Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Does Father Know Best?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-4

     Sunday is Father's Day, and since I'm a preacher I'm expected to say something about Fathers. Preachers are warned not to use paternal holidays to lay into mothers and fathers. That's good counsel. The flipside, however, is to pour on the schmooze. Being a father makes that a bit awkward, kind of like me preaching how great pastors are on pastor appreciation Sunday.
     Did you know Father's Day was an afterthought? One story says it was begun in 1909, the year after a mine explosion in Virginia that killed 361 men. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to her pastor that a special service should be held in honor of fathers. The other story of its founding says it was begun in 1910, the year after Sonora Smart Dodd heard a Mother's Day sermon and suggested to her pastor that father's deserved at least a mention. Either way, thank you for the day Grace and Sonora.
     I've been reading a lot about parenting recently. Guess I'm having flashbacks to my good old days working on my family ministry degree. It's interesting that the debate hasn't changed much. Parents are still the most important people in society.  There's apparently an entire generation that hasn't been parented well, since we now have to have "Adulting" classes for young adults. 
     Some say that most of society's problems should be laid at the feet of parents, particularly, it seems from popular opinion, fathers. There's the movement toward more authoritarian parenting, lauded by some and villainized by others. There's a more tempered approach, labelled "authoritative parenting". Parents become more deal-makers than rule-enforcers. Then there's the egalitarian approach, where who knows who's in charge. 
     I can show you scientific research supporting every side of every issue. By the way, scientific research isn't all it's cracked up to be (there was a good article about that in 2013 in in The Economist). The science you trust today will very often be proven inaccurate tomorrow. 
     So, how should you parent? Does father really know best? Whoop (that's spank for those of you who know no rednecks), don't whoop, play let's make a deal or tell them "because I said so", dress boys as boys and girls as girls or let them choose the too-too or the gladiator outfit, make them go to church or let them choose, think there are gender-specific roles or not, father is head of the house or mom is or the three year old is . . . seriously, what do we do?
     Well, I don't know what you do if you're not a follower of Jesus Christ. Punt, I guess. Join the parenting-philosophy-of-the-month club. Do it like your parents because you thought they did great, or don't do it like them because you think they were idiots. I don't think anyone intends to be a bad parent, but, how do you really, honestly, know what a good parent is? Is a perfect child the product of perfect parenting? If it is, then any imperfection is the result of failed parenting, and that's just not entirely true. Both great and totally dysfunctional young adults come from the same home. 
     Here's what you do if you're a follower of Christ. First, stop evaluating your parenting solely on current fruit in your kids lives. You should take an honest look at your parenting, but good parents can have rotten kids. It's the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in your kids' lives. You are just one of the tools he uses. 
     Then, pick up the Bible and read all that God says about parenting, but before that read all it says about being a parent, and before that read all it says about being a child of the Heavenly Father. Who you are in Christ, how you are following Him, is far more important than what parenting method you used. Focus on your own childhood as a child of God. 
     Finally, love learning. Read, learn, evaluate, but don't live your life by the observations and ideas of the world. Live and parent by the design of the designer. That won't make a lot of people happy, but following Jesus never does. 
     Earthly fathers don't always know best, but there is a father who does. . . "our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name."