(The following is the fourth article in a 4-part series “SAFE At Home.” In June of this year we began by addressing the top ten issues facing families today and hit upon “Family Communication.” Then I decided to take a slight detour and to focus upon four ways a husband/father can improve his family’s communication.)
Being the "unhandy man" that I am I have found that there is nothing quite like duct tape to hold things together..at least temporarily..from a Christmas decoration that needs to be stuck somewhere to a suburban car door that just won't close all the way. Duct tape does the job! But what really sticks family members together in a more lasting way is ENCOURAGEMENT!
I was amazed to find that in the four passages in the New Testament that either addressed fathers directly or alluded to fathers as a metaphor, that each had an element of the importance of encouragement in them.. Here are a two of those verses from The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible:
"There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself."(I Corinthians 4:15-16)
“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. “(Ephesians 6:4)
Encouragement is potentially the greatest strength we dads can bring to our families. And yet it is potentially our greatest weakness. God has wired us with the unique ability to encourage or discourage our family members at the same time. How? Because we have “father power” that is a two-edged sword. When we use it to encourage our wife or children there is great positive, life-giving impact. But when we are negligent or become hyper-critical, much death-producing damage can be done in our homes.
Here’s a little tool that you can use to apply this idea of encouragement. Dads, take a few minutes on your own to stop and reflect about your wife/children. If you are single, think about a significant relationship, maybe with your parents and jot down some thoughts in each of the following areas for each person:
What character growth do you see that you can acknowledge?
What gifts and abilities can you admire?
What acts do you appreciate?
This may sound kind of simplistic but it all starts with how we THINK and what is in our mind and heart will come out in what we SAY. As the Bible says,”..the mouth speaks out of what fills his heart.” (Matthew 12:34)
I have discovered that I can’t really encourage family members unless I am committed to serve, to accept and most of all to forgive them! If I am holding an offense against a loved one then poison is going to come out of my mouth. The wonderful news is that there is a place where that offense, that wrong can go: to the cross of Christ. Jesus took it ALL there. Once I leave any offense there (no matter how justified I feel about holding onto that grudge) I can then be free to encourage others. But it only comes by my first cleansing my thoughts and then overflowing with good words.
This sounds easy doesn’t it? You know it isn’t! But we have a Heavenly Father who is committed to teaching us fathers as we surrender to Him and follow the base path of His Son of serving, accepting, forgiving and finally encouraging, to create a home that is truly safe.
Heads Up! Next month there is an opportunity for you if you live in the Pacific Northwest and are a father of a daughter 11 years old or older that I want you to seriously consider taking part in. The Fathering Forum and D.A.D.S. are partnering to bring the National Center For Fathering’s special day for dads and daughters to Seattle on January 26, 2008. It will be the first ever, Father-Daughter Summit in Seattle. All of the information that you will need to sign up is at the link on this page. Hope to see you there!