One of the questions I hear from time to time, is “Where are all the spiritual fathers?“. Some people seem to have a huge desire for one of these “spiritual fathers“. That is, for many of them, until they have one…then they suddenly don’t want one any more…then, they want the “freedom” to be “who they are, without the constraints of structured, organised religion“.
In other words, they want to do whatever they like, whenever they like and they don’t want anyone in their life to be getting in their way. What they really want, is a “spiritual grandfather“.
I have watched this thing of parenting and grand-parenting in the natural, and the differences there, are quite plain to see. A grandparent, is a fun, older person who delights in things like chocolate milkshakes for breakfast, and icecream for lunch. They love to hand over all the lollies and chocolate and other “good things” that help that child feel momentarily, very happy. Kids love their grandparents…because they are fun, and hand out amazing sugar hits. The grandparents even love to play along while the sugar high is in full effect…so much fun and laughing and games!
Then when the sugar wears off and the crash occurs, they just hand the child back to Mum and Dad, say their farewells and depart until the next sugar fuelled adventure…(at this point, they get to head to their now child free home and take a nap to recover!).
But Mum and Dad, they are different. They are obliged to provide a responsible, sustainable and healthy diet…no milkshakes for breakfast here, but perhaps a selection of lovely cereals or eggs, or a liquified smorgasbord of fruit and vegetable goodness from their latest and greatest grinding gadget of goodness that can pulverise everything into a rich, smooth paste of awesome health in a cup.
Mum and Dad have to teach things like taking responsibility…and hold their kids accountable to particular expectations…assist in the maturing and development of a young, dependant child into a young, interdependent person that can function in the real world, and pass their school exams with good grades, get into higher education programs or careers and live successfully because they were well equipped to do so by those who loved them enough to take responsibility for them and give them the tools they need to succeed.
See, grandparents don’t have to take responsibility. They did that with their own kids. Now with their grand children, they just get to turn up for all the fun stuff, be fun, then leave until it’s time for more fun. That is their new role…to enjoy the benefits of the years they spent raising their own kids who have now produced these amazing little bundles of fun for them to enjoy in a season of life, when they have much more disposable time (and usually disposable income!) to actually enjoy them.
What I have seen all too often, is believers who are really looking for “spiritual grandfathers“. They want someone to fuel their fun lifestyle…to help them go from fun experience to fun experience, living it up and loving it, all day every day…But that is only the world of Peter Pan. We can’t all live in “Never Never Land” into our thirties, forties and fifties.
When I think of some of the best times in my past, they involve joyous times like, not having bills to pay…not having others to be responsible for (in the home, the workplace or wherever)…not having to fix my own stuff when it breaks…not living with daily “performance pressure” where all the things I would like to do are limited by my ability to provide for those things. But it is often these very things, that assist us in producing the greatest joy and most reward in later life.
The real world, is not a permanent party and if we (and our kids) are to succeed in it, it is vital, that we learn to carry the weight of responsibility.
To be good parents, and “spiritual parents” we need to train and equip our kids, prepare them to succeed…by teaching them to carry the weight of responsibility well. Sadly, it is quite common to see those pursuing their idyllic “spiritual father“, spiritually un-adopt themselves from their spiritual father as soon as he takes some responsibility for them and as good parents do, assists them in the journey of learning to carry weight well. They see this weight as “constraints” or “legalism” and reject both the weight and the person who took the risk of loving them enough to help them become a weight carrying success, choosing rather to hang out with those who present the best sugar high and live for the responsibility free party plan…(which usually involves Sunday parties too, so they fall away from the church and go their own sugar coated way).
This process seems great for a while, but sooner or later the sugar wears off and the imminent crash becomes a reality…a reality that they rejected the training for…so they don’t know how to live there. They don’t know how to overcome…to take responsibility and to push through their challenges and grow through overcoming. This often results in having to look for something a little stronger than sugar to produce the kind of “high” that will lift them out of their current crash…and a cycle is formed that I am not going to take the time here to expand on.
My question is not “Where are all the fathers“, but “Where are those committed to being faithful sons?”. Those who will not “leave home” at the first sign of weight and responsibility, but those who will walk along side…lovingly, faithfully and be committed to being “fathered” so they can be the best they can be. Jesus had the crowds of thousands around him most of the time, but he only had eleven who lived with him like this. Many of us know hundreds, maybe even thousands of people…but who’s eleven are we in…and who is in ours? This is where real, spiritual discipleship takes place…but are we really committed to our own best future? By all means, get yourself a spiritual father (the right one will be uncomfortable at times!), and just as importantly, be a spiritual father…and stick it out! Lets all be, all we can be.