This last week, a couple of us went to see the new Superman film. Apart from having my brain turned into mush from the crazy amount of special effects it was a really great night out. It’s important to note that the lack of fathering has as big an impact on Krypton as it does on earth. In line with my last post on the speaking of blessing and curses over our kids, is another way to bless and curse, this second way is the presence of a strong man!
In Mark 3:27 we read “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.” This verse comes on the back of the teachers of the law and Jesus’s family accusing him of being able to drive out evil spirits because He is the captain of the evil spirit team, so to speak. Jesus nicely throws this back into their court by pointing out that this would be a dumb plan as a house divided cannot stand. Basically, you can’t win the match by kicking your own teammates in the shins, or worse. At this point he speaks about the strongman and how he must be tied up first. Typically, the strongman represents Satan, but in the context of blessing and cursing, this strong man can also mean fathers!
So, back to Clark Kent’s life story. It’s an old story, but it really stood out to me how the absence of his father lead to uncertainty, it leads to a sense of being lost with a lack of purpose. It was only when Clark came across the funky space ship trapped in the ice with the holographic version of his dad, that he fully understood his value, his purpose and his identity. Only when his dad appeared, did he begin to understand his uniqueness, only when he saw his Father explaining the gaps in his life did his character change from a shadow that roamed from town to town, to a man who was anchored in his identity and therefore ready to take hold of his destiny. This is what the presence of a Father can do.
Now in many homes the fathers are absent. Today I am not talking about the ones physically removed, but the ones who are physically present but practically absent. In these situations, we see a reverse of the scripture above. We see a situation where the strongman, the head of a family, the person tasked with providing a spiritual covering and protection, has been tied up. As the verse says, when this happens, the home can be entered by others.
The questions for today are what ties up the strongman, what happens when he is tied up and how can he be untied.
What ties him up? Remembering that the father in this instance is present, the things doing the tying, will be those activities that will draw the attention of the father away from his role as the strongman of the house. The list is huge and varied, hobbies, dreams, ambition, indifference, insecurity etc. The most important aspect of this question is that many seemingly good things can creep into your life, and if not tempered with wisdom and balance, end up removing you, or tying you up and rendering you incapable of protecting the thing you have been given charge over, your family. Lets not pull any punches, leading a family requires our man of steel to have the nuts and bolts of a substance substantially stronger than the toughest material found on earth and quite possibly Krypton. So while some of what I write could inspire men to say “You don’t what it’s like in my life” and you’d be right, I do know the impact that this justification can have on your kids. So basically, no matter how hard life gets, in between the crazy days where our heads are about to pop right off of our shoulders, we need to remember, Fatherhood is a noble calling, one that will require more of you than you feel able to give, but in that beautiful moment, when you go beyond, you see God move with Grace and favour and you will see the fruit of your labour, your children, not perfect, but whole.
The absent father ranges from blatantly indifferent to hugely distracted. The former needs to possibly have his nuts and bolts melted down and reshaped but the latter may just need to have his importance highlighted. Whichever it is, look at your life, look at your schedule and honestly evaluate whether you are absent. Presence brings trust, ask your son or daughter to climb on the kitchen counter, don’t worry even that can be cleaned and the fun it instills won’t demolish your “no climbing on the counters’ rule. Now ask him/her to jump into your arms, where there is hesitation, there is a lack of trust that you will catch and there’s your answer.
Moving on to what happens when we are tied up, the scripture says the strongman’s house can now be plundered. To plunder something means basically to steal, lay waste to or devastate by means of force in a time of war. The imagery created should stand in strong contrast to what you want for your family. Just think of all the valuable things you have and imagine these being forcibly taken from you and your family, ripped away while you look on in wonder, desperately trying to break free of the bonds that keep you captive. These things are not material, they are emotional and spiritual. Joy, peace, love the whole basket of fruits of the spirit. Your position of authority, your mantle of fatherhood and credibility will also be attacked. When the strong man is tied up he becomes ineffective and powerless as a husband, father and as a man.
Lets be clear, the attack on the family and marriage is not and will not stop in the courtrooms. Daily we see messages aimed at discrediting the sanctity and purpose of marriage and we witness the effects of broken homes. This fight to render two institutions created and ordained by God valueless continues and is gaining momentum. Why? Because Family will save the world and strong families are built on a bedrock of Godly marriages, God intended it this way and we shouldn’t be surprised that both marriages and family are being targeted. If anything, it should strengthen our resolve to protect, these bastions of Godly influence. Bring it on! However, with this knowledge comes the reality that we must be even more vigilant when we sense captivity looming. The price to staