Fathers are the idols of young children. Solomon observed that the “glory of children are their fathers” (Proverbs 17:6). And we readily see this among young children. “My dad is stronger than your dad”, is what other boys said to me when I was just a young lad. I would tell them how strong and clever my dad was, and they would scoff at my claims and make their own counter-claims. Most children start out with a high regard for their daddy. They innocently think highly of him. They expect him to be their hero and they seem to know instinctively that their own identity is established on the strengths of their father.
In time, however, these same children come to the shocking realisation that their hero dad is made of clay. He is not as clever or as worthy of unbridled trust and honour as they once thought. They observe his failings, feel the brunt of his personality, see him demeaned in the eyes of others and otherwise come to realise that he is just another man, possibly less noble than some. This point of realisation, the moment that the dad becomes a “fallen hero’ and ‘fallen idol“, is a critical time for the development of the child. This is the moment when the child will reveal his or her true character and can potentially make some of the greatest personal gains to that point in their life. You see, a child who is carried along in childish naiveté has not had their heart tested. But when they face pain, disappointment and similar challenges their true heart condition can be revealed. Your child’s heart is the most important territory you will ever have responsibility for. When you child faces the shock of their father being a fallen idol, they must make a choice. They can choose to despise their dad and hold resentment in their heart. They can choose to become self-reliant and independent, or even angry and violent. Alternatively, with godly parental guidance, the child can face the unhappy reality of human imperfection and choose to honour and love their dad, despite his weaknesses and limitations.
When your child is young and innocent they will readily give you their heart. But at some time in the future they may well come to withdraw their heart from you. That’s when the calling which Solomon describes becomes most powerful. “My son, give me your heart” (Proverbs 23:26) is not the request we make of our little children. It is the request we make of those older children who have been offended by our weakness, disappointed by our humanness, hurt by our failure to be all they want us to be.
And that’s the moment of incredible opportunity for your child. If your child can and will obey God, choosing to honour you, and give you their heart, despite the unhappy feelings you invoke within them, then your child has stepped into a powerful place of maturity and wisdom. They inherit the blessings of God. They qualify to be godly seed. Dad’s, the discouragement your children feel through you is not just a part of growing up, it is a crucial cross-roads in their heart. Mums and dads, watch for this moment and shepherd your child through it. Fathers, don’t be afraid of being the fallen idol in your child’s heart – but do have wisdom about how you direct your child through that challenging season.