As a father, have you ever had that moment when in the midst of disciplining your kids you have an almost out of body experience listening to the sound of your own voice?
There are those times when hearing your own words to your children, you can clearly hear the voice of your own father escaping your lips. The first time that happened to me was a surreal moment. Right in the midst of trying to explain to my first born son why the behavior he was engaged in was not in the ballpark of appropriate, I almost had to stop. The voice I was hearing was no longer my own. My dad was speaking to me through words I had heard from him years ago even while I spoke those words to instruction and correction to my own son.
In Proverbs 1:8-9, Solomon encourages children to listen to the instructions of their parents.
Hear, my son, your father's instruction,
and forsake not your mother's teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
This admonition follows immediately after Solomon has set the stage for the larger pursuit of wisdom that is found in the book of Proverbs. In verse 4, he talks about how wisdom gives “knowledge and discretion to the youth.”
Dads, this is our challenge with our children. This is the gift that we may have received from our own fathers. This is the gift most certainly offered from our heavenly Father.
My own father was the principal of the small Lutheran elementary school that I attended from preschool to 8th grade in Downey, CA. Not only was my dad my principal, but in 7th and 8th grade he was my teacher as well (I told you it was a small school). He also holds the distinction of being the only teacher to have ever had to suspend me. While I would not have believed this at the time, it was a good thing that he did, a very good thing.
There are times when I am able to correct the behavior of my boys with merely a look (not nearly as often as I’d like, but still it does happen). That works only because they know my will for them. They know the difference between what they are doing and what I expect from them and in the end they do desire to at least try to do what I desire because of our mutual love for one another.
That’s what my dad taught me when he was willing to suspend me. I knew there was a line that I could not cross (not that this was the only one I tested). Learning to develop personal restraint and the wisdom to use good judgment in my decisions has paid great dividends in my life.
The reason I hear my dad’s voice at times when I discipline my boys is due to the imprint that his discipline had on my life.
As a father myself, I want to pass on the best of this imprint on to my own boys. Having been DCE for 20 years, I have spent a good deal of time considering the impact parents have on the faith formation of their children. Just as I hear my dad in my voice, and have begun to hear my own voice in my sons, I desire to see a greater measure of the trust that I have in Christ to be instilled in to their lives as it was from my father to me.
I learned my habits of worship and bible study from my dad. There was a time years ago when we traveled to Arizona to visit a pastor who my dad had served with before the pastor moved to plant a new congregation. In worship that Sunday morning, the pastor mentioned to my dad how great it was to have the Rueter’s present because he could hear the sound of my dad’s voice clearly over the rest of the assembled congregation. My dad has always loved to belt our classic Lutheran hymnody in praise of his Savior. It is a true joy to let it rip while singing “A Mighty Fortress” or “Lift High the Cross” with my dad in worship.
As a dad and DCE, I know the value of my boys seeing me in worship. I know the value of their seeing my reading the Bible at home. By making sure that they see how I practice my faith, I know that they voice that they emulate from my life will include the language of faith in Christ. And there is no greater legacy to encourage you and all dads to aspire to this Father’s Day.
Read of Dr. Rueter's book Teaching the Faith at Home.