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Godly Men

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Say “Yes” to Your Family      July 2005
Patriarch Magazine

One of the results of industrialization has been that men find their emotional focus outside of the home. Having left the family farm and home shop for the factory and office, men in westernized societies have entered a new social environment that demands the larger part of their time and attention on a typical day. They never made a conscious decision to pay less attention to their families, but this has been the natural byproduct of the social shift that has occurred.

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There is a basic law of life that people become emotionally attached to those with whom they spend much time. Perhaps it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder if the absence is the occasional exception to a pattern of togetherness; but when people are separated on a daily basis absence may well make the heart grow cold. This is what has happened to too many fathers in contemporary homes.

God has made men to be doers, to set goals and accomplish tasks (the Bible calls it taking dominion, Gen. 1:26, 28). They are by nature less likely than their wives to develop deep emotional bonds within the family unit. Being more task-oriented than relationship-oriented most men find it all too easy to neglect those to whom they are most intimately connected by blood and obligation. This tendency is exaggerated when the husband leaves his family daily for a whole new world of work and accomplishment.

Emotionally Absent

Industrialization is not the only reason that men so often do not turn their hearts toward home. Another big part of the problem is that it is just plain hard work for them to be emotionally available to their wives and children. Again, by instinct they would rather be doing a task than tuning into another persons needs; and when you add a hefty measure of plain old sin and self-centeredness, you have a formula for the emotionally absent father.

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Even when men are not at work it is common to find them directing their thoughts and passions outside the sphere of the family unit. Whether it is sports, hunting or fishing, television, the computer or the workshop, they can get quite wrapped up in their own interests. The result is that even if they are physically present in the home they are emotionally far away from their wives and children.

Here we find one of the greatest challenges of the family renaissance movement. The move toward home education, home business, homesteading, home birth, etc. obviously creates a loud call for all hands on deck in the family circle. It is good that many are rediscovering the biblical roles of the family and reclaiming the spheres of dominion God meant for it; but this will mean that men must, as part of the larger process and the key to its overall success, return to the home as the emotional center of their lives.

This may even be the larger reason why the Lord has created the homeschooling movement with its home-centered byproducts. For these to work the husband and wife simply must return to God's plan for them in their relationship to each other and the children and in their roles within the family unit. The foundation for a successful family is the husband and wife team; and the cornerstone of that foundation is the man.

God is in the business of turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and, in turn, the hearts of the children to their fathers (Mal. 4:6; Lk. 1:17). In the Bible the heart indicates the core of a person, the vital center from which all else springs, the seat of the affections and that which gives focus to a person's life. It is a remarkable thing that the Lord says that a man's turning his heart to his children is the key ingredient in avoiding the Lord's curse and walking in his blessing. God wants a man to find his emotional focus in the home.

Beyond the “Sensitive” Dad

What does it mean for a man to turn his heart toward his family? Is it simply a matter of his becoming more sensitive, more tuned in to the feelings of his wife, more affectionate and expressive with his children? While it certainly involves all these things it is really much more.

One of the deficiencies of mainstream evangelical family ministries is that their definition of an involved father falls short of the Bible's standard. You hear a lot on their programs and read a lot in their books about the need for men to become emotionally present in the home once again; the sensitive, affectionate Dad is all the rage these days. But that is not all that God has in mind by turning men's hearts toward home.

Turning a man's heart toward home is not an end in itself, it is the means to a much larger end. Yes, men should come home emotionally and tune in to the precious ones they live with, but this is not just so that everyone can feel warm and snugly with a sensitive Dad. The reason for this turning, this refocusing of affections, is so that the father can then fulfill his fatherly responsibilities of spiritual training, guarding and providing.

It is not much use for a man to become sensitive to his kids and play games with them if, by sending them to the state schools, he is failing to guard them from evil and provide the total Christian training God requires. It is not much use for a man to learn to listen to his wife and communicate with her if he fails to protect her from the dangers of working outside the home as she serves another man as her authority every day.

No, the reason God wants men to make the home their emotional center once again is so that they can completely direct their families for Christ and implement a total biblical way of life in the home. This is why it is encouraging to see the growth of homeschooling and the rest. The family renaissance is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit's work in leading men to take charge of their families. God wants men to focus on the family so that they can shape their families for the kingdom of God.

So men must indeed come home emotionally in order to fulfill their manly calling there. But how exactly does a man go about making this transition? So many men have for so long been detached from their wives and children, preoccupied with their other concerns. How can a man refocus on those God has called him to love and to lead?

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Turning “No” Into “Yes”

The emotionally absent father has a habit of saying No to his family. Since his heart is turned to other things he commonly does not have the time, energy or interest to give his wife and children what they need from him. The No may not always be spoken, but it is very clear nonetheless.

She wants him to talk with her about her day, but he is absorbed in the TV. No! She wants him to finish the new schoolroom in the basement, but he never seems to have time, though he manages to assemble his new rifle kit. No! The boys want Dad to play ball with them, but he is too busy preparing for the church committee meeting. No!

