A Timely Fathers' Day Reminder

by Dr. Carla Cornelius, Christian Examiner Contributor |
Jay Z, O2 Wireless Festival, London, July 2008. | Photo: Rich Thane/Flickr

The newest billionaire to be trumpeted by Ford magazine is Jay-Z, the rapper whose wealth has been generated from many creative ventures and prudent investments. The vast majority will gladly join the bandwagon to sing his praises and applaud this rare achievement. But there are three people who will not! His three children, all seven and under, will not only be oblivious of his fame, status and wealth, but will most likely be indifferent. The expensive presents their father can and probably will buy them, will also not impress them, although they might amuse them for a short while. They will not be impressed with daddy's titles: "record executive," "entrepreneur," "philanthropist." Their jaws will not drop should someone read them his CV: 22 Grammy Awards, the first rapper to be honored in the songwriters Hall of Fame or holder of the most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200. They just want him to read them a bedtime story. They just want to spend time with him and play. Play is not to be undervalued. Studies show that playing with babies enhances their cognitive development.

Chasing the Dream

Jay-Z's three children are not unlike any other children across the globe. Yet so few children know who their fathers are, know their hearts or spend quality time with their fathers. Why is this? Because, sadly, fathers are too busy chasing "the dream," otherwise known as "the American dream." The term was first defined by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 best-selling book "Epic of America" as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." They think the dream will bring them more status and respect as they climb the career ladder. For many fathers, the dream reaches far beyond being able to put food on the table. Unbeknown to many men, the motivating factor for this relentless ambition is pride. We still live in a world where many are judged mainly on their career and professional achievements and the size of their incomes. It remains hard for men to swim against the forceful tide of this all-pervasive message. Even the pull of their consciences when there are children tugging at their shirts to spend time with them, will not be enough in most cases to bring about a change in behavior. Simply put, at the heart of this scotoma, or blind spot, is pride.

They fail to realize that their children do not just want to eat physical food, they want the psychological nourishment of eating with them. They don't just want their fathers to be able send them to reputable schools to be educated, they want to be taught by them. Sons need their fathers to teach them how to be responsible gentlemen; daughters need their fathers to teach them what it feels like to be with responsible gentlemen.

Counteracting Pride

The opposite of pride is humility. The proud person always wants to be first and never be wrong. He prioritizes his needs above the needs of others. Jesus warned that, "...whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant..." (Matthew 20:27, KJ21). Serving the holistic, not just material needs of their children, is often seen as a mother's responsibility alone, but fathers are by no means exempt. Knowing that, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble," (James 4:6, NLT) is a good incentive to strip away the tempting male ego. Given the choice, most would prefer to have God as a source of strength and support rather than opposition. The following are helpful safeguards against this insidious enemy of pride:

  • Give God the glory for your achievements. After all, it is He who gives you life, health, and courage.
  • Do your best and then leave the rest to God. Know you cannot control outcomes and you were not meant to. If you think you can control a result through what you know and how capable you are, you are mistaken.
  • Practise putting your families' demands before yours as long as this doesn't compromise your convictions and instincts about what is right and wholesome. This is possible once you believe God will take care of your needs and desires.
  • Know when to listen and stop talking. Actively listening to your children will help enhance their self-esteem because they will feel worthy of your attention. Also, this is how you find out the condition of their hearts, which in turn arms you with the awareness of what they need to help shape their character.

The Ultimate Gift

This Fathers' Day, fathers can resolve to let their lasting legacy to their children be that they gave them what money cannot buy – time, attention and wisdom. Fathers have the opportunity to be their children's first and foremost teachers and mentors. Those words which Moses first delivered to the people of Israel, still ring true today – "And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, NLT). This paternal lifestyle is the very antithesis of absentee fatherhood!

A Final Appeal

Fathers, although providing for your families monetarily and materially is an essential part of your role, you must resist the cultural norm to view yourselves predominantly as breadwinners. As fundamental and important as this may be, your children need more from you than just money or what money can buy. There are some things money can't buy, and your presenceis of greater value than your presents.

— Dr. Carla Cornelius is a modern-day culture warrior who seeks to address the spiritual dangers in our popular culture. She is the author of Culture Detox: Cleansing our minds from toxic thinking, which highlights various spiritual toxins which have infiltrated the modern mind such as the relentless urge to acquire and achieve, the celebrity bandwagon, the widespread use of sex to seduce and sell products and the mass pre-occupation with the "self." All her books are available from jesusjoypublishing.co.uk.

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