Guest post by Steve Lambert
Former pastor and Publisher of Five in a Row
There comes a time in doing pastoral counseling when you run out of answers and you need to stall a moment and ask God for wisdom. Through the years, I had developed a question that would buy me a minute or two of silence to cry out to the Lord for insight in difficult situations. I would ask, “when you pray, how do you see God? Do you envision an ancient man on a throne, or a resurrected Jesus, or a gentle shepherd or perhaps the celestial heavens?” Most people would pause to consider while I prayed with urgency for direction and help.
But one day I got a startling answer from a troubled young woman. She began crying softly and as I waited she finally responded, “I see newsprint?” I wasn’t prepared for that answer. I probed gently, “do you mean, like a page of newspaper?” She nodded. I waited. Finally I ventured another question, “do you have any idea why you see newsprint when you pray?” The tears came in a flood now as she nodded.
At last, she composed herself enough to speak.
“I never saw my father’s face when I bared my soul to him. When I would talk to him all I ever saw was the back of the newspaper he was reading as he vaguely responded with an occasional ‘uh-huh’ or ‘oh’ while I poured out my heart to him. I know that when I pray, God isn’t paying any attention to me because he has more important things to do than listen to my problems.” I sat stunned.
As fathers, perhaps nothing we do is as important as realizing we shape our children’s understanding of the character and nature of God–for better or worse. How we listen, how we respond, what we say and what we do offers a blueprint. Could there possibly be a more sobering thought? Each inattentive moment where we’re watching the football game on the screen across the room, or checking or email on our phone, or wishing they would stop their incessant babbling defines God a bit more clearly for our child.
The things we buy them, or the vacations we plan for our children are important. But they pale in comparison to the image of what a father is like; an image which we define little by little, day by day. It is the most important job we will ever have. I ask that you pray over this truth. Talk about it with the Lord. Ask Him to help you become His ambassador and represent His nature and character accurately in the lives of the little ones around you. Even if you didn’t grow up with a good example in your own natural father, the Lord can help you become the kind of father who helps your children know the nature of their heavenly Father.