. And that's good too. Good.

Fabio Fabulous said...

good post James... I never met my natural father, and always lived with my single mum and granparents till I was 10. My grandfather was a rolemodel to me, he was a strong man. But coz he never had a dad that cared much for him, there was something missing in our relationship. I've been always sourrounded by my aunties(6 of them) and rarely was a man there to father me. It took me a long time to start being fathered... I praise God that 2.5 years ago i came to this country and found this church... where I have many fathers...

dee-braveheart said...

I juast want to add
that with out spiritual fathers my children would not have a balance in their life
All of my children have grown up with out their natural fathers in their life not something that I am proud of but circumstances led it to happen along with my own selfish sinful flesh
My youngest son is so incrediably blessed to have real men in his life at a young age to show him what God had intended his life to be like and I know that with out God and this church his future was going to be very different
thanks for the honest of this posting James it has been a true and real blessing

DarrenDeliberate said...

wow,

when someone said 'normal' had written a blog entry about his 'fore fathers' I wasn't expecting it to be an entry about his 'four fathers'

LOL, no really but i just had to find a way of putting the punny joke on your blog, he he

TJ said...

Daughters and their fathers,when you think you'll get time to do that one?

; ) The TJ