In light of yesterday being Father’s Day, I thought I’d share one NBA player’s fatherly thoughts. Dwayne Wade was recently awarded full custody of his kids, and reflects upon the glory and opportunity of being a father. He described fatherhood not simply as an opportunity but also as a necessity, reflecting upon his own father’s example to him.
All children need their fathers, but boys especially need fathers to teach them how to be men. I remember wanting that so badly before I went to live with my dad. I wanted someone to teach me how to tie a tie and walk the walk, things only a man can teach a boy.
Dwayne Wade is definitely on to something here. Moms can teach lads to tie ties, but exactly how to “walk the walk,”is something best taught by dads. I found Dwayne Wade’s take on parenting particularly appropriate given the backdrop of athletes, like one N.Y. Jets defensive back, who has so many kids (with different women) that he actually couldn’t remember all their names. That’s pretty sad. At one point, the NBA comprised a number of people like him, when it was regular for NBA dads to have kids with different last names. I hope that we can see more Wade’s and fewer Shawn Kemp’s.
I even felt challenged by Wade’s fatherhood.
My dad and I bumped heads a lot—we were so alike, both of us born competitors. My older son, Zaire, is exactly the same way. We’ll battle on the court when I’m 39 and he’s 19. He’s 9 now, and he’s grown up with basketball. Zion could take it or leave it, which is cool by me.
Connar loves baseball, which is “cool by me.” But what if he didn’t? What if he changes to hockey (hypothetically speaking of course) or something not using a ball or a rod? What if Cade doesn’t? I hope its “cool by me.”
Dwayne seems to have had a decent dad. But what about kids without Dads due to divorce, death, or because they are deadbeats? Is there hope? Are they doomed to repeat the cycle? While many folks do fall into that pattern, the gospel does offer us hope. Seriously, and practically. I’ve seen folks who have had bad dads or no dads at all become good dads. So I know its possible. And here’s why I think its possible.
1.) There are plenty of unbelieving good dads, but one way Christians have a “leg up” on the “competition” is that we take our cues from a Heavenly Father. We can know what a good father looks like because we have a good Father in heaven (Matthew 7:11). God provides for his children, therefore we provide for our children. God invites us into a special relationship with Him allowing us to call him “Abba” (Rom 8:15 ), therefore our kids ought to have a special relationship with us. A special relationship that our neighbors’ kids will not get. While we don’t necessarily share the same sense of “abba” as Jesus did since he is the eternal Son of God, we do have a special familial closeness now. There is a special backstage pass our children are granted. They have special access. Our sonship is distinct from Jesus, yet it is nevertheless real. So real that we have an idea of what a Father looks like.
John 20:17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Some folks don’t like using language of God as a “Father,” because they read back into our Heavenly Father the baggage from our earthly fathers. But it is more than just feminists who’ve had bad experiences with their fathers. Even bible translators as part of “Insider Movements” have begun to translate the word “Father” as “Guardian,” because it is more palatable for Muslims. But I think we miss something of our Heavenly Father when you take away that word/concept, and my denomination seems to agree.
2.) I think there’s another resource a Christian can draw from when discerning how to be a good father when he himself didn’t have one: the church. We know what good dads look like because we can see them. We can ask them questions. We can learn from their mistakes, as well as their wisdom, which naturally come best through their mistakes. But even those of us who don’t have fathers, can find a number of fathers in the church. Good fathers have the opportunity to be a father figure to kids who may have never had one. There is hope to break the cycle of bad dads in this world: good news in a world without a shortage of them.