Elisabeth Elliot on the Christian Father

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Examining the male parent’s role.

This article originally appeared in the June 18, 1971, issue of Christianity Today. It was republished June 19, 2015, to commemorate the death of Elisabeth Elliot.

Time was when a gift indicated some degree of thoughtfulness. Nowadays when Father’s Day comes around it is no trick at all—it requires no thoughtfulness, hardly even any thought—to grab a bottle of shaving lotion for dear old dad. The supermarkets have arranged such items close by the checkout counter, for impulse buyers, which most of us are now and then. So we have a gift for father, and he thanks us for it but has no way of knowing whether we actually gave the matter some thought or are merely susceptible to advertising.

Most of us will acknowledge that we are indeed highly susceptible. We are buffeted and bludgeoned every day of our lives, from every side, by advertising that discolors, distorts, and in the end may even completely revise our images. To be a Christian in spite of this, to try to keep on being a Christian, to think in a Christian instead of a pagan way, and to accept ones God-given place in this world as Christians must accept their places, is a relentlessly hard job.

One of the images that has been grossly distorted, I believe, is that of the father. “Father image,” “authority figure,” “the old man,” these phrases are often used derisively or at least patronizingly. Television depicts with ho-hum regularity the baffled father, hopelessly naïve and incompetent, bested at every turn by his cute and clever wife and his brilliant and condescending children. He tries hard to swing with them but ends up stumbling and bumbling, providing little more than the big laughs.

Who is this dolt, this buffoon, this dancing bear? If this is the “role of the father,” who wants it? Men do not, I suppose, object to thinking of themselves as brothers, buddies, lovers, and husbands, but how many are willing to consider, seriously and for more than five minutes, themselves as fathers? When a man has just become a father, surely he thinks about it, tries to get it into his head that he has begotten a son or a daughter and, if the child is a son, that his name is to be carried to another generation. But let him get back to the office and he is at once the object of jibes and jokes. As a feeble defense he passes out cigars.

As a mother with the responsibility of rearing a child whose father had died before she was a year old, I probably did a lot of dreaming about what it would have been like for my daughter, and for me, if he had lived. He was, of course, in those dreams, the perfect father. But in real life I watched other fathers, many of them Christians, and it seemed to me that too few of them understood, fully accepted, or gave thanks for the responsibility that God had given them.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Elisabeth Elliot

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