"Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck."
- Proverbs 1:8-9
Another Father's Day just passed. I don't know about you, but mine was pretty good. I even told Becky that she put a beat-down on my Mother's Day efforts. On Saturday night, she and the kids led me out to our back patio - an area of our house that I've complained about more than a few times. It has a lot of potential. It's screened in. It's equipped with a ceiling fan. And it would make a great place to relax and read or just stare at the sky. Rather, it's filled with the kids' clutter and needs some deep cleaning. So, yeah, it's basically a storeroom.
But on Saturday night, as my kids carefully led me by the hand with my eyes closed out the back door, I was greeted with a vision that brought a tear to my eye (nearly). There was a beautiful outdoor rug in the center of the space. To my right was an ornamental pot that was filled with decorative thingies that look like twisted branches. There was a small wrought-iron cafe table on one wall with two accompanying chairs. On the table was a lit citronella candle surrounded by magnolia petals (that was Maia's idea). To my left on the wall opposite the pot was a chaise lounge. It's also wrought-iron. It and each of the chairs were tied together with matching red pillows. With the hanging white Christmas lights turned on, my back patio screams, "Feng Shui!"
The best part was what happened afterwards. As I was stretched out on my chaise lounge, my kids were hanging all over me - which takes more endurance than it used to. Maia and Levi aren't small children anymore. Throw in Claire and Micah and I feel like I'm at the bottom of a football scrum. But it was sweet. Each of them had a distinct look of satisfaction in their eyes as they snuggled me (Micah is just over eleven-months old, but I think he did, too). I love my back patio, but what I love even more is that my sweet wife and children loved putting it all together for me. It's in times like these that I often sense the voice of the Holy Spirit nudge my heart, reminding me of my urgent and crucial responsibility to guide these little souls towards the kingdom of God.
Later that night I was reflecting on the current condition of fatherhood in our society, I was reminded that there are many children who don't know the delight of serving their earthly fathers they love so much. Too many don't know the security of crawling up into dad's lap. We've all heard the statistics and accompanying lamentations about this problem. Then I began to think about our children ten and twenty and thirty years down the road. Children who, because they have had no fatherly guidance, don't know how to live and won't know how to live. They don't have the wisdom to live a godly, smart, strategic, and others-oriented life.
We see this problem in every sector - not just parenting. People bail out of their jobs, their churches, and their friendships so much more quickly and recklessly these days. Our culture has taught us to make pleasure the paramount value of life and when something or someone doesn't satisfy, well, we opt out. We eject. The result is we have a society that no longer knows endurance. And because we don't know how to endure, we no longer have lessons to teach the next generation. The only lesson we have to teach is "do what you have to do to get by" - a virtue-free proverb. Thus, the next generation is ill equipped to live wisely in this dog-eat-dog world. We catapult them into the fire. A fire that is consuming our children. Sensuality, violence, systemic meanness, brazen pride, the worship of materialism, deep debt, a lust for pleasure, and so on. And because they aren't rooted in a story, they are doing it alone - without the morals and spiritual convictions that come with a sturdy community.
But we love our kids, so what do we do? Note the verse I led off with from Proverbs. The writer is a dad and his audience is a child, his son. The father is confident that he has something to teach his son about maneuvering wisely through this dangerous world...because he has made divinely-inspired observations as he has lived. He's in tune with the Holy Spirit. So he calls his son to attention. His lessons aren't boring and inconsequential. And they aren't a scolding, either. They are beautiful. Each proverb (and there are a lot of them!) is a priceless gem that makes up a crown of wisdom that the father desires to place upon his son's head.
What equipped this father with the wisdom to pass down to his son? He was a learner rather than a consumer of pleasure. The result was a man who knew how to endure. (Strength is the result of a learning heart.) And because he knew how to endure - how to walk through turmoil with an ear pointed towards the Holy Spirit - he grew in wisdom. This dad didn't need a book or curricula in order to instruct his son. He wrote his own.