The scriptures above are the last recorded words of God in the Old Testament. After these words, He says nothing for 400 years. It has been said that the last words spoken by someone should carry a lot of weight. Perhaps we should ponder these words that, after spoken, silence takes over for 4 centuries.
The verse is a prophetic one, foretelling of the day that John the Baptist would come. Part of his ministry would include turning the hearts of the fathers to their children, as well as turning the hearts of the children to their father. If this fails to happen, it states, the land will be struck with a curse.
This curse has descended on our land...
I recently heard a minister state that almost half of the babies born today will enter this world without a father. Many men will only impregnate a woman, and then abandon her, which, in turn, spells abandonment of the new-born child.
As fathers we must come to grips with a certain fact: Our lack of involvement in the lives of our children creates a hole in their heart - a hole that we were called to fill. That “hole” only worsens as we remain aloof from their lives.
This begs the question, How Can We Be Better Fathers?
There are many ways we can improve our fathering skills. But observations of my own fathering, and hundreds of others, reveals that we must learn to better our communication skills. This is where many of us are failing: we are not communicating.
In this article I want to emphasize 4 communication techniques that, if implemented, may improve our relationships with our kids.
1- THE POWER OF LISTENING - I recall a heated argument my son Matthew and I had when he was 16. I don’t remember the details of our argument, but I do remember its intensity. It became so heated I thought it would come to blows. I finally shouted at him: “What do you want from me, boy?”
He turned and looked at me. His face was red, his eyes filed with tears. He spoke clearly: “Dad - I want you to listen!”
He had me. I was guilty as charged. I always knew what I thought he should do, or so I thought. But what he often wanted, and needed from me, was a father who would listen.
Being a cop I usually think I know what my kids should do in just about any situation. I’m trained to direct people onto the right path. And, of course, there is a place for doing this. But if your fathering methods are primarily you giving advice, you’ve shot yourself in the foot. You will turn them off.
James 1:19 tells us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak...” This is some of the best advice a father can ever heed.
Next time your kids strike up a conversation with you, try listening. Don’t interrupt with advice. Don’t say anything. Listen to them as if the world depends on it. You will make a lasting impression on them. Furthermore, you will discover that they will come to you often. And after a while you will notice that they covet your advice. Listening to them will win their heart and trust.
Once you win their heart, they will be more open than ever in matters that you once thought they'd never share. They will tell you all kinds of things. But remember, you must win them, and the winning is done by means of listening.
When Jesus arrived at the grave of Lazarus he let everyone speak their mind. Mary and Martha complained to him about his absence, reminding him that if he’d been there earlier, Lazarus would still be alive. I love the fact that Jesus just let them talk - spill their guts, so to speak. He knew they needed to let out some pent-up frustration. And when they escorted him to the grave, we are told that he wept. He would have something to say in time, but for now he chose to enter into their grief and share their sorrow.
When my daughter Rachel was in the 7th grade she tried out for cheerleader. She didn’t make it. She came home that night hurt, and sobbed like a baby. Her sisters (Stephani, Katey, and Lydia) were there when she got home. All of us together joined with Rachel and sobbed for an hour! No advice, no “there’s always next year.” Nope, none of that. We just all cried. We were communicating (she got cheerleader the next year!).
Weeping with your child is another is another way of listening.
Fathers, I plead with you to consider the following...
THE POWER OF TOUCH
I once read about a study conducted at UCLA. They determined that children need 8 to 15 meaningful touches everyday. This is an area where many fathers have failed terribly. This is where many of us have remained cold and distant. The damage we have done to our children due to our lack of affection is horrendous.
I know that some of us were raised by fathers who did not exhibit affection. They were uncomfortable with doing so perhaps. But if we struggle in this area, we must break free from this sin of omission. If we are Christian fathers, we could - and should - become experts at demonstrating affection.
Jesus was powerful in this aspect. He touched those who were often outcasts, rejects, wanted by no one. He understood that in the practice of touch, a broken heart could be mended, a lifeless body could even be restored. He touched the leper, the sick, the dead, little children. There was something powerful in the touch of Christ.
