Fathers and Sons (Why the tension?)

by Kelley Mathews

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There comes a day, typically sometime early in the preadolescent years, when dad loses his superpowers in the eyes of his son.

The boast, “My dad is stronger than your dad,” becomes a distant memory.

The once unfettered admiration of a son for his father is now tempered with tension.

The respect for a father is no longer granted without question or reservation.

Teen boys start to think that Dad is a control freak who is out of touch with reality.

College kids conclude that they probably have a higher IQ and certainly a greater handle on worldly affairs than their fathers.

Twenty-something young men rarely seek the advice of the aging old man because the generation gap is more like a wall. They think, He wouldn’t understand. Too much has changed since dad was my age.

Then, somewhere around forty or so, perhaps when he has a teenage son of his own, the son starts to mellow and realize, Maybe my dad wasn’t so unenlightened.

Fathers and sons, a challenging relationship in almost every family.

Whether the dad has issues or not, and whether he deserves it or not, most dads struggle from time to time with their sons, and many long for the early days of superpower glory. I love my boys (both grown men in their 30s). I know they love and respect me. However, sometimes I find myself pondering, Do they admire me? Do they speak well of me? Is there a part of them that wants to emulate me? Do they believe I have any wisdom to offer?

I read the words of Solomon found in the book of Proverbs—mostly written to his son—and I wonder whether the son of Solomon accepted and embraced his father’s wise counsel or not.

It seems that all fathers and all sons experience seasons of turbulence in their relationship. Perhaps this is normal. That being said, with my sons, here’s what I’ve concluded about how to handle the occasional tension between us:

  • I strive to remember that being relational is always more important than being right. Winning an argument or fostering an adversarial relationship by attempting to throw my fatherly weight around doesn’t benefit anyone.
  • I endeavor to listen and to learn from my sons. The day I stop learning is the day I stop growing. Even if I’m certain of the correctness of my position, there’s still almost always something I can discover about myself or my son in the midst of the conversation (heated or not).
  • I will return blessing even when I feel cursed. Jesus set a high standard here and told us to “bless those who curse . . . and to pray for those who mistreat” (Luke 6:28). It’s never okay for me to return evil for evil or disrespect for disrespect.
  • I choose to have hope and to believe the best about my sons. They are good and godly men. Of course, like me, they are far from perfect. But as God the Father is patient, kind, and merciful with me, I will do my best to be like Him with my boys.

Some might argue that it is the responsibility of a father to correct and mold his sons. In the early years, that is absolutely true. However, as a son becomes a young man, the primary role of a father is to support, to model, and to bless.

We must show them our love much more than we tell them, and we bless and best support them by standing through prayer in whatever generation gap that may exist. When I am gone, and they are much older, I trust my sons will remember an imperfect dad who did his best to love them with the perfect love of the Heavenly Father.

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21).

Kurt Bubna

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Kurt Bubna has been in pastoral ministry since 1976 and now serves as the Senior Pastor of Eastpoint Church, a vibrant, growing, and community-focused congregation in Spokane Valley, Washington. Kurt’s ministry experience includes being a marriage and family pastor, teaching pastor, church planter, and senior pastor for many years. He is a regular contributor to Rick Warren’s Pastors.com, Life…
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