Come Home to the Father

The good father. When thinking back to their childhoods, many Christians argue that they came from "good homes" with fathers who loved them and provided for their needs. However, there is no perfect earthly father, and it is impossible for any dad, no matter how good his intentions may be, to raise a child without creating any father issues whatsoever.

Good fathers are just that: good fathers. They provide for their children physically, making sure they have a roof over their heads, clothes to wear and food to eat; and emotionally, they spend time with them and meet their needs for security and affirmation. It seems that children raised in such homes would grow up without any negative repercussions in their adult lives.

But the issues these children have as adults are often very subtle. Sometimes they are unable to let go of their relationships with their earthly dads sufficiently to develop strong relationships with God. Some of these children may even become pastors or ministers because, having become overly attached to their earthly fathers, they are unable to develop an intimate relationship with God and substitute serving Him for intimacy.

The bond between a good father and his child may become an unhealthy dependence later in life if the adult child continues to look to the father for his or her ultimate source of love and security. Daughters, for example, may experience difficulty "leaving and cleaving" when the time comes for them to leave their fathers' homes and become wives to their husbands.

Other times, situations may arise that prevent the father from keeping a promise or meeting one of his child's needs. Even the most well-meaning good father cannot control every situation in his children's lives. This may end up being even more of a disappointment if the children have grown to have unrealistic expectations of their father.

The performance-oriented father. The performance-oriented father is very common in America today because, as a whole, our society rewards individuals who perform successfully, whether it be in sports, careers, academics or the financial market. This father often proclaims that he loves you, but that love is expressed only when you have measured up to his rigid expectations.

Stringent demands for perfect obedience and high-performance standards, if not tempered with large amounts of expressed love, affirmation and praise, often result in many problems later in life. One of these problems is depression.

No one can do everything right all the time because we are only human beings, and we all experience failure. But after 20 or 30 years of striving for perfection, fear and depression can begin to creep into the heart of adult sons and daughters.

Even if they are born again and Spirit-filled, they may still believe that God will be pleased with them only when they have read the Bible enough or prayed at least an hour a day. Eventually, if the pattern continues, they can collapse into burnout, unable to hear God's voice or feel His presence at all.

Boundaries and standards are good, and fathers should encourage their children to be the best they can be. But when expressed love and approval become tied to how well a child performs, problems may result. Any criticism or demands for performance must be tempered with large amounts of affection and affirmation.

The passive father. The passive father does not either make great demands on his children or overtly reject them. He simply fails to be "home" even when he is home. He is unable to demonstrate any sort of love or affection at all, usually because he never received these things from his own father.

He doesn't speak the words of love that his children need to hear; he doesn't reach out to his sons and daughters with warmth or hugs or kisses, or cuddle them on his lap. He may be physically present in the home, but he isn't able to allow himself to be known.

He does not share his joys, his hopes, his sorrows or his disappointments with his wife or children. He does not experience life with his family; he simply lives his life under the same roof.

When a person has been raised in the home of a passive father, his relationship with God may be devoid of passion and joy. Discipline, form and duty keep things safe because he has become uncomfortable with any show of emotion. When relating to God, he often will have a mental or intellectual assent to the gospel but will rarely let the Father touch his heart so that he can truly taste His love.

People like this are quite often the adults who are the quickest to criticize any "emotional" move of the Holy Spirit in the church. Any weeping or loud rejoicing or praise to the Father causes them to feel extremely uncomfortable.

But walking in the Spirit should be an emotional encounter. It's about love, joy and peace much more than it is about the study of doctrine or theory. God wants to touch our hearts and emotions; He wants to restore healthy emotions in our relationships.

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