What is a father? By Nathanael White
Is a father merely someone who has biological or adopted children? Is he someone who provides for children under his roof or pays their way through college? Or is a father someone who teaches us how to skip stones, tie fishing knots, and ride a bike?
The truth is that all of these may describe things a father does, but they do not define what a father is. Fatherhood is defined by two essential elements – Nature and Inheritance.
I will describe inheritance first, so that I can immediately clear up any misunderstanding about what I mean. What I do not mean is that fathers are only good for their money. There is much more to fatherhood than simply amassing a small treasure to bequeath to our children so that they can have an easier life.
What I do mean is that a true father wants his children to go farther than he can, and consequently lives in such a way as to make that happen. This requires fathers to gain something of value to leave as an inheritance – not necessarily finances, though that is a possibility – just something of value to pass on to their children. My father labored to gain an incredible knowledge of the scriptures, and my inheritance from that is a depth of faith in God and knowledge of the Word that continually surpassed my peers as a child. It means that today I am teaching God’s Word instead of merely trying to grasp basic concepts.
The things of value that we gain for our children can be from any area of life – including finances – but the heart of a father is expressed in the intentional growth and passing on of these things so that our children can surpass us. Our ceiling must be their floor.
Inheritance does little good, however, if a father does not pass on his nature. This requires him to invest in his children so that they have his heart and are going the same direction he is. If our children do not go the same direction we are going, then how can they go farther than us? This means that we must train our children regarding what is important to us and work with them to develop the character and responsibility to remain strong on our path.
In the past we have thought ourselves to be successful fathers and parents if our children can graduate college, hold down a good job, have a nice family, pay their mortgage, and save up enough to retire by age 65. We need to realize now that successful fatherhood goes beyond teaching the actions of building a life to teaching the heart we should have in life. It is the difference between only teaching my children how to shoot a gun and also teaching them when and why to shoot it.
The definition of fatherhood is not limited to fatherly actions, finding its ultimate fulfillment in the heart behind those actions. It is not simply to produce offspring, but to impart a nature and release a destiny by endowing provision, protection, and identity.
This is who a father is. This is a father’s heart.
Nathanael White is a pastor and teacher with a gift to understand the heart of God; husband and father of 4; and Pastoral Elder at The House Church. To learn more about Nathanael, visit: http://fathersheartbeat.org/