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The Role of a Father

Lisa Barry: Elisabeth Elliot comes from a long line of writers. Some of have written books; others have been editors and educators. Today and for the next two weeks, Elisabeth will be reading a book written by her grandfather. The book is entitled FATHER AND SON. The goal is to lead young men out of the more childish ways of life and into the responsibility of adulthood and parenthood. If you're a young man thinking about settling down and having a family, you'll appreciate the timeless wisdom of this book. If you're a woman, you'll find principles to apply that transcend gender. It's all coming up next, so here's Elisabeth Elliot to get us started with this Monday edition of Gateway To Joy. Here she is.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, delighted to begin reading today a book written by my grandfather, Philip E. Howard. It was written to his son, my father, Philip E. Howard, Jr. The book is called FATHER AND SON. I'm delighted to know that it is being brought back into print.

The first chapter is on "Preparing for Fatherhood." "What is it to be a father, anyway? What is the father's real place in the home, especially in his relation to that boy of his? What is a father for? To support the family and to chip in an occasional hint on management and to stand as a square-shouldered, competent buffer between this rude, jostling world and that group at home?

"All of this, indeed. But what more? Every man of us knows that there is a lot more to fatherhood than that, yet how easy it is to become hazy as to the fine points of this wonderful task and privilege of fathering.

"For example, how much thorough and conscious preparation does a young man usually undertake in order to be all that a father ought to be? Years to become a good engineer, chemist, doctor, teacher, preacher. He'll spend an elaborate sum and costly toil and patient sacrifice.

"But come now, honestly, how many of us have especially studied the best that can be found on how to be a real father? He must begin young, very young. So young that when he has boys of his own, he can enter with keen sympathy into their boyhood problems through vivid memory of what such days meant to him when he looked far ahead and resolved to create no possible hereditary handicaps for the boys that might be his.

"If any man of us did not begin as young as he now wishes he had, let him begin now and be grateful that our God so often most lovingly breaks through heredity, smashes its cold theories and sends His mercy like a cleansing stream, sweeping away what we feared might be passed onto the boy who is dearer to us than life.

"Do you remember that encouraging word of Thomas Fuller's, a chaplain of Oliver Cromwell's time? It's a good passage for a father, in all humility and gratitude, to tuck away in his memory. 'Lord, I find the genealogy of my Savior strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations. Number one, Rehoboam begat Abijah; that is, a bad father begat a bad son. Number two, Abijah begat Asa; that is, a bad father begat a good son. Number three, Asa begat Jehoshaphat; that is, a good father, a good son. Number four, Jehoshaphat begat Joram; that is, a good father, a bad son. I see, Lord, from hence that my father's piety cannot be entailed. That is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary. That is good news for my son.'

"Good news, indeed, for every man as he looks into the clear eyes of his boy and resolves in Christ's strength and grace to prepare now, as never before perhaps, for right fathering. He must allow a large section of time in his life program for fatherhood. It takes time. It cannot fairly be allotted the fag ends of physical and mental vigor.

"One father, perhaps one of the busiest men of our time, a man of worldwide interests, great productivity and the writing of important books and away from home in public work about half his time, has for years made it his rule to take one Sunday a month out of his crowded schedule of addresses to devote to his home in family fellowship and family attendance upon the services of the church. On all his weekday home evenings, a certain time after dinner is carefully set apart before he goes to his study as the children's own time. It is theirs, and father is there absolutely, with no distractions of lesser importance, such as books waiting to be written.

"One of our ablest American lawyers, and a leader as well in the affairs of his denomination and city and state, has made it his custom to decline ordinarily to make addresses on Sunday. That would take him away from home, because he has set apart on that day for his children the free hours between church services. Then they have the right of way. Their claims are held inviolate and sacred. A regular time (of course, plus other special times) is in this busy man's program as belonging to his children."

And I will put in a parenthesis here that I read that the average father in America today spends three minutes per week with his children.

"A father should get clear and act uncompromisingly on the foundations of personal faith in Christ, so that he will have his own footing on solid ground and be well able to lead the boy securely and satisfyingly. That means Bible study, a clear stand for Christ, membership in a church and well-defined reasons for the faith that he holds."

