A Father’s Zeal for the Real
I am a zealous father but not a very well-rounded one. I don’t like professional sports (my kids mock Dad’s half-hearted efforts to cheer our Chiefs to the Super Bowl) and I exhaust my carpentry skills by nailing two pieces of wood together for Living Waters’ crosses when all else fails.
I do pray constantly for my kids though: I see something in them that they don’t. I’ve unique authority to help ensure that Jesus is foundational to their lives and to point out kindly (I hope) the disorder that results from investing too much in any other foundation. I am pretty good at summoning and saying what is best and true about them. I don’t lose sight of that, especially when they do.
That is more than attentive fathering. It is nothing less than the Spirit of prophecy, which St. Paul urges all believers to seek above other inspired gifts (1 Cor. 14: 1-5). Much more than futuristic glimpses or spotlighting one’s odd secrets, prophecy catches the current of God’s truthful jet stream about this beloved life--yes, beloved to me, but how much more to the ONE who made and redeemed him or her? Prophecy is the ultimate gift we give to those we love by catching that inspired wave, offering it humbly, thereby building up others profoundly.
Prophecy, and the Spirit of prophecy poured out upon fathers, figure in big at Christmas. Both the prophet Malachi (Mal. 3:23) and the angel Gabriel (Lk. 1:17) prophesied that John the Baptist would ‘turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children, and children back to their fathers’ as preparation for Jesus’ coming.
We as fathers must turn first! We must repent of our half-hearted vision and frustrated speech that smolders rather than ignites the way of the Lord in our families. Perhaps we have ceded to others what God has entrusted to us as fathers. If we want the hearts of our kids to be turned toward us and the Spirit of the Heavenly Father, we must get low and lament for them. We can ask the Spirit of prophecy to rest on us: to pray with and through us, and to provoke us with heavenly, well-aimed words that can light their path.
What struck me this Christmas was the power of Zechariah’s prophecy over his son, John the Baptist. That father had been rendered mute by religious unbelief; once consumed by the Holy Spirit, however, he found his voice and uttered one of the most stunning prophecies in all of Scripture concerning his son (Lk. 1:68-79). How essential that prophecy was! In order for John ‘to turn the hearts of fathers back to children’, his own father had to turn toward his son. Zechariah repented and made a way for John to make a way for all of us to know this Jesus!
Now, you could argue, these are superstars, us fathers and kids just minor players in the greater spiritual scheme. Not so! Your Spirit-inspired vision for your son or daughter is just as essential as Zechariah’s for tending to the spiritual best of your son or daughter. Your children face a host of impasses to mature faith that Jesus will give you sight and sound to address.
An example. Many years ago, I could see deep trouble in my son Sam. I interceded for hours at the local parish and asked God to intervene, Things got worse before better; we kicked him out of the house, he unraveled more, then came back like a whipped prodigal and began the long turn forward to Jesus, sobriety, reality. The whole time I prayed as much as I talked to him.
We begin on our knees then implore our children: ‘Be reconciled to God!’
Last week, in the same parish, the zeal of the Father overtook me, and I began to pray again for Sam in the power of the Spirit. I could see untapped resources in him much needed by his family and friends. I caught something of the Spirit of prophecy, interceded with fire, and on Christmas was able to express that leading to him. Sam is now a father of three; God is calling him to make a way for his children to know this good God through godly example and instruction. And I am still responsible for reminding Sam of that call!
May zeal for the best in our children consume us as fathers! Might we trust the Father to activate us to do our part. Filled with the Holy Spirit, may we break Zechariah’s silence--our silence--as to prophesy a path of holiness and wholeness for each son and daughter, who in turn may make a way for generations-to-come!