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for Father’s Day 2009 Johann Christoph Arnold for Father’s Day 2009

Posted Jun 04 2009 10:09pm

Many problems in our society will be solved when young men are willing to
become good fathers. Of course, they can do this only if they have an
example to follow. As fathers, we need to be the strongest role models for
children, especially for our sons.

I loved my father. He had a tremendous sense of humor, but he also was
strict and set boundaries which I didn’t always appreciate at the time. I
always knew he loved me. Once when I was eight or nine, I angered him so
much that he threatened to punish me. I looked up at him and, before I
knew what I was doing, blurted out, “Papa, I’m really sorry. Do what you
have to do-but I know you still love me.” To my astonishment, he leaned
down, put his arms around me and said with a tenderness that came from the
bottom of his heart: “Christoph, I forgive you.”

Like many fathers today, my father’s work sometimes kept him away from home
for long stretches. I remember as a five-year-old, if I refused to obey,
all my mother needed to do was to show me his picture. “Your Papa wouldn’t
like it,” she’d tell me, and I’d give in.

I felt very secure just being with my father. As a small boy I decided I
wanted to be like him when I grew up. This relationship held me through
hard times, even after his death. Now I want to pass this on to my
children, grandchildren, and to all of you.

Fathers, if you love your wife and if you love your children, give them
your time. Spending time together will give your family inner and emotional
security. This is much more important than financial security. The Chilean
poet Gabriela Mistral writes, “Many things can wait. Children cannot… To
them we cannot say ‘tomorrow.’ Their name is today.”

The love we show our children by giving them our time and attention can
hold them in good stead even years down the road. As Dostoevsky reminds us
in The Brothers Karamazov, “You must know that there is nothing higher and
stronger and more wholesome for life in the future than some good memory,
especially a memory of childhood, of home…For if a man has only one good
memory left in his heart even that may keep him from evil.”

To be a father is to fulfill a noble vocation. But fatherhood is not for
everyone: it is not for cowards or for those who are unsure of themselves.
Once we become fathers, we remain fathers until we die. A true father must
be a leader-a captain who guides his family’s ship through perilous waters
to safe shores, a general who rallies his troops to take on the daily
battles.

On the other hand, a father should also model love and compassion. Jesus
was not afraid to compare himself to a hen gathering her chicks. He also
wept. These qualities belong to true manhood, and a true father will seek
to embody them.

Finally, I believe even the best intentioned fathers will not be able to
fulfill their task without finding a firm faith in God. When they do, our
families and the entire country will be strengthened, because strong
families form the backbone of our nation.

[Johann Christoph Arnold is a pastor and author of ten books, which are now
available as free e-books at www.plough.com.]

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