Having continued my exegetical encounter with Psalm 103 this morning, I happened to notice something I seem to have taken for granted.Insofar as Psalm 103 helps us to reflect on our own parenting and relationship skills, not just those of our parents.
Could the entire Psalm suggest a blueprint for fatherhood, even if it is informed by patriarchy?
For instance David writes:
As a father shows compassion to his Children so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear (read this as trust, honour and respect) him, for he knows – He remembers from where we came (read as knows our limitations and strengths).
Take also these observations from 103:
1. The Lord works righteousness and justice.
2. He makes known. (empowers?)
3. He acts. (passionate and dynamically involved)
4. Is merciful and gracious.
5. Slow to anger.
6. Abounding in steadfast love.
7. He will not always chide (censure) nor will he keep his anger forever.
8. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
9. Great is his steadfast love toward those who fear (read trust, honour and respect) him.
Is it likely that God is inspiring a blueprint for fatherhood through David’s words here?
I don’t consider myself a great success at being a father. I have had the honour of being one for thirteen years. I find myself to be an improving improvement, an imperfect man stumbling and fumbling every breath-taking and joyful moment along the way. My best is excellence, only as far as my best serves beyond pride and the social pressure to put on a show or keep up appearances.
Like my father, I was not handed a complete blueprint for being a dad. His inheritance was lost in a whirlwind of neglect, youth-filled anxiety, survival mechanisms, moderate poverty and instability. Consequently as such cycles between fathers and sons go, so was mine.
Instead of nostalgic what ifs filled with self-pity, my constantly evolving perspective here has helped me to resolve any resentment towards my dad, even though firm boundaries still remain. Here time has been an ally, yet I am aware that time’s extended hand is also one of limitation. For example: what is lost has been lost forever.
Still, the shredded remnants which desperately clad the surviving remains of our relationship are valuable. No matter how unsalvageable the blueprint for fatherhood seems every thread of faded colour contains hope. A few weeks back he was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. He is now undergoing chemotherapy after having a tumour removed. From the tone of our recent conversation, he is hopeful of recovery.
Thankfully my father’s own, albeit slow movement towards Christ, is bringing us both into an alignment of understanding. This comes with the FULL possibility of God’s power to gain ‘’what ought to be’’, minus the emotional baggage attached to stubbornly holding on to ”what should have been”.
As I indicated above, I have little time for showmanship, self-pity or the arrogance and deceit that go with it. Although the temptation not to do so is great I would rather deal in truth and honest performance, than in smiles, lies and hi-fives; smoke and mirrors, impression management and veiled smugness.
Even though I don’t consider myself a great success at being a father, I make every attempt to use the shredded remnants of the shattered blueprint I inherited, to work with God in restoring what is left behind into an article that is evident of His grace.
As King David implies, God is our father, the one who teaches men and women to be greater than the great mess we are sometimes handed. He has battled not only on my behalf, but also on behalf of my father. God has swept in with thankless hands to achieve something we could not do alone.
For that I am deeply grateful.