The Identity-shaping Power of Fatherhood

The Identity-shaping Power of Fatherhood

by Ty Gibson  |  February 3, 2014

“The Father Himself loves you” (John 16:27).

Fatherhood is an identity-shaping vocation. Whether he does so consciously or not, a dad tells his child who and what to become. The child is significantly defined by the father’s manner of relating to him. By his actions and attitudes toward the child, the father projects an identity onto the child so that he grows up to think and feel about himself according to the father’s enacted vision of him. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour, a bequeathing of character occurs in the fathering process. The child comes to see himself or herself through daddy’s eyes.

If a child is raised being told in words or attitudes, “You’re stupid, you’re lazy, you’re in my way, I can’t trust you,” the child gradually loses hope and motivation to be anything different. Unless the child finds a different defining influence, or outright rebels against the father’s vision, the child will inevitably become whatever the father projects. In a very real sense the father’s words act as scripting messages that inscribe into the child a storyline to be lived, a way of seeing and defining himself. As a result, an experiential course of enacted destiny unfolds.

The child will inevitably become whatever the father projects

On the other hand, imagine the effect of words and attitudes from dad like these: “You are intelligent, capable and full of potential. I know you will grow up to be kind and honest. You mean everything to me. I love you.” Unless the child chooses at some point to come under some negative influence or to rebel against the father’s positive vision, the child will become just what the father projected .

In a similar manner, but on a much grander scale, our heavenly Father’s words toward us operate as a self-fulfilling prophecy in our lives as we believe them. Faith is the means by which we place ourselves under the fathering influence of God. He speaks to us, and of us, according to the new person He knows we may become in Christ. As we believe what He says in His word, His articulated love for us begins to redefine us in our own eyes in a positive light.

In other words, I begin to believe that I am who God’s love says I am!

The Father lifts all the shame away from our hearts by declaring us innocent in His eyes. He “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). The context here is that God calls us righteous even though He knows we’re guilty, not to condone our sin but to restore actual innocence in us.

The Father lifts all the shame away from our hearts by declaring us innocent in His eyes.

God’s Word, the Bible, is called by Paul, “the word of faith” (Romans 10:8). Since it is God’s word, it is God’s faith we encounter in the pages. Said another way, Scripture is a faith text. It is filled with promises and declarations and a whole new storyline, first foretold by the prophets and then personified in Christ. Scripture—God’s “word of faith”—casts a vision of what humanity may become in Christ.

And what a beautiful vision it is!

God, I embrace You as my Father. Moment by moment, day by day, may I be more and more defined and shaped and remade by Your faithful love.

Ty Gibson Co-Director
Light Bearers
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