Of course, the word no will remain a part of the vocabulary of even the best fathers; it is not possible to respond affirmatively to each and every need of the family members. However, each father should strive to say Yes! to his wife and children as much as possible.

Obviously it is not the word itself that is important. It is the attitude that is expressed. It is a frame of mind that says, I am available for you. It is a set of priorities that comes through: Nothing is more important to me than you. It is a heart that says, I am yours and you are mine. What our wives and children want is a man who sees them as first in his life, who shares himself with them, and, yes, whose heart is turned toward them.

Saying “Yes” to Your Wife

It is an old but true cliché that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. They need attention and love themselves, but it is amazing how much love and security the children feel as they simply bask in the glow of a loving relationship between their parents. So the place to start in saying yes to your loved ones is with your mate. Here are some examples to stimulate your own process of focusing on your wife.

Say yes when she wants to talk. This may mean planning a time to get alone for an extended period and discuss the children and the schooling. Or it may simply mean putting the mail down and looking at her while she shares about her day. Don't just gaze around blankly waiting for her to finish so you can resume with your agenda. Make it a priority to give your full attention to your wife when she is addressing you; that will communicate better than anything else you could do her importance to you.

Say yes when she asks for help with teaching the children. She may not do this in so many words, but her telling you about her struggles may be her cry for help. Nothing else you are doing in your life is more important than the training of your children. Any man will be able (where there's a will, there's a way) to find some way to do some of the teaching of his children. He can do Bible lessons in the morning before work (yes, they can get up earlier if necessary—how important is this?) or he can do math lessons right after supper (not ideal perhaps, but possible). The slightest effort to share the burden with your wife will communicate volumes to her about your love for her and the children.

Say yes when she presents you with a problem in the home. It is your responsibility to deal with any patterns of misbehavior or lack of cooperation on the part of one of the children. It is your job to provide her with any logistical help she needs to manage the home and teach the children day by day. If she says she needs more storage space for school, or she wishes she had a mixer that works, listen and think how you may solve the problem. Maybe there is a solution that won't break your budget. Maybe there is no immediate solution, but you can assure her that her need will receive top priority on you list of things to do. How you respond to her pleas for help is more important than the actual response you make. She can live with the old mixer a while if she knows you share the burden with her and care about what she cares about.

Saying “Yes” to Your Children

Children are not known for keeping their desires to themselves, and it is likely that you hear a regular chorus of requests from your children—for your time, your money, your intervention in a dispute, your wisdom to solve a problem. (It could be, though, if your kids have long since learned that they will get a No if they approach Dad, that they seldom bother you any more.) As with your wife, the goal is to say Yes as much as possible.

While there will be many occasions in which you will have to respond in the negative (your four year old wants to help slice the turkey) you should do so in a way that affirms the relationship and the value of the child to you (Thank you for wanting to help. You can't handle the knife, but you can help me arrange the pieces on the plate.) The issue is not whether you can or cannot respond affirmatively to the desire presented to you; the issue is whether you care about the child and communicate that to him. Your goal is not to be a fawning yes man for the family; the goal is to turn your heart to them.

The greatest emotional need of children (besides knowing that Dad and Mom love each other) is to be loved by their parents; and love is spelled t-i-m-e. Those who invented the myth of quality time (a few well-focused minutes with a child after of day of abandonment) were seeking a Band-aid for their guilty consciences. Quality time is quantity time. You can't say no all day by putting a kid in day care and erase the message in a few minutes at night.

A father who works away from home has a special challenge: he must give himself to his children when he is home in a way that assures them that his being away all day is not a preferred escape from the home. It is very important for any Dad to take the time to read, walk, play and work with the children; this is especially so for the man who is gone most of the day.

Let's say you need to get the bills paid this evening and will already be up late doing it. Sally wants you to read her a story and Billy wants you to play catch with him. It is tempting when you are already frustrated and working against a deadline to respond impatiently and put the children off. With or without the word, they hear the No! But you can't abandon your other responsibilities either. What do you do?

You Can Do Everything

Now is the time to remember one all-important principle of life: I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 3:14). God does not call you to do anything that he does not also give you the power to do. If he wants you to both pay your bills and turn your heart to your children, he will help you to do it.

One obvious solution would be to take a few minutes with each of the kids as requested—not hours, just minutes—and that will probably satisfy their need for fellowship with you. Another would be to invite them into the room where you are working and keep them within reach for an occasional smile or pat on the head. The Lord will help you find creative ways to do everything you need to do. If your heart is turned to you children, your love will find a way to express itself—and still get everything else done.

We have already noted that men are made for dominion, for a big task that they can devote themselves to with energy. What Christian men today need to realize is that their most important task in life is raising the godly descendants the Lord is seeking (Mal. 2:15), sharpening their God-given arrows (Ps. 127:4) so that they can advance the kingdom of God against its enemies. This is a calling more vital and more challenging than any other vocation or avocation.

The key to your success in this mission is having a heart that is turned to family, a heart that says a hearty Yes! to those precious ones God has entrusted to your care. This is also the best way to say Yes! to the Lord as he calls you to follow him.

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