It seems like everything is being redefined these days. We are redefining marriage. We are redefining patriotism. We are redefining nearly every foundational institution of our society. And the one that is on my mind today is redefining “fatherhood”.
Fatherhood: 1. The state or responsibility of being a father. 2. The qualities of a father. 3. Fathers considered as a group.
Daddy: 1. An informal word for father. Slang – the dominant male in a group.
Those are current definitions that can be easily found in a multitude of online dictionary resources. I wonder if these definitions resonate with you today.
What words or mental images come to your mind when you hear the word “fatherhood”? Are they positive images? Are they pleasant images? Do those images and thoughts align themselves with your understanding of what it is to be a father? How much does your experience with your own father affect those thoughts and images? Do you have more than one father?
You see, here is the thing. As fathers we are called to be something that has great significance to our family and to our culture. Unfortunately, the principles that govern and define it are seemingly built on very shaky foundations from time to time.
Let me draw a parallel to something that I witness every day in my work. At work I am involved in a very significant commercial construction project. Some of the aspects and visual features of this project are very modern and unique. There are some structures that have designs that have never been built before. And the techniques to construct these buildings based upon the designs are causing the contractors to stretch beyond their comfort zone.
But I was walking past the desk of a young engineer the other day. And on his desk next to his laptop was an old beat up, tattered and torn engineering book that looked like it was from a college classroom in 1959. The young engineer was less than 30 years old. The book was almost twice as old as he was. Why do you suppose he had that book on his desk? I would submit to you that the basic laws of physics have not changed and gravity still pulls an object down and it is the job of the engineer to hold that object in place in a safe and secure manner regardless of how shiny and new the exterior of the building appears.
So, what is the leadership principle here for fathers?
It is this. There are some basic principles of fathering that have not changed since Adam first saw Eve and the first family was created. Society and culture would define a father in modern terms of his ability to provide material possessions. It would define a father by legal decree as families disintegrate and then attempt to reconstitute and “blend” together. But, I would love to see fatherhood defined in terms of long held understandings of what it is to be the head of the household and the Spiritual leader of the home. I would love to see more old-fashioned definitions of fatherhood that included making the personal sacrifices and delayed personal gratification called for as we mature and become the leaders of our families.
We once had a good definition of fatherhood. Then society redefined it. Maybe it is time to redefine it back to the way it used to be.