So You Want a Father?

Imagine this.

I am at a seminar.  Fred comes up having freshly kissed the Blarney Stone, and after all of the blather about how great I am, asks me to father him.

He is followed by Sally who gives me an equally detailed story line, this time of how fatherless her childhood was.  Based on her pain, she asks me to father her.

I decline both.

I do that even though I am very clear and very confident that by design, at my core, I am a father.  It is who I am, what I was made for, where the grace from God is and where I find deep fulfillment.

So why won’t I father people who so overtly ask me to father them, and so clearly need it?

The problem is in the social contract that is embedded in their understanding of fathering, vs. mine.

You see, there is an issue of rights and responsibilities.

In the Biblical model of fathering, the father has most of the rights, and the children have most of the responsibilities at the beginning of the relationship.

For example, can you find a picture in Scripture of the child choosing his father?  Doesn’t the spiritual father usually initiate reaching out to select the child?

Think of all the mentoring relationships in Scripture that were inherently fathering.

Masses of people followed Jesus, but He picked the men He was going to father.

Paul picked his sons.

Admittedly, God picked a son for Elijah, but for sure, Elisha did not pick his own mentor.

Then look at the terms of the relationship.

It is always a responsibility-based relationship at first.  Jesus laid it on thick.  “Come follow me.”  No discussion of boundaries.  No full disclosure statement.  No promise of deliverance and inner healing.  No discussion of the stress it would put on them to be on a different track than their family.

With Elisha, when he tried to negotiate with Elijah on the terms of engagement, he got his first smack down and Elijah left in a huff, going on without Elisha, refusing to negotiate the nature of the alignment.

Even at the end of their relationship, Elisha tried to turn it from his responsibility to some imaginary rights.  Elijah clapped right back and said it was all about whether Elisha could step up to the level of responsibility required.

In the Biblical model of sonship, it is compared overtly to slavery.  Galatians 4.

And since so many people have been in slave-based organizations and have been broken there, they believe what they need in order to heal is an extravagant flow of life from their newly appointed father.

But the reality is that both in a fathering relationship and with a predatory leader relationship it begins with massive rights for the father to command and demand, and massive responsibility on the sons to obey and follow.

Now the OUTCOME is different.  In a slave organization, the control continues relentlessly.  You watch those who have been in the organization for years, who by dint of hard work and submission have worked their way up, and even though they may have some fancy titles, they are still slaves.

By contrast, a father like Jesus or Paul progressively transitions a son from massive responsibility to huge rights – ultimately to an inheritance he never worked for but can receive because he has learned to walk in responsibility.

I am continually asked to do the impossible in my fathering.  People come in with a 40 unit problem and they want me to fix their lives by tinkering with just two percent of their discretionary world.

Do the math.  I am not that good.  No father is.

And THAT is why a father needs the position of being able to inflict productive pain on a son, when needed, even though the son is still in unproductive pain from his rotten choices.

This is a model we know well all through the culture.

You go to school as a slave.  Your teacher has broad license to inflict pain on you.  You protest that your brain is bleeding and you need a break.  The teacher/father assures you that millions before you have grown through this process and you will survive too.

Why is the teacher given so much authority to hurt you?  Because they know you won’t inflict enough productive pain on yourself to get where you want to be.

You join the military.  You are a slave, with someone inflicting productive pain on you.

You join a sports team.  You are a slave, with someone inflicting productive pain on you.

The pattern is well established in the culture.

There is no question that most people need a mentor to push them into productive pain to become what they want to be.  And most mentors who are willing to push people hard, push them into unproductive pain, to enlarge the mentor, not the mentee.  That is slave leadership.

But no matter how often the principles of fatherhood are violated by a predatory leader, that does not change the viability of the Biblical model, where the rights are with the father, the responsibilities are with the son, and over time, as the son grows, there  is a transition from responsibilities to rights.

But fatherhood is NOT an ATM machine with unlimited cash for the son to make withdrawals from as desired.

THAT model of being a father will bankrupt me with one son.  AND, ATM fathers don’t produce great sons.  They produce entitled, spoiled brats who are not good for the community they are in.

Sincerely, passionately embracing a wrong model of fathering does not make it work.  It is still a busted model and if a leader allows his mentees to inflict that model on him, he will be busted by them, eventually.


Rejecting the Biblical model of fathering because it looks almost identical to slave-based, exploitive leaders, doesn’t solve the problem either.

There IS a model.  And it DOES work.

Copyright April 2018 by Arthur Burk


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13 Responses to So You Want a Father?

  1. Maryna says:

    Excellent perspective.

  2. jane62 says:

    Instantly applicable, so good! Thanks so much

  3. Patricia Howes says:

    This bubbled up today as I was driving down the road – All you wrote in this blog post is true, “but what of the orphans?”

  4. Elouise says:

    This blog post has gotten me to think about a whole lot of stuff…
    I’ve played out a few of the roles mentioned. I’ve been THOSE people that asked someone to be my spiritual father. Thankfully they declined, because yes, I was not up for cultivating a true relationship. Yes, I expected that having a spiritual father would ensure the disappearance of all my past present and future problems! That was a great deception. My motives were selfish. But I was learning, as I am still doing today. Learning hurts sometimes. No shame in learning. (Just for the record for all us learners.) We have had to figure all this big stuff out without grown-ups and/or with really deficient grown-ups. Tough job to be faced with us, and it needs a lot of wisdom… but we’ll get it eventually. Just so you know.
    And I also busted my first business with being an ATM Father. That model really doesn’t work, I’ve got the scars to prove it. So wanting one and being one, really doesn’t work.
    I’ve also been thinking on ‘rights and responsibilities’.
    Perhaps SLG slang could apply to it like this with the SLG number line.
    At the one extreme you have RIGHTS or roadkill lisence, here you can do whatever suites you because you are hurt. You can get away with murder, the problem is that if that is allowed, all you’ll do, is murder. Tough spot.
    The other extreme is extreme RESPONSIBILITY or ‘white knuckling’. You do everything because it’s the most right thing to do, no matter how you feel you push on and push through.

    And in the middle there is that sweet, sweet spot. Of knowing who you are and why you’re here. And running the race, because you know, that you know, that you are so loved and you are so safe and it is all about Him, and your heart just can’t help beating in tune with His.

    The trick is to keep in mind we’re all in process, all in pursuit, (whether you know it or not) , of that sweet, sweet spot.

  5. I love this….because it is so true. I find so few people actually are ready and desirous to do the work to rise into the character God has for us to live as a beloved child in his family. But, when I do find one who is….what a true treasure it is.

  6. Valynda Henington says:

    Thank you. I needed to hear this today as it follows along with some thoughts which have been rolling around in my spirit!

  7. Brant says:

    Thank you Arthur! A few days ago I was thanking the Father for you and your business, reflecting on the the fathering I was receiving through your products. Thank you for being a great example of how to be wise father.

  8. Pegg Goldenberg says:

    This is so true, Arthur. Thank you!

  9. Maggie says:

    I am glad that God has allowed me to be fathered , and truly shown me that the Pope is not and never will be my father. The apostolic anointing of fathering is precious and I thank God for those like yourself and others who have allowed God to use them to bring correction as well as nurturing to the Body of Christ..

  10. Cynthia says:

    “ATM Fathering” – a new term for our vocab list!

    It also makes me wonder about people who would request so quickly what is essentially a very intimate (albeit involuntary for the biological child!) relationship. It almost sounds like what I’ve heard you referring to as being considered a kind of “app” that people can use as needed & as convenient.

    The father relationship seems very sacred and very personal, and by definition, long-term. It’s certainly a compliment to you in terms of the trust being offered by these people, but I would be tempted to be skeptical about the longevity of their commitment, social contracts & all.

    • SLG says:

      Yes, definitely a new part of SLG slang. And yes, ATM Fathering is a functional alignment, not a human relationship. Fathering is human even when the father is broke, in a war zone and cannot do much of anything for his kids except be there and be their heart companion.

  11. Pam M says:

    Wow! Well said and languaged something I was struggling with. Another key for me which unlocks something I needed unlocked. Thank you!

  12. Jim Powell says:

    Good food to chew on. I will read this again. Thanks Arthur

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