My children are often bad about leaving their reading material on our couch after they leave the room. Amidst the princess books, I saw some of my son’s animal literature. Like any good Freeman, he’s fascinated with tigers. He had an information sheet on Bengal tigers. I looked over that sheet and saw that the male tiger hangs around the female for a few days and then, in the words of the sheet, “plays no further part in the rearing of the cubs.”
Later, I thought about how often that description is a reality for so many people. The male, like most mammals, plays a very brief initial role and then is gone to do his own thing. The worst part of the situation is how the vicious cycle can be repeated in generation after generation. The actions communicate, “This is what males do.”
Christianity fatherhood is so different. One of the oldest statements of what Christians believe begins, “I believe in God the Father…” Many will be repeating this statement together in church today. The belief was so important to early Christians that the Greek-speaking Christians could refer to God with the old Aramaic name their master used: “Abba” (Galatians 4, Romans 8). What a different kind of father: one who not only begets, but also provides, protects, leads, loves, intervenes, and rescues. It gives us a completely different marker of what’s good and what should be normal, and contrary to Freud, we don’t impose our beliefs about fatherhood on an imaginary being. When we’re at our best, the reverse is true: we allow the ideal portrait of a real father to dictate what we believe about fatherhood in general. Of course, Christian fathers all fall short of the standard and sometimes miserably so. But we do have that belief that humans, as created in the image of God, are fundamentally different from other mammals.
Sometimes, heroic ladies and grandparents are able to smash the chain of dysfunction. But I can think of no better way of stopping the cycles than in encountering the only perfect Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. Through faith in Christ, repentance, and the help of God’s Spirit, God can not only break the chain, but bring forgiveness and reconciliation. He’s the type of God who brings life from death.