A few weeks back the father of a 12 year old boy sent me an email.  He was having difficulty with his son and asked if I could help.  It was a request for professional help but as I read it a thought came to my mind.  This is a dad who wants to be a dad and a good one, but he is finding it tough.  I invited him to come and chat about what was happening and we could take it from there.

As we started to talk, Jack shared how much he loved his son.  He talked about the difficulties of seeing his son grow and change.  He was once a good boy but seemed to be developing a rebellious, defiant streak.  He was concerned because his son was not following through with some things and this needed to be addressed.  He said that he loved his son unconditionally.  However in the conversation he talked about how his son made him unhappy.  We explored that a little more ... you love your son unconditionally but when he appears ungrateful or lacks effort, then he makes you unhappy.  Pause ... What do you think the son thinks?  This dad is sharp ... he knew where I was going ... he tells his son that he loves him unconditionally but his son picks up his father's disapproval when he doesn't perform.  The son does not connect with unconditional love but performance.

I don't think it's a huge deal when we admit we cannot love unconditionally.  The problem comes when we say we do, but in reality we don't.  That's what provokes the confusion and the conflict.  Honesty is the best policy.  And as dads we simply need to admit when we've missed it.  Kids forgive and sometimes even forget.  They'll give us the opportunity to get the mud off our faces and try again.  Or maybe we simply need to direct them somewhere else?

Our conversation continued into the revelation of God's love.  Jack said without a doubt that God loves unconditionally.  As we chatted more though he used the same words he'd mentioned earlier; 'I make God unhappy when...'.  And that's really what I want to get at.  I don't know if we can parent any differently than the way we see God parenting us.  If we're confused about how He loves us, we'll reflect the same confusing love to our children - we don't even have to try!  It just happens.  That creates insecurities because we don't know if God is glad, mad or sad at us.

This conversation went deeper with questions like; 'What is righteousness?', 'What do I have to do to be righteous?'.  It amazes me that we can readily admit that God the Father demonstrated His love for us by giving us His Son Jesus.  We know that this love is unconditional.  Yet in the same breath we think that being free from sin, praying, reading our bibles and doing other good works makes us more righteous.  As I said, Jack is a good dad and he wants to be.  That unfortunately is the downfall of most of us.  We want to be good.  However the gospel is not about good or evil, right or wrong, success or failure but life and death.  The good of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is still death.  

Jack has lots to think about.  Righteousness is 'right standing'.  We can have favour with the Father, be in right relationship with Him, because of what Jesus has done.  Good or bad works take us neither closer of further away from the love of God.  His love is freely given.  He is a happy God and is completely satisfied with Jesus' obedience on our behalf.  When we catch that, then our kids catch that.  When we don't get that, our kids actually catch our own feelings of unworthiness before God.  There is no perfect parent.  Our kids don't need perfect parents.  They need to know there is an unconditional love out there and it's from a loving Father.  He is the one that will never fail us.  One of my favourite songs is by Shane & Shane and they sing about a dad who loves his daughter.  However, dad will fail and won't be there all time, but someone else will.  You can listen to 'The One You Need' here.

What's happened to Jack.  I don't know yet.  I've left him with some resources like 'The Gospel in Ten Words' by Paul Ellis and 'God's Kind of Love - The Cure For What Ails Ya' by Andrew Wommack.  We'll hook up sometime in the next few weeks and continue chatting.  My desire is that he will see he does not need to be the perfect parent.  He is not trying to model that.  If Jack thinks his job is simply to imitate Jesus by doing outwards works, he'll wilt under that pressure.  He needs to simply connect with the life and unconditional love of Father God (that's what Jesus did) and help keep his son's heart open to do the same.   

9/6/2013 10:39:24 pm

Great post Steve. Made me question how unconditional the love I present to my son actually is

10/6/2013 01:12:04 pm

Well put. We need to understand that unconditional love, or any love for that matter, is not a work but a state of being. Daddy is love, He does not work at love.


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