We tend to point out to children that the Word says they must be obedient to their parents and that they must honour them. However, the Word has something to say to parents as well, especially fathers. It is not a "free for all" for parents. They don't get to do whatever they want. They have the huge responsibility to love their children and to train them in God's ways. Neither of those things are easy when you are trying to balance a busy life. I will stop myself here. No excuses. I want to address this:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
How does a father exasperate a child? Unfairness. Decisions based on selfishness. Inconsistency. I think the latter must be the most exasperating for a child, when the rules keep changing or promises are not kept. The reason this happens is because dad's don't have a plan; they parent by the seat of their pants; they hand over all parenting responsibility to their wife; they try not to get involved unless it is a real emergency situation; they rule the house like a king or dictator.
Ever notice this is addressed to fathers and not mothers? The spiritual welfare of the family is the father's responsibility. Fathers are responsible to see that their children grow into well-balanced, mature, Christ following men and women. They must instruct their children. They must teach them, by word and example, God's Word.
Can I say, some of these lessons are taught in failure?
What exasperates a child is the falsehood of a father; the façade of perfection; the failure to admit mistakes; the lack of repentance. There is inconsistency in what we teach (if we teach) and what we live. Our children need to see how we handle failure. They need to see that even though we are far from perfect God sees us as holy and blameless. They need to understand that we deal with mistakes and imperfections and not hide them behind an act of strength. Read this again, God's instructions on training children:
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
The greatest lessons are not taught in Sunday School but in the everyday living of the parents, as they train, teach, instruct their children as they live life.
Children need to be trained by fathers, taught by them; not just the words but how to put those words into action. They need to see love in action as fathers humble themselves to help and pray for their enemy. They need to see fathers ask forgiveness when mistakes are made. They need to see and understand what it is to stand your ground and defend those God has given you to defend. They need to see fathers be honest so Jesus can be glorified in their weakness. They need to see their fathers be consistent in their service to Jesus and consistent in their training of their children.
When we fail as fathers we cannot allow that failure to define us or cripple us. We are not perfect and our imperfections cannot be allowed to destroy our strength, which is our dependency on Jesus Christ. Even though our children may turn against us we must realize our innocence before God, take up our responsibility and press forward as this is a new day. Yesterday we may have failed but we stand blameless before the Lord today and as such we must take up our responsibilities to defend, protect, instruct and love our children.
Maybe that is the greatest lesson we can teach our children; to press on in the aftermath of failure; to trust the love of God; to trust the forgiveness of Jesus.
The responsibility of a father is huge but that is no excuse to hide from it. The responsibility is daunting but that is no excuse to shirk it off onto someone else. The responsibility requires total commitment but that is no excuse for being spotty and inconsistent in the application of that commitment. Our children need us to love them with consistency more now in this dark age than ever before. Even when they exasperate you they are still looking for you to love them unconditionally. Fathers, make sure you do not exasperate them in your lack of love.