Dads of Steel

by Jonathan Haefs

*Disclaimer: I am by not a perfect father! Far from it! In the post below, I do not mean to portray myself as the perfect dad or even as an expert on fatherhood. These are thoughts from one broken father to others.

fathers-day-2011I’ve been thinking about fatherhood a lot lately. And that makes sense…I mean my third baby just entered the world! On top of that, father’s day is just around the corner (June 16).

Growing up within the church, father’s day was always somewhat confusing for me…especially when compared with mother’s day. Perhaps it was my own limited experience, but it always seemed like mother’s day was devoted to the praise/encouragement of mothers…while father’s day was equally devoted to pointing out the failures/scolding fathers.

Even as a kid I felt like this was little unfair. Something was amiss and needed to be rectified. I honestly do not believe the remedy to the situation is simply to turn father’s day into a time to praise/encourage fathers in the same way we do for mothers. When it comes to time the gathered church spends together, our focus should always be Christ!

I’ve seen way too many mother’s/father’s day services (and many other holidays for that matter) that were void of Jesus! I am not saying that we do not even acknowledge holidays, but we should do so in a way that points people to Jesus. We need to point mothers and fathers (and everyone else present) to the sufficiency of Christ in all things, including parenting! Jesus must remain the center of our worship!

I think this is the real problem with father’s day…we have put fathers in the place reserved for Jesus, and whenever we do that they will always fail and we will always feel the need to scold them!

We have come to expect dads to be the hero when there is only one hero…Jesus!

man-of-steel-logoI do not believe it is a coincidence that the highly  anticipated summer blockbuster “Man of Steel” is releasing on June 14th…two days before father’s day. A fun movie about the superhero of superheroes…superman. This is just the kind of movie a dad might take his kids to see (depending on their age of course), and there has always been an emphasis on father figures in the superman mythos via Jor-El and Jonathan Kent.

The real irony of this movie’s release coinciding with father’s day is that, I believe, it highlights the problematic “Christian” view of fatherhood. We expect dads to be supermen. They are to be their kids hero! Perfect men of incredible spiritual stature!

We expect dads of steel!

Most kids naturally look up to their dads as if they are superhuman and, all too often, the “Christian” version of fatherhood only feeds this notion. Yet, all fathers are far from perfect and so having “superman” expectations only sets them up for failure. So what can be done? What should dad’s do? And, what should we do? What should the church be encouraging and calling fathers toward?

The true calling of fatherhood is not to be a hero, but to point to the only hero…Jesus.

I try to consistently acknowledge my shortcomings to my children, be honest when I fail, ask for forgiveness, and then point them to the one who will never fail them! Father’s should turn the shortcomings into opportunities to point to the one who never falls short! This is truly fathering your children towards the perfect heavenly father.

We need to tell our fathers…you don’t have to be a dad of steel! Just be a dad who is real! Real about who you are and who Jesus is!

I think that if  men heard the message, the call (on father’s day and everyday) that you’re not to be the perfect hero for your kids, but you are to point the one who is, then we would see fathers move from feeling discouraged and defeated to energized and empowered! Fathers need to hear that they are not supposed to rely on their own strength to be dads of steel, but that God has provided his strength, through the Holy Spirit, for them to be dads who are real.

IMG_0786Through his power, they can be fathers who really love Jesus, fathers who really love their kids, fathers who really admit when they’re wrong and ask for forgiveness, fathers who really love their wives, fathers who really are committed, fathers who really show vulnerability, fathers who really pray, fathers who really know that true fatherhood is not perfection, but pointing to Jesus.

Be encouraged fathers! We don’t need dads of steel…we need dads who are real.