Do you touch your children? Do you hug them? Do you at least shake their hand? Have you ever considered that the power that was in the touch of Christ is the same power that is in you, and manifests through you when you touch your children? Have you considered the fact that your loving, affectionate touch on your children can actually affect the course of their day?
Jesus said of His disciples, “They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark 16). There has been much debate about this verse down through the years, but even modern science has confirmed the power of a meaningful touch. Your touch may not heal your child’s cold; but it can impart a sense of love, warmth, and assurance.
You may complain that you’re simply not comfortable in doing so, that your not the “touchy-feely” type. So what! You need to rid yourself of any traditional thinking you may have that hinders your affection. Your children’s lives are at stake! Do you want them to have memories of you withholding affection, refusing to hug them, not even shaking their hand? Do you really want them to have such a testimony when they are older?
THE POWER OF WORDS
I have a police officer friend who’s father passed away quite some time ago. This friend of mine, Larry (not his real name), not only grieved over the loss of his father, but also over the fact that he had nomemory of his father ever telling him he was proud of him. Furthermore, he could seldom recall his father saying, “I love you son.”
Why do fathers not do this? Why do we refuse to speak words of affirmation to our children?
Now get this: When Jesus was baptized his Father told him, “You are My Son. I love you. I am well-pleased with you.” Fellow fathers, if God thought it necessary to tell His Son those things, is it not essential that you speak the same to your sons and daughters?
Your children need to hear your words of acceptance and love. How many sons and daughters are out in the world today, having long since left home, but are still suffering because you - DAD! - did not speak words of affirmation?!?! They are confused as to why they are so driven, so miserable, so depressed. And yet if the truth be known, it could well be traced back to a father who surely loved them and was even proud of them - but never TOLD them so!
Oh my! What have we done, fathers? What have we done to our children with our heartlessness? I am not saying you are a bad dad. I am not even trying to make you feel bad. No! A thousand times no! I am asking you to break away from your cold heartedness (yes, that is what it is, and you don’t even like being that way). I am asking you to repent and reach out to your children and communicate to them - WITH WORDS - that you love them, that you are proud of them, and that you are pleased with them. Say it today.
Remember: If you fail to speak affirming words to your children, they may well repeat your error. Your grandkids and great grandkids may suffer from the same pain your kids do, brought on by your refusal to break old and wrongful traditions you had about fathering.
THE POWER OF COURAGE
Our last one has to do with courage. I want to combine the issue of faith into courage, also. In a sense, they go together. And I say this because of a terrible failure I have often committed as a father - as well as a husband. What I would give to be able to go back in time and remedy this one.
What I mean is this. If I could go back and start over my fathering days, I would exercise greater care on how I conducted myself in the presence of my children.
For example, I would...
Demonstrate greater faith in the face of fear...
Not panic when an unexpected bill came in the mail...
Not be so easily bothered when things went wrong...
These are just three. There are dozens more. I regret that my kids grew up watching a father who panicked in the face of difficulty and hard times.
I wish they had seen a father who demonstrated calm in the midst of a storm: a father who exhibited a childlike faith when bills came rolling in, when the car broke down, or when things broke around the house.
I wish I had been more of a Braveheart - a William Wallace. A warrior instead of a whiner. I wish my kids had seen me exhibit more courage in the face of danger, and weep over the sorrow of peoples’ lives - not over a stopped up sink. I wish they had seen a father who was always trusting God, instead of a Chicken Little, convinced that the sky was falling.
And oh how I wish they had not seen a dad who so easily succumbed to anger! I grew up watching angry parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, I did not stop the madness, but, to some degree, continued the insanity. I thank God for the relief He has graciously granted me, but I still find myself often weeping over the days my kids had to see my ugly temper.
In sum, I wish they had seen more of a Jesus-like character flowing from me. Jesus was the perfect example of what a man should be. He didn’t live in fear or panic, and He was always looking to His Father, confident that He would come through for him.
Fellow fathers, let me close with a word of encouragement. You must know that the suggestions I have listed here are something you can do. The life of Jesus indwells you by the Holy Spirit. He is all that we need, and he is willing and eager to help us. So let his life flow through you and you’ll be amazed at what happens.
Your best days are ahead.