A Great Father Must Do One Thing…
Control. We relish having control over things, situations, and people. The power to control gives us the perception that we are in control, in charge and have power.
This is one of the reasons why a man would often rather build a deck, mow the lawn, take on a landscaping project, or remodel the bathroom rather than spend time with his wife or his children. God gave us the gift to have dominion over creation. We can, for the most part, control the weeds in the lawn, finish the tile job, install the cabinets and hardwood flooring, and change the truck’s oil. Usually none of these rebels against us, talk back to us, or ignore and hate us.
When we lose control of a situation, we feel like we have no power, as though our life is out of control. This describes many marriages and families.
Fatherhood may be one of the most difficult things a man can do. Why? Because we’re dealing NOT with elements that we can control, but with people, relationships, marriages, and families that we are supposed to have an apparent control over–but do not. In the final analysis, we realize that we actually have little power over them and their final outcome. We lack control.
We men are fixers, doers, and when we encounter a problem, we set our minds to determine a solution. This mindset works well with a remodel project, but not so much with a wife, or a child.
God and the Church call us to have unified, faithful marriages, raise our children to be saints, and for our families to be light to the secularized, immoral world. But unlike a lawn, a belt on the riding lawn mower, or pex plumbing lines, our wives and children have free will. They have souls of their own that desire freedom–ultimately, they cannot be controlled.
People, especially wives and children are not projects or problems, but persons who have problems. They can’t be “fixed” … at least by us. Only God can repair the wounds and damage caused by sin, selfishness, and rebellion. But He often accomplishes this through a father’s love.
Since 2012, I have had the privilege of speaking at men’s conferences, retreats, and men’s groups on the essential vocation of fatherhood. Consistently, after the presentation, older men will approach me, with tears in their eyes and say, “Where were you twenty years ago?” The sense of regret, the feeling of personal failure, and the lack of hope that there can be real healing between these men and their children, between their children and God, is overwhelming.
Let’s face it, we all mess things up–especially our families. It is inevitable. Why? Because we are not perfect. Imperfect fathers raise imperfect families; and as our Lord said, “No servant is greater than his master” (Jn 13:16). In other words, no family is greater than its father.
But the hope to have faithful, joy-filled marriages, and loving, holy children remain. So what can we fathers do? Jesus tells us that without Him we can do nothing–absolutely nothing (see John 15). So the key is to stop trying to fix our families ourselves; but to focus on fixing ourselves.
The secret to being a great father is NOT having the right comeback; bribing your kids with toys and treats; vacations to Disneyland; manipulative words and argumentation; disciplinary might; or guilting them to obey.
A great father must do one thing: He must first become a great son. He must recognize that his family is not perfect because he is not perfect. He must know that he cannot fix his family and marriage because he is incapable of fixing himself. Only Jesus can accomplish that. But Jesus will not heal him without his participation.
To be trustworthy fathers we must first become trusting sons. To be dependable fathers we must first become dependable sons. To be loving fathers, we must love God the Father like God the Son loves His Father. Jesus trusted His Father–especially during the most difficult moments of his earthly life.
You and I, if we are to be fathers who reveal and reflect God the Father, we must learn from the Son how to be sons of God the Father. And the essence of the true son is trust… He trusts God his Father–regardless of the sufferings, trials, and setbacks that afflict him. He knows that his Father will come through for him.
A father’s success Is not based on his children being perfect, or even faithful. If that were the standard, we could perceive God the Father as an utter failure. But He is not. God the Father is the greatest Father because He never gives up on His children. A father’s success is based on one thing: His faithfulness to God, to his wife, to his children, and to his vocation. He never gives up on any of these.
The first step to becoming a father of glory is to depend on the God of Glory. Intercede for your wife, your marriage, your children, your family, by praying for them, fasting for them, sacrificing for them, and loving them, especially when you don’t feel like it; and especially when they are not loving you in return.
For isn’t that what God our Father does for us.
As St. John of the Cross says, “Where there is no love, put love, and there will be love.” Set yourself right with God by repenting of your sins and addictions and trust in His mercy…then you will begin to allow God’s fatherly grace to flow through you to your family.
Founder and Executive Director of The Fathers of St. Joseph