The Heart of Fathering

by George R. Williams, Ph.D.

Turning Hearts to the Children

Being a father is more of an art rather than a science. Science involves facts of the mind but the art of fathering involves feelings of the heart. And at the core of these feelings is the love of God expressed through being a godly father. Science is about what you know, but art is about what you do.

As an artist we paint on the canvas of our children’s heart through our words and our deeds. If our artwork is good then it will naturally or should I say supernaturally lead our children to the source of our love. The source of our love comes from a heart that has experienced the love of God. It is a father’s heart that is turned to God and His love that inspires the turning of the child’s heart to Him as well.

In Malachi 4:5-6 it is written, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” As we study the book of Luke we see that John the Baptist came to fulfill this scripture. Luke 1:17 reads, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous– to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (NIV)

Our primary mission for our role as fathers is to introduce our children to a personal relationship with the Heavenly Father through the sacrificial gift of His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Heart of a Child

Every year the National Center for Fathering receives thousands of essays from it’s Father of the Year Essay Contest. Throughout February and March teachers from across the country participate in this powerful classroom activity by having their students grades (1-12) submit an essay, 300 words or less on the theme “What My Father Means to Me.”

Here we share two essays taken, “from the lips of children…” The names have been change to protect their privacy. The first is about a positive experience with at father and the second is a negative experience with a father. The theme that runs through both is a child’s love despite imperfect fathers.

Mary in the fourth grade

When I think about what my father means to me, I realize that most of my special memories and feelings towards him come from the little things he does every day.

My father has never saved me from a burning castle or an avalanche, but he does hug me an tell me to have a good day.

My father doesn’t buy me expensive or fancy toys, but he does whisper to me that I’m his special treasure.

My father has never fought off dragons for me, but he has taught me how to play the guitar and we dance to the radio when on one is looking.

My father has never scared off evil monsters with a scream, but the sound of his voice reading to me at night lets me drift to sleep.

My father is not a super hero in a comic book, but when I watch him and my mother smile at each other, I know he is her hero.

He is to me what the sun is to a flower. He shines down on me every day and keeps me warm, No one notices the light but the flower. To the flower the light is the world… it is everything. I would like to see nothing more from my relationship with my father ten what he gives me now because he is all that I could ask for in a father.

George in the 5th grade

My father is like a pepper that burns my tongue. My dad is not consistent with his parenting. At the time the way he treated me really hurt, but I have to say I learned from it.

When I would question my dad about why he wouldn’t call, he’d say he lost my number, as if I were a baby and could not understand that he was trouble. Although he is so absent in my life, I wish he would tell me that he thinks about me and loves me.

Some things about my dad I can put behind me. For instance, when he calls every blue moon, or when he doesn’t pay child support. I find it hard to understand how a parent could totally abandon a child. “What have I done wrong?”

Everyday I grow and understand more. He doesn’t come around because he is conflicted about the nurturing that he has not provided. What he doesn’t understand is that I love him despite his faults.

These two emotionally moving essays show that many children have their hearts already turned to their fathers even if they are absent. The change that must be made is the father’s heart turned to the child.

Turning the Heart of the Father

Where are the hearts of fathers today? There are many reasons why a father’s heart may be turned away from his child. The number one reason is a spiritual reason and that is the curse of sin. The result of sin is diametric to God’s plan and purpose. God told man to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28) and sin caused man to be barren and divided. The father of sin is referred to as diabolos in the Greek, whose root word means to divide. It divided man from God, from woman and from his children.

There are two main reasons a man would chose to be apart from his child. He might run away from his responsibility because of influences within himself. Examples are because of immaturity, fear, lack of resources and plain selfishness a father will run away.

He might be pushed away from the responsibilities because outside influences. Examples are because of the courts, the child’s mother, the military and incarceration a father allows himself to be pushed away. Even though the reasons are different the results are similar for the child. These fathers open the door of the curses (Exodus 20:5) of infant mortality, poverty, illiteracy, abuse, health risks and incarceration becoming likely to be played out in that child’s life.

We need fathers who are determined to fulfill their biblical leadership roles. These fathers whose hearts are turned to their children will be here to stay fathers. The type of fathers that regardless of what is going on in his life or around his life he is a loving involved father. These fathers lead to blessing our children (Exodus 20:6).

For many who do not know another way than running away or being pushed away they cannot go another way. They must be trained from the word of God about the role of the father in order to change. For still others it is not a matter of knowing but having someone show them. Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 8:14) These fathers are like Phillip and need to see a model of a “real” father before they can change.

For you there may be a difference between the type of father you think you are and the type your child says you are. Your child wants you, needs you and loves you. My prayer is that you will determine to be to your children the type of father your Heavenly Father is toward you. Let your heart be turn to your child!

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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