Our first impressions of God are often connected to our relationship with our own father. Psychologists tell us that fathers are extremely important in a child’s development, especially teens! Good fathers build into our lives, demonstrate strong character and faith, and encourage us to take risks. Yet, many of us grow up without fathers because of divorce or deployments, so let’s take a look at some examples of a father’s impact—good and bad.
This is a story about a hurtful father of a teen-aged girl, but it doesn’t start there. On a Club Beyond service project to Romania some years ago, I had a very weird thing happen to me. Now, I don’t normally hear voices in my head, especially ones that I believe to be God’s Spirit speaking to me, but this time I did.
There were about 500 Club Beyond people at this Romanian orphanage, and the first night we gathered all together as I was looking over the sea of teens, my eyes gravitated to a girl who was dressed in black clothes with heavy black eye makeup and jet black hair. She stood out in a morbid kind of way. As I watched her, I heard an internal voice saying, “Tell her to stop doing what she’s doing.” WHAT?? Where did that come from? I don’t even know this girl or anything about her!
I began to think that maybe God was trying to tell me something, so I made a little bargain with God by saying that he would have to give that message again for me to believe it was him (don’t you just love these little deals we make with the All Powerful One?)
The next evening, almost the exact same thing happened, even though I had pretty much forgotten my challenge to the Almighty. Now I was freakin’ a bit, but still resistant. So, I made one more deal. I suggested to God that if I met this girl somewhere in the next couple of days where it was only the two of us, then I would KNOW that this was from him and I would tell her to stop doing what she was doing. Honestly, I thought I was pretty safe with that suggestion since there were 500 of us in a fairly confined area.
The next morning we were all out on the worksite, and realizing that I had forgotten my work gloves, I darted back into the building and up the back stairs that were rarely used. NO JOKE, as I ascended the steps, she descended from the second floor. We literally met on the landing half way between the two floors—no one else around—just the two of us!! Quickly recognizing the God-ordained moment, I spoke to her and said, “I don’t know you really, but God wants me to tell you to stop doing what you’re doing. I don’t know what that means or refers to, but I’m pretty sure you do.” I gulped and continued up the stairs to get my gloves. She said nothing and never once spoke to me the remainder of the week.
Two weeks later, I got a report that a girl on the service project from Wurzburg had reported her dad for sexually abusing her for years. This time she said ‘no’ to him (stop doing what you’re doing) and told her mom and others what had been going on. He was arrested by the MPs and their family was initially shattered through the ordeal. Even worse was that he was a chaplain, and the consequences were possibly more hurtful because of his community position.
Since that incident, I can’t tell you how many young women I have encountered who have been crushed by a hurtful or bad father! Over and over, when I’m in groups of young women, they talk about their struggle to feel loved by their dads, and how the lack of that has led them to seeking love in a lot of crushingly harmful relationships with guys. The gal in this story was covered in black as a statement mostly about how she felt about herself as a result of the physical abuse from her father. I often wonder if she was in constant mourning for her soul and black was her anti-color to cry out on a daily basis.
But girls are not the only ones affected by bad fathering. Many of my male friends—young and old—are still seeking their dad’s approval, even after their fathers have been dead for years! It is an approval that seems to be so absolutely critical to a guy that they will drive themselves for years (even decades) to be successful trying to become the man that their dad would finally approve of.
(Take a look at numerous music videos on the relationships between dads and their kids in the Music section to the right—everything from Kenny Chesney to Eminem)
Thankfully, there are many good fathers and some great dads who love their daughters and are proud of their sons and know exactly how to express that well to their kids. We will look at both some amazing fathers and some broken fathers and how that affects our lives. Because they are so important to our development, we need to know how to adapt to bad or absent fathers and how to celebrate and learn from great dads! The following Scripture tells of a lavishly good father, so check out this cool story in the Bible.
Many people call this the story of the prodigal son, but I would say that if you know the truer meaning of prodigal (see 411 to the right), you would come to understand that this is a story of a loving and lavishly extravagant father who could be described as acting in a “prodigal” way! This was a parable told by Jesus to demonstrate what the heavenly father is like, but it also gives us glimpses of the attitudes and actions of good human fathers. Men who reflect these characteristics of extravagant love and lavish acceptance are great dads. Not that any of us men will ever do it perfectly, but you may see some ways your own dad acts toward you in this Bible story.
Scripture: Luke 15:11–32
- Do you have any friends who are living out of a strong need for approval from their father (usually guys) or need to feel loved by their dad (usually girls)? How do they act that out?
- How would you rate your relationship with your dad or significant male figure in your life? What things does he do that show love and/or approval?
- If you were Noah’s kid, what kind of father do you think he would have been? What would you have said when he told you that you were needed to help build an ark for the big flood to come?
- Overall, how do you think your family is affected by your dad?
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Heavenly Father, please take care of our dads.
Though they are brave and skilled and protective, they must also be frightened sometimes; when they meet challenges and are finding it hard to provide for their families, Lord; when their hearts break because they can’t do it all. Please help us to let them know how much we love them. And how much you love them.