Dad taught us the Word. Though he was a pastor, the main way Dad taught us the Bible when we were little was through family worship. Every night: Bible reading, discussion, prayer, singing, catechism. Sometimes Dad was exhausted, sometimes we wouldn’t stop laughing, sometimes the phone kept ringing, but family worship was still consistent. Those times, with their age-specific teaching, enabled us to apply basic biblical principles to daily living, but also to “get” what was going on in worship sooner than we otherwise would have. It didn’t stop when we got big, and it put things into our heads that have never left.
Dad protected us. None of us (there were six) ever doubted that Dad would do whatever it took to keep us safe. A father cannot protect his children from everything—only God is all-knowing and all-powerful. But a dad should provide safety where it is possible. When we were hurt, we went to Mum; when we felt vulnerable, we went to Dad. One time we were at a large picnic gathering and another big kid who was prone to bullying held me under water in the pool. Other adults intervened and I popped up, but despite being a strong swimmer, it scared me: I went and found Dad. There was no hug or “You’ll be all right, Honey.” Instead, there was one question—“Where is he?”—then about ten minutes later the assurance that the kid would never come near me again. He didn’t. Dad had made it safe. When a child has protection and knows it, it gives them freedom.
Dad provided for us. Growing up, we knew nothing about our parents’ finances. We only knew, and we only had to know, that there would always be food on the table and a roof over our heads. Dad was a hard worker, and we understood that it meant we would have enough to eat. That also gives a child security.
Dad enjoyed time with us. Friday night at our house was movie night—the only time of the week that we watched a screen. There was special finger-food that we ate sitting on an old table cloth spread out on the floor. Even when he was working 80 hours a week, Dad joined us. We looked forward to Friday night starting Saturday morning. It wasn’t just the classic movies, but everyone being together without company, homework, or the phone, that we loved. “Movie night” was one of the many ways we knew our parents loved us, and it was a fun one.
Dad prayed for us. This one is harder to describe, because much of it went on behind closed doors. We certainly knew that if we had been morons or jerks during the day, Dad would be praying for that. But we somehow understood that Dad—and Mum—both prayed for us a lot. Even when we were little, we somehow knew that Dad himself was under authority, dependent on a strength outside of himself. But it probably wasn’t until we were parents that we understood more clearly why he prayed: a parent can do everything right, but unless God changes a child’s heart, it’s not going to bear eternal fruit in the child.
But faithful, biblical parenting always bears fruit, regardless of the child’s response to it. It sanctifies the parent as they die to self and self-reliance. It blesses other Christians as they see faithfulness lived out. It honours the God who gave both the children and the principles to raise them. And because God is a God who loves children and keeps His covenant, it usually blesses the children’s souls, too. A father who is more and more conformed to the image of Christ will increasingly point his children to the Father of spirits, leading them into the way of life (Heb. 12:9).