I'm going to read those points again for you fathers who earnestly desire to be godly fathers. It means Bible study. It means a clear stand for Christ, membership in a church and well-defined reasons for the faith that he holds.

"The father who is not a believing Christian, working at the job, is furnishing a very murky and miasmatic atmosphere for his boy at home. Let a man not simply because of his own salvation get clear and act unequivocally on his relation to Christ, but let him be fully assured that he is crippled in advance as a father. If he doesn't know what he ought to know about Christ and doesn't do what he ought to do to make his testimony for Christ valid and effective, there is no use in blinking the issue. All the good technical books in child study and psychology of varied application, and all one's experience in practical dealings with the boys in the home, come short of their usefulness as guides to better fatherhood if the father is simply groping along in a religious fog.

'How does your father look at these questions?' was asked of a boy who was discussing with an older friend the boy's religious convictions, which were very hazy. 'Well, I don't exactly know,' the boy replied. 'Lately, he has got hold of something or other. Something new, I guess. New thought, maybe. But not just that. And he doesn't say much, but reads a lot and seems to have something or other. But I don't know what.'

"Do you wonder that the boy is groping, too? Have you considered what it means to be a growing boy to be certain chiefly of one thing in his religious thinking, and that is that his father has 'something or other,' but he doesn't know what? This is just now a particularly confusing time religiously for the boy. Conflicting voices reach him from every side.

"A father must prepare to keep young. That means deliberate planning, too. As sure you as you live, even though now you may be only a year or two out of college or training school, the interests you have in track and field, in diamond and gridiron, in swim and hike and the glow of a campfire will not survive the pressure of business and professional cares, unless you keep up and keep on in some of these blessedly refreshing things. Some day, if you are not on your guard, you will get too busy or too tired or too lazy to do anymore than talk like a has-been and show the boys your medals. But hold onto your ability and interest in some of these things so that you can let your boys know you are with them for all you are worth.

"My father used to take me hunting with him when I was so small that he would give me a lift by carrying me on his gun case, where I stood with one foot on either side of his hand and holding with both my hands to his shoulder. In practice as a country physician, he used to take me on long rides, telling me about his work and showing me some of his surgical results."

This of course is my great-grandfather that my grandfather is writing about. He was a doctor in Massachusetts.

My grandfather goes on to say, "He taught me to manage horses and to ride when I was eight. He took me on an Adirondack deer hunt when I was 15, and was more elated than I when I got a buck. He boxed with me, and gave me all I wanted when he was 50 and I was a college boy.

"And now that it's my turn, do you mind if I say that it seems to me that I still ought to be preparing for a fatherhood that I greatly desire should increasingly mean something to my two college boys and the girls, too? I work and play with them on their own terms."

Oh, I wish I could read you the whole book, but I haven't got time. But it's from my grandfather Howard's book called FATHER AND SON. I'll read you some more tomorrow.

Lisa Barry: What great wisdom. The words were so carefully chosen in that book that I find myself concentrating to grasp every word. For that reason, I'm going to get a copy of the book to read for myself, because I'll be able to read it carefully and thoroughly. I hope you'll decide to do the same.

The cost for the hardcover book is $15.50. To purchase it, you can simply send that amount, along with a note asking for the book entitled FATHER AND SON. Send it to this address: Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501.

Since it's a holiday today, there's no one in the office. But you can still place an order today through our resource center. It's quick, easy and secure. But ordering isn't the only thing you can do there. You'll also find upcoming program topics, daily devotions, listening guides and much more. To find our resource center, you can access it through the Internet at gatewaytojoy.org.

Gateway To Joy is a listener-supported production of Back to the Bible, and we rely on your generosity every single day. If you believe in this program and depend on it for your spiritual growth, would you help make that possible for others? Your gifts bring this program to people who might not hear it otherwise, and we thank you.

Tomorrow Elisabeth picks up where she left off with a challenge for men to be partners with motherhood. That's next time with Gateway To Joy.

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