A Child’s Glory

“An old mans grandchildren are his crowning glory, a child’s glory is his father.”  Proverbs 17:6

Fathers Day….. its purpose to honor and celebrate the presence, guidance and love of a father or a fatherlike figure in our lives.  On this day there are Dads being showered with handmade crafts and cards created by little hands, and others sharing a special meal and time of family togetherness in homes and backyards across our continent.  My prayer is that it would be such a day for all families.  But for many this is not a Hallmark card type of day.  For some it is a day they spend  focusing on other things, trying to push away painful memories from their past.  For others it is spent wondering what it would have been like to have a father – because they grew up without one. Some spend it grieving over the loss of a father who left suddenly leaving questions that loom large on this day more so than others.  Some recall the physical presence of a father but experienced his lack of emotional availability. Today more than ever before in history, increasingly fragmented experiences with fatherhood that many children have leaves them with a hole that they carry through life – or try to fill with other distractions.

It is known that relational dysfunction in early life can create further dysfunction later on and that disadvantage can often build on previous disadvantage.  We have heard how the absence of a father figure can drive a young girl to seek love and attention in other relationships, how a young man turns to aggression or decides to just check out on life because of a lack of a male role model. You have heard the sad statistics of the fallout of fatherlessness.  You have heard the stories of how kids who grew up in violence and neglect have become offenders themselves.  This is one of the reasons that CrossRoads has partnered with our local Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  There are many children and youth in our community who are waiting for a man to fill  the void of a father in their lives through mentoring.  Mentoring makes a difference.  If you have not experienced growing up without a Father it can be difficult to understand the deficits and the challenging journey that others have experienced and are experiencing.  They are very real for many.

How many of us can relate to Proverbs 17:6 ?

A child’s glory (his honor, his boast) comes from his father

For Christians with a positive experience with an earthly father relating to God as heavenly father is a fairly easy step.We take comfort in God’s strength and power, his kindness and compassion, we can believe him to be trustworthy, as we believed in childhood  our earthly father to be so as well and observed him striving to follow God’s example.

It can seem overwhelmingly hopeless when we read articles and studies and statistics about children who grow up in disadvantaged and less than ideal situations when it comes to a father.  Life brings many challenges that can wound and scar and can skew a persons perspective of God as Father.

All of the above being said,  there are a few things NOT taken into account;  the first being the influence of a praying   Mother or other persons involved in this child’s life such as a mentor, a coach or grandparents.  And there is God.  God who calls himself a father to the fatherless, defender of the orphan and widow, one who places the lonely in family.  A God who is a breaker of  chains, a healer of broken dreams and relationships, a restorer of what has been lost, a repayer for years the locust have eaten and able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine!

I know a man who has shared his story with me that demonstrates this power.  He was born a  first generation Canadian during the depth of the depression in rural Manitoba.   He was the firstborn to a woman new to the country – able to enter Canada because she promised to marry a man, having never met him. It did not turn out to be a match made in heaven.  Three other children followed and they grew up in the day to day grind of poverty. They spoke German during a time when being of German descent was not something to be proud of – or safe  -as the young boys would  learn travelling back and forth to school.  He grew up on the receiving end of the neglect of an often absent and alcoholic father, and was the frequent recipient of violence when that father was present.  It was a home that today we would label abusive and violent, in an era lacking in domestic violence awareness or education.  It was a time before women’s shelters, emergency hotlines, social workers and child protection agencies.  Restraining orders and food banks were as foreign and far away as the words of kindness and gentle touch that never appeared.    For this boy, his siblings and his Mother the emergency shelter consisted of “camping out” in the bush for days and nights until it was thought safe to come back to the house.

For a child and youth who experienced abuse  and witnessed violence against his Mother and siblings, cruelty to animals, abandonment and bullying it is well documented and supported that his life should lead down a road that mirrored his Father in aggression – or he would turn inward into a twisted view of self worth and failure in relationships.  My own research on the subject has told me that this child having many strikes against him and in following due course would most likely end up with emotional trauma at the least,  highly likely to misuse alcohol  and highly likely to be an abuser himself.  It was a setting ripe for producing scarred and damaged lives.   And yes, there are scars, some visible and some not BUT there was something and someone else at work –  a God fearing, praying mother.    A mother who who may not have spoken more than a few words of english, but spoke a language that God heard and understood very well. It was the the cries of her heart – an unspoken language – that God is especially attune to and that captured his attention and his heart.  In my heart and mind this woman – my Oma at 4’10” tall is a heroine.  She was brave and industrious and faced unimaginable obstacles, and she faced them with God at her side.  Her german bible was her treasure and though she struggled to read she persevered long into the night with flickering light from a lantern to take in truth that would give her courage and hope for another day and another challenge.  She held tight to God through deep valleys and prayed for her children, and modeled for them faith in the midst of trials.

My Father, the eldest, left home at an early age and worked his way through school,  and his Mother’s prayers followed him.  He wanted to become an RCMP but was denied due to a physical “ailment” that had never affected him and hasn’t since.  In his deep disappointment he heard God’s voice calling him to become a pastor and he was obedient to that call.

He has been a wonderful father to me and a faithful provider and husband to my mother for 54 years. He has proclaimed his Saviour’s grace and gospel for the same number of years.   He is a living example that though earthly situations may have not been in his favor God is so much bigger than statistics.  The power of a praying Mother and a heart that seeks after God finds God’s grace to be enough – to forgive, break chains of bondage, to live at peace and with compassion for others.

My Dad has demonstrated to me the faithful, loyal love of God, he has passed on to me a love of reading and learning, he has shown me gentleness through his love for my Mother, his care for animals and God’s creation.  He and my Mother have demonstrated hospitality and shared of their meager resources over the years, especially to the little, the last  and the lost.  And there has always been enough.

I am grateful today to be able to agree with this verse in Proverbs.  I love you Dad.  More so I am grateful to know and be known by a Heavenly Father who knows my name, who calls me his child and loves me with an everlasting love.

A God who is so much bigger.

In search of a Father    Terrance Wilson

Fatherless Generation  John Sowers

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