by Will Peycke
Disclaimer: this is a post for men—specifically, for fathers and sons. If those categories don’t apply to you, I’d still encourage you to keep reading. Just be aware that your main takeaway might be to find a father or son and ask him, “Is this true for you?”
Last weekend, my oldest son and I spent the weekend at a father/son retreat. We had a great time together shooting stuff, fishing (his favorite), and completing the “mud slog” (my favorite; think a scaled-down Spartan race). During the main sessions, we considered what it means to be a man and how to pursue those “marks of manhood,” principles like accepting responsibility, leading courageously, and protecting passionately, in our lives.
But the high points of the weekend were unquestionably the designated times when the fathers spoke words of affirmation and blessing over their sons. Whether in front of the whole group or one-on-one between father and son, these were powerful moments. The teaching sessions explored the “marks of manhood,” but these words of blessing were what truly “marked” our souls.
In many ways, receiving your father’s blessing may be the truest mark of manhood. It is what forever identifies you, defines you, as a man. Knowing you have your father’s approval and blessing is a powerful thing.
Why is that? Why do words of blessing—especially from a father to son—leave such a deep mark? I think one reason is that deep down, every man’s heart is asking the question, “Do I have what it takes?”
I have a little book on fatherhood on my shelf that expresses it this way:
Every little boy is asking one basic question. You notice it in nearly everything he does.…
Look at the stories boys love, the games they play. They are full of battle and adventure and danger. They love to build things… and then blow ’em up. They love to jump off stuff.… Every boy wants to be a hero. Every boy wants to be powerful, he wants to be dangerous, and he wants to know: Do I have what it takes?
(You Have What It Takes, pages 3, 5-6)
I know that question is on my son’s heart. And it’s on my heart: do I have what it takes as a father?
We also see this kind of affirmation from Father to Son in the life of Jesus. Last Sunday’s sermon passage included this brief description of Jesus’ baptism:
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 ESV)
Do you see the blessing of the Father in this passage? Jesus, the perfect Son of God, is about to begin his public ministry. And the very first thing we read is his Father’s verbal, public affirmation and approval: “I am pleased with you, Son.”
If it was important for God the Father to pronounce his approval and blessing on his Son, how important must it be for those of us who are earthly, human fathers to do the same for our sons? At the core of every son’s identity is the desire for his dad to be proud of him, to believe in him, to affirm that he does indeed have what it takes. When our kids are secure in our love for them—when they are confident that we delight in them and think the world of them—the hurts they experience in life don’t cut quite so deep.
When we affirm our unconditional love to our children, we are following the Father’s example in our own fatherhood:
This is the most basic of all our missions, the fundamental assignment of our lives: to make sure our children know that we love them. To say to each son, “I’m so proud of you. You have what it takes.” To let each daughter know, “How I delight in you. You are lovely.” If we get that said, and said a thousand different ways over the course of their childhoods, we’ll have done a pretty good job of being dads.
(You Have What It Takes, pages 74-75)
That’s the kind of father I want to be. Dads, are you with me?