Having my hands full: Godly fatherhood in an ungodly age

You can see it in their eyes. In the checkout line. In the restaurant. In the park. They’re looking at you wondering if you’ve really got everything under control.

You hear it in their comments. Not intentionally insulting. Not intentionally condescending. They’re think they’re being nice when they laughingly tell you it looks like you have your hands full.

No one is quite sure you can handle it. After all, you’ve got three children with you. One is six, one is two, the third will be one next week. I mean, “Can you really handle it?” Kids are crazy, they think! But worst of all? You’re a man!

I’m a daddy – a father of five. Three of them are around me all the time. One went to be with the Lord while still in the womb. The fifth will arrive in about two months. Therefore, by this point in my life I am, regrettably, well acquainted with the attitude our culture takes toward fathers.

You do not have to look very hard to realize that fathers today are viewed as incompetent, incapable, and irresponsible. It is thought by many, even if they don’t voice it or even consciously think it, that without a woman around to take charge a father alone with his children is simply the manager, or ring leader, of chaos. Such a low view of men and fathers permeates our society.

Take the entertainment industry, for example. When is the last time you watched a television show or a movie in which the mother, or leading lady in a family, was portrayed as a buffoon, as an object of repeated ridicule, or even as the target of scorn? I’m going to take a wild guess and say it’s been a while. I, for one, cannot recall ever seeing such a portrayal of women. You know why? Because it’s not entertaining in this culture to see women portrayed as stupid. However, the same does not hold true when it comes to men.

I think of Steve Martin’s character in the “Father of the Bride” movies. He’s nice enough and obviously loves his wife and children, however, he is stressed out, off the hook, and acts in somewhat crazy manners at the thought of doing all the fatherly things with regards to his daughter being married, or with the birth of his own new child and grandchild.

I think of Al Bundy, the character portrayed by Ed O’Neill in the (for reasons passing understanding) hit TV show of the late ’80s and early ’90s, “Married With Children.” I confess to not being an expert on the series, but I cannot think of one episode I ever saw where Bundy was portrayed in a manner even approaching respectable. Now, that was the point of the show. I get it. But still, here’s just another example of the male, the father, being portrayed in this light.

The cartoons are no exception, by the way. Or do I need to remind you of Homer Simpson? “The Simpsons,” originally, was supposed to be centered on young Bart. Remember all of those Bart Simpson T-shirts in 1989-90? It did not take long, however, for the writers and producers to make the father, Homer, the main character in the show that has now been running for over 20 years! The show is completely about seeing how stupid (and funny) they can make Homer.

Even in one of my favorite TV shows of all time, “The Cosby Show,” dear ole Heathcliff Huxtable, portrayed by none other than Bill Cosby himself, the main character, Cliff, is the object of comic condescension. Most often that condescension came at the hands of his wife, Claire, who was never portrayed in any way that approaches buffoon. She was rarely, if ever, the object of the joke. The comedy she conveyed in the show was almost always out of her stern responses to whatever Cliff or the children (most often the son, Theo, or the son-in-law, Elvin) were doing.

If the adage “You are what you are entertained by” has any truth to it whatsoever, then it is clear modern American culture has very little respect for fatherhood. It is, therefore, equally clear modern American culture has very little respect for God; for God is the Father, created fatherhood, and intends for fathers to model themselves by how He fathers His children.

God the Father is perfect, holy, loving, and just. So is His Son Jesus Christ, whom we are called to follow and imitate. Those who trust in the Lord are in Christ, and we are called to grow in the grace and knowledge of our God and Savior (2 Pet 3:18). Therefore, it is safe to say based on the example of Himself and His Son Jesus Christ that God has high expectations for fathers.

My fatherhood of my children should reflect the fatherhood of God.

I am not merely, pardon the crudeness, the sperm donor. I am not merely the bread winner. I am not a babysitter.

I am my children’s father. I am my children’s shepherd. I am to them what God is to those who are His in Psalm 23. I am their shepherd. I am to lead them in the paths of righteousness. I am to guard them against and protect them from the savage wolves of the world. I am their provider, making sure they are sustained, and not merely physically with food, but also spiritually, mentally, emotionally. I am their disciplinarian, just as the Lord chastens those whom He loves.

These things God does for us and these ways are how He expects fathers to love their children. High expectations, indeed, especially compared with the low expectations for fathers which abound in western culture and evangelicalism at large.

So when I am in Target with my children and the cashier or someone else looks at me with amazement that I’m there with my kids and Mommy isn’t there to take charge, that reflects something much deeper than the perception (which may or may not be reality) that I’ve got things, my kids, under control. It reflects the way they, and society in general, views God. They do not believe he is sufficient. They do not believe He is in control. They do not believe.

Their idea of fatherhood is that of a caretaker until age eighteen. There are generations of men (this generation is not the first, nor is it, I fear, the last) who feel that they are doing enough if they are a little better than Homer Simpson. And the blame for this falls squarely on fathers themselves.

We have fallen short of the glory of God as sinners, but fathers in general have fallen very far short of God’s idea of what a godly man should be.

Know this: You are not your child’s caretaker. When your wife’s away for one reason or another, you are not your child’s babysitter. You are their father. You are to model God for them! There is a very real sense, as they grow up, in which they ought to look at you and not want. You model God for them and show them the one true God! You show them Jesus Christ!

Embrace the high expectations of fatherhood in a wicked and evil generation. Embrace God’s standards for fatherhood because it means embracing godliness, holiness, and righteousness. It means embracing Christ-likeness. It means being an obedient disciple of the Lord.

Embrace this, so that the next time you are in Target alone with the kids and you get one of those remarks like, “Boy, you’ve got your hands full!” you can reply, in words or just in your heart, “You bet I do, but it’s all good and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world, because my Father’s hands are big enough for all of us.”

Author: Matt Privett

Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor.

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