Julie and I invited our handy man to join us for dinner. He and our worship leader, John Wyatt, had attended a Promise Keepers Men’s Convention at the City Community Center. They arrived late due to a gigantic traffic jam.
“When we arrived at the parking lot,” our handy man shared, “John told me that he prayed for us to get a good parking place. Sure enough, a space opened up right at the front. As we entered the building John said, ‘I prayed for us to get a good seat.’ Unfortunately, the main auditorium was full and we ended up in the annex watching on a giant television screen. We had a hard time getting involved sitting in front of a television.”
“At the first break John saw a friend from Casas who asked, ‘Where are you sitting?’
“In the Annex in the back,” John replied.
“We saved a couple of seats in the main auditorium for you.”
“They took us to the front row,” said our dinner guest: “We were right in the front by the deaf signing section. We could see and hear everything. As I thought about the man sitting next to me, I began to wonder, ‘Who is this guy?’”
“On the way home from the convention center we saw a homeless man on the corner and John made me pull over while he gave him a $10 bill. I don’t know whether to give these corner guys money or not—and John gave him $10. So, I asked him about it. He said that God told him to take a $100 bill and break it into ten $10s and give a bill to each of the next ten needy people he saw on the street.
Our handy man friend then looked at us and said, “Why wouldn’t God answer John’s prayers for a parking place and a good seat in the convention center. That man has pulled with the Boss.”
My good friend John Wyatt has matured over the years into a spiritual father. He transitioned from childhood into young manhood on his way to being a spiritual father. As we continue engaging in the journey, we will examine in this chapter some of the characteristics which distinguish spiritual mothers and fathers.
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. —1 John 2:13-14
In The Minister as Shepherd, Charles Jefferson pointed out that while Jesus used many metaphors to describe His ministry, He loved best to paint Himself as a shepherd. The crowds in Galilee reminded Him of sheep without a shepherd. He was sent to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He pictured Himself in the future judgment doing what shepherds do—separating sheep from goats. He said, “I know every sheep by name.” He declared, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
Jesus gave Peter a Shepherd’s job description when He restored him after his three-time denial (John 21): “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep …” The history of the Christian church began with Jesus saying to the leader who was to head up the work of disciplining the nations: “I am a shepherd, you be a shepherd, too.” The heart of a man or woman is like the heart of a sheep. It beats at the sight of its shepherd.
I watched from the shade of a tree as my eldest daughter walked away from the High School Administration building, her head down and her mind deep in thought. With so little spring in her step and hunched-over shoulders I knew she was hurting. I thought of Jesus’ invitation in Matthew:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. —Matthew 11:28-30
It was as if God were saying to me, “Roger, it is hard for Me to minister to her needs alone. Why don’t you harness yourself up beside Me and let’s care for her together?” My daughter needed a shepherd she could see and touch.
The heart of a sheep is like the heart of a man, it beats at the sight of its shepherd.
As we mature spiritually, we get in the harness beside Jesus to minister effectively to spiritual children. This is the shepherding work of mothers and fathers.
I believe that good parents have major responsibilities.
First, they prepare their children for life. Their children are equipped and ready to leave home by age 18 or 20. They help them develop solid characters of integrity with healthy self-images, an ability to work and work hard, and a love for people.
Second, they help to heal most of their children’s growing up hurts through the process of mourning and comforting, understanding, and forgiveness.
Third, they work hard to minister to their children’s aloneness. “It is not good for man to be alone,” said God to Adam (Genesis 2:18). Meeting their needs for acceptance, approval, appreciation, comfort, encouragement, security and respect (to mention just a few things) helps to remove any sense of aloneness.
Growing up in an atmosphere of isolation and aloneness where needs are not met is a prescription for dysfunctional adulthood. Mothers and fathers embody the double truths of 1 Thessalonians:
But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. —1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
Not only do they minister lovingly and gently like nursing mothers caring for their children, not only do they teach and instruct, they vulnerably open up their inner lives and share “their very lives as well”.
Finally, they model the life of Christ in order to provide their children with a proper view of the real God.
Mothers and fathers feed children the Word of God. They teach them basic Christian doctrines. They teach morals and values and character development. They teach them how to pray, fast, worship, study the Bible and confess their sins. They help them to discover their spiritual gifts. They help them discern the will of God. They model by opening their lives to share their own successes and failures, hopes and dreams, insights and pains. Then, they say, as any good parent says, “You’re 18 now. You’re on your own—but you are really not. I will always be here for you.”
Spiritual parents prepare their children for spiritual life.