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.
ATM fathering IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.
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