I learned recently how many renown atheists had poor relationships with their fathers (I would venture to say that 95% of atheists have had poor relationships with their dads). This is indicative of the “Father Wound” that so many children take on early in life. Our concepts of God are formed from the type of father that we have. An aloof, harsh, disconnected, obnoxious (even religious) dad has produced far more atheists than any “evil God” argument, or “fairy-tale Bible” argument, or a “bad church experience” argument has ever thought about producing. Check out the de-conversion blog for more “arguments”. But what they will never tell you is that “My father wounded me deeply and I’ve never been able to get over it.” De-converting and rejecting belief in God is my way of getting back.
Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. Many of our social problems can be traced to fatherlessness – to dads who refuse to be dads. Newsweek ran a cover story about “The Boy Crisis”. The author said, “A boy without a father figure is like an explorer without a map (Eldredge, Way of the Wild Heart…xii).” So many boys are pretty much on their own. “Figure life out yourself and good luck.”
God recognizes the stupidity of such an approach. Even Jesus needed to know that His Father loved him and was going to guide Him. Two of the most prominent occasions where God speaks in the New Testament occur when He is blessing His Son, Jesus.
At his baptism, Jesus comes out of the water and a voice from heaven says,
“Mark 1:9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (NIV)’.”
Then at Jesus’ transfiguration, the voice says again:
Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! (NIV).”
Three valuable blessings were bestowed on Jesus from his Daddy (Canfield, They Call Me Dad, 39-40).
First, God communicated belonging. “This is my Son.” We must communicate our acceptance of our sons and our pride in them, no matter what. If there’s something we can’t be proud of, let’s deal with it openly. But they must always have a special place in your heart that no one else will have. Affirm who he is – “You’re mine. I’ll stand up for you and fight your battles with you. I’ll provide for you. The heavenly Father loves his children. He never abandons his own and I will never abandon you.”
Second, God communicates value. God said “Whom I love.” Jesus could live with confidence knowing that God, His Father, loved Him. A quiet confidence exudes from a child who rests in his fathers love. God was so committed to His well-being. “I love being your dad” are words every son needs to hear. The greatest words you’ll ever hear as a Dad are “Dad, I love you.” A boy needs another man to look up to and learn from.
Third, God communicates that Jesus was competent. “Listen to Him.” When we tell our sons, “Great job!” it conveys competence, adequacy – that they have what it takes. A dad is to watch and observe his boy and notice what he’s good at and encourage and affirm that. Admire his work. Affirm what he does.
We must have fathering. You have to give your sons your words. They convey importance, protection, comfort, tenderness, and caring. Many atheist sons have never heard an “I love you” from a dad. Or “I’m proud of you son.” Unaffectionate dads fail to bestow these fatherly blessings and end up creating multiple atheists who are still looking for a father to love them.
Be authentic and real with your sons. If you’re afraid; admit it. If you don’t know; say so. But, whatever you do, stop posing, faking, and wannabeing, and be a real man – love your boy, represent God well, and set your affection on your son.
Dads, make sure the sum total of your relationship with your children is encouragement. The world is tough enough on them as it is. Give them the gift of a nurturing, loving, supportive, present father. Let your son hang out with you. You can’t influence him if you’re never with them. Talk to him about key topics from an early age while you’re doing other stuff. Stay attached no matter what and be nurturing in that attachment. Avoid the “Cat’s in the Cradle” kind of stuff.
Jean Lush adds that the ripe age of 13 is absolutely critical mass between a boy and his dad. Don’t get disconnected, washed out to sea, when everything is on the line. Don’t pretend like you have the answers for everything; just walk with them through the issues.
A godly father is one who participates in the lives of the people in his home. He is active in the rearing of his children. He does not avoid responsibility; he seeks it. He sees his commitment to become responsible as a God-given calling. He provides the financial resources needed for his family. He is the one who makes sure the family is at church where their spiritual needs are ministered to. He is the primary one in the home who talks about God, right and wrong, and leading an honorable life. He leads by example by living out the values he espouses.
Larry Crabb said that what impressed him as a boy was that his father loved something and Someone more than he loved anything else, even his family. But he didn’t feel rejection. He knew he was loved. It was a mystery, an invitation to discover what that Something was all about for his father and for him personally.
What kind of father and father-legacy do you want? Place yourself on the spectrum from “I want to be just like him, he is showing me how” to “Good guy, but not who I want to be” to “Checked out, no clue” to “An evil man. May God deliver me from his legacy.” What are you saying with the message of your life? Accept the fathering challenge and leave a great legacy and avoid raising an atheist.