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The Fragility of Fatherhood | Theology of the Family Theology of the Family

The Fragility of Fatherhood

The man in a family has to be strong in many ways. There is a primary responsibility of protection which falls to the father. Psychological studies have shown that where the father is absented from the family a host of negative things occur which are way out of proportion in comparison to an intact family. There is a large increase of poverty, psychiatric issues, abuse, etc. (cf. Faith Factor in Fatherhood).

While a husband and father is called to be strong in various ways, there is also a real fragility to fatherhood that most men experience. And it can be paralyzing. We are called to be defenders, to protect, to lead. But we also know all too well our own fragilities and shortcomings. If we are honest, we haul ourselves (sometimes reluctantly) to confession to acknowledge where we have sinned, sometimes grievously, against those we love. What right do I have to lead anymore? We are painfully aware that we are not perfect, we do not have all the answers, we are not always sure of the way forward… and yet others are depending on us, our wives and our children. We are all too aware that our feet are of clay. We are aware of our woundedness and our vulnerability.

Now, a wounded warrior is not much good to a captain of a regiment, especially in battle. But that is precisely the type of man that Jesus desires. The power of God can only enter into a life when we acknowledge our own weaknesses. The irony is that we cannot serve the Lord until we realize how poor we truly are. Spiritual values are often the inverse of those of the so-called normal world. In God’s view, the poor are blessed, the humble inherit the earth, and the weak become the place where God’s grace can finally shine through. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10).

The temptation for any man is to despair that he could ever lead, that he could help, that he could guide his family. Aware of his own weaknesses, his own vulnerabilities, he can become paralyzed into inaction. How many sons and daughters are left bereft of the encouraging word, the guidance, the spiritual challenge that only a Dad can give because the father felt inadequate. The reality is that we are inadequate! That will never change.

But as we open ourselves to the reality of Jesus, and begin to live with Him, His life begins to flow through our lives. Through us, Jesus will guide, He will protect, He will show the way. But it is His strength and His wisdom, not our own. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13). As we learn to surrender to Him, the Lord will show us the way forward in our own lives and in the lives of our families and give us the strength to follow Him. Ironically, our weakness actually becomes the point at which the divine exchange takes place and we experience the strength and power of God… if we let go and open ourselves to Him. “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Ps 37:5).

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