Being Fathered

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent] and when he is old he will not depart from it. –Proverbs 22:6

“Abba (Daddy), Father.”

Every man has had authority figures in his life, and much of what a man perceives about God and projects onto God was shaped by those authority figures. At the top of every man’s authority list is his earthly father. How your dad handled your heart has shaped you and contributed significantly to how you perceive God.

The odds of an unsettled heart falling and then arriving at a disoriented man’s view of God and life are 100 percent. You can have all the theology right and still have the Father wrong. Like memorizing facts for a history exam, you can pass the test but still not love the characters, enjoy the story, and engage in the drama. It is the difference between the head versus the heart. Starting from varying degrees of inaccuracy, men must journey individually with God to discover both who they are and who they aren’t—and just as importantly, a man must discover both who the Father is and who he isn’t.

For one thing, he isn’t our earthly father. Like us, our fathers were wounded men with wounded hearts. They lived in the same story we live in. Our fathers and their fathers before them also had it rough, far worse than most of us sons and grandsons will ever know.

I often hear men say, “Dad did the best he could.” That can be either an excuse or compassion. It all depends on how well the son knows his father’s story. Most thirty to fifty-year-old men don’t know their father’s story and therefore haven’t earned the right to say their dad did his best. What a man discovers from learning his father’s story will change his heart toward his father. Misinterpretation and excuses are replaced with understanding and compassion.

Besides our dads, many other authority figures have had access to our hearts along the journey. Some had a positive impact, but there were others who should have provided for us and protected us—but didn’t. Tough coaches who punished us with extra wind sprints, challenging teachers who enjoyed pointing out when we answered wrong, preachers yelling at us, older siblings embarrassing us, mothers controlling us, so-called “friends” lost in their own small stories betraying us: all of these reflect a reality I continually stress with a maxim I hope you’ll memorize: wounded hearts wound hearts.

In your time alone with God:

Ask God to help you make a list of the authority figures in your life and what they taught, bestowed, offered your heart about you, the world, God, and life.

What is your earthly father’s story?

How do you see the Father’s love for you?