Avatars of a Father
By Peter P. Lackey, Jr., MBC Tysons Attendee & Founder, Man’s Ultimate Challenge
“Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.” – C.S. Lewis
One of the things I like to do with my kids is play video games like Call of Duty. Now, I am from the Atari generation where my friend would actually have to come to my house to play a maximum two-player game. The game would have only one map or play surface, and each of us would be equipped with a controller made up of a joystick and one red button—that’s it! I can actually hear the gasp from my millennial brothers, “say it isn’t so.” Oh, it is so. With Xbox or PlayStation4 there are more colored buttons on the controller than I know what to do with. Which of course means that I go down plenty of times in the game at the hands of my skilled children, and my avatar “respawns” on the map without much forward progress.
Of all the roles I play in the game of life, it is my role as a father where I most feel like my poor Xbox avatar. Some days I feel ill equipped, not in control, and I often go down at the hands of my skilled children only to “respawn” another day on the map of life, seemingly without much forward progress. I know that if I am not careful, many days can turn into a season of life, and many seasons of life can turn into a defeated battle-weary life where, by choice, I begin to put on avatars of a false self.
There are many avatars of a father so I will just name two. There is the avatar of passivity; he comes in handy when a father gives up the battle and gets into the defeated routine of menial “dad tasks” of drive here, get the trash, get the yard, and every kid’s favorite: get the cash! Then there is the avatar of inadequacy, who is spawned when an important family decision is needed, and mom—equipped with “Google it”—appears to have arrived at the answers before dad even knows there is a question.
We are not called to daily put on the fatherly avatars of defeat, but the Christ of victory. I know it sounds “spiritual,” and it is, but God’s spiritual truth is meant to impact our practical reality because, Dad, it is God’s map of life that we are playing on. Furthermore, it is God who gave us the roles we are to play and they are not designed to be played with avatars of a false self, but with expressions of our true self who is only found when we put on Christ. C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. He invented all the different people that you & I were intended to be”.
Of all of these roles we play, our role as a father is at the center of God’s battle strategy for winning the world for Christ. Why do you think the enemy spends so much time working his strategy of knocking out fathers as leaders in the home and minimizing the need for a father in the first place? At McLean Bible Church, we have been openly discussing the need for revival and praying for God to use us to bring it to Washington, D.C. I believe God will bring revival to the people in the church after he brings revival to the fathers in the home. After all, this has been our heavenly Father’s strategy from the beginning. Let me explain.
The first book of the Old Testament begins with the family; the last book in the Old Testament ends with a promise to the father of the family, and the preparation for the Gospel of Christ begins with the preparation of the heart of the father of the family. The first man is lonely; even though he lived in a perfect world of organic food and pets that he named personally, he still needed a woman made in the image of God to cure his loneliness. It was not until this moment that Genesis 1:31 records God saying His creation, “is very good” as the husband turned his heart toward God’s best gift, his wife. In the very last verse of the Old Testament, before the “silent years” when Israel had no prophet, God announces that the father’s heart is the first “hill” He will take: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6). This very heart preparation was announced by the angel of the Lord to Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, “ It is he [John] who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children…” (Luke 1:17).
The head of the Church begins His entry into the world with revival in the heart of the head of the home. Dad, don’t let anyone rob your identity and minimize the impact that you can have in the lives of your children. Most of all, don’t hide your true identity by faith in an avatar created by fear.
So how do we stop these avatars of the father from spawning, so that we can put on Christ and have the revival our house, our church and our city needs? It begins with a “turn” of the Dad’s heart back toward his children! Did you catch that in Luke 1:17? A turn back of a father’s heart! When a father’s heart turns toward his children the world changes. How do you feel about the importance of your role now? Dads, we need this turn; and together we can make this turn. Here is a practical battle plan to embrace this spiritual truth and bring it into reality:
#1 Realization: Realize that you are not adequate in yourself by design. God designed the map of life in such a way that He is needed—it is His war, but your battle. I kill my avatar of inadequacy by realizing that this is part of the plan. I need God, and I can find His guidance in the Bible and through godly counsel.
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
#2 Reconciliation: Redeem the battles by turning losses into wins. This requires looking back and stepping up!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”( 2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
God gave us the ministry of reconciliation where we carry the Good News that God reconciled us to Himself by making the first move. I kill my avatar of passivity by imitating Christ and initiating reconciliation in my home. Our heavenly Father initiated forgiveness by offering it openly, and He left it up to us to receive it. As earthly fathers, though, we have the additional task of seeking forgiveness for our sins against our children. Those losses will remain losses until you initiate—leaders always initiate!
Battle Intel: Is there a child that comes to mind today or every Father’s Day that you need to forgive? Initiate and tell him!
Battle Intel: Is there a child that comes to mind today or every Father’s Day that you need to ask forgiveness? Maybe it is long overdue. Well, do it!
Dad, can I tell you something that you already know, if this battle intelligence report bothered you? You are stuck on #1 aren’t you? You feel inadequate and put on an avatar. Your unit is dispersed and you feel alone in a foxhole clothed in the avatar of your choosing. It may be comfortable, but it is lonely. This right here, fathers, is why there is no revival. Get Up! Go! Go! Go! Throw off the avatar and take this ministry from the Father, and as a father, “TAKE THAT HILL!”
#3 Restoration: This is the rebuilding piece. Every battle leaves behind damage. There is beauty in the process as you see it come together.
#4 Repeat: Yes, repeat over and over and watch God use you, Dad, to take your life and your unit back.
So, fathers, let me ask you a question: are you battle-weary or battle-hardened? If you are battle-weary, then take this battle plan and implement it daily. I certainly do, so let me give specifics from just this past month. With all three of my children I have implemented this battle plan several times because I was irritated, quick to yell, impatient, and blind to a need. Realization occurred as I properly felt guilt because I was guilty and inadequate. I went to my children to ask for forgiveness for my specific sin against them; i.e., I named it. They forgave me, so reconciliation completed and a battle lost became a battle won. I spent time with them restoring their heart by meeting their needs. The “repeat” in the battle plan is for next week, and the next week, and the next.
#5 Reclaim: Now that God has your heart’s disposition He wants you, clothed in Christ, in position. If you are a father with your kids in your home I have a few things that you can do right now to “step up” your game.
- Text your children wisdom. I have three kids. Two of them have phones, so I send my kids text messages of famous quotes, Bible verses, or random funny pictures like below. Why? My heart is turned toward them so I connect with them in a way that is relevant to them, not me. Where do I get quotes and pictures? The Bible, famousquotes.net (I signed up on Twitter), a historical quotes book, C.S. Lewis Daily on Twitter. I collect them on my phone using notepad.
- Rite of Passage or Manhood Ceremony for sons. Robert Lewis has a program called “Raising a Modern Day Knight”that uses the concept of a knighthood ceremony. I have a program called “Man’s Ultimate Challenge” that uses the concept of the US Military Challenge coins designed around the classic virtues and vices. Either ceremony can be done at any transition period where you as a father grab some men and step into your son’s life to acknowledge him as a man. For example, when his body is in transition at age 13, or when he is a high school graduate heading out into the real world on his own as a man. Both programs come with all that is needed to do your own. Here is a photo of my son’s ceremony:
I pray you will celebrate today, knowing that God, the church, and your family need you.
Happy Father’s Day!