by Stephen Simpson
Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2009

FULFILLING OUR CALL IN THIS GENERATION

Sailboat in a stormThe wind-whipped gray mist enveloped our boat and danced with the salty spray blown from the tops of chocolate-colored waves. Shallow Mobile Bay was being roiled by a wild waterspout and we were right in the middle of it.

I was a little boy, just getting acquainted with life on the water, along for the ride with some well-seasoned boaters. I had never been in waterspout before.

Not to spoil the suspense, but I survived that storm, and a few other storms over the years. One thing that I have learned is that not all of the worst storms come from the weather. Some of the most difficult storms in life happen in relationships, in health, in your wallet or in your soul.

On that day on Mobile Bay, we rode out the storm in a small, aging cabin cruiser named “Victory”. After bucking through the sudden squall, we limped back to the rustic marina tucked near the mouth of Dog River, only to discover that the two boats tied to the docks had sunk during the storm. How strange to think that bigger boats tied in a seemingly safer location had not fared as well as “Victory” and its crew.

Experiences like that leave an indelible mark on a little boy, and I have never forgotten that day. While I did not lose my love for the sea, I certainly gained a healthy, respect for it.

My Dad, was at the wheel that day, and his Dad was standing in the wheelhouse next to him, along with other men that I highly respected. While the storm was definitely alarming, I also remember the great sense of comfort I felt knowing that Dad was in the boat with me.

Sadly, I am part of a generation that is itself characterized by fatherlessness, and too many young people are in stormy waters with no father beside them to guide and protect them. God has promised to be a “Father to the fatherless,” and also to “put the solitary in families”. Father God sent Jesus to reveal His Fatherhood to us, and to “Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.” The need for godly fathers, and a restoration of godly fatherhood, has never been more acute than it is today.

Fathers are called to bring identity, direction, protection, provision, and care to their children … to be a “shepherd” in their home. This requires a tremendous amount of grace, wisdom, courage, and strength. It means we must be pro-active, intentional, strategic, and vigilant.

And, if we do not want to see our society brought utterly to ruin in this generation, it means that we must also reach out beyond our own homes and into places where abandonment and pain have ruled the roost for too long.

The church also has very important roles to play in this process. If we are carrying the mission of Jesus Christ, then we must recognize that He was sent to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers” (Malachi 4:6). And He has given that same mission to His disciples (see the previous issue of One to One Magazine).

Churches are called to be both proactive and restorative; that is, we are called to grow strong and healthy families that are able to bear good fruit, and we are also called to bring healing and restoration to those who are in peril or broken.

This means that we work on two fronts: equipping and discipling new families, and also bringing redemption to those who have suffered in dysfunctional families. In particular, men must be trained how to be good sons so that they can be good fathers. Fathers must be encouraged and focused on protecting, providing, and praying for their wives and children. This means that spiritual fathers and churches must devote more time, energy, and resources toward this kind of practical training.

Likewise, churches must also develop resources for ministering to those in dysfunctional and even dangerous situations. So many children today are suffering in broken homes; some even must endure terrible abuse. Bringing help and healing is seldom a neat, simple, or easy process, and spiritual fathers must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches.

Christian Dads and Moms must, of course, start first in their own homes with their own children and extended families. However, as disciples of Jesus, we must also be willing to get into the boat with those who are tempest-tossed and guide them safely into harbor.

Scripture Reference: Malachi 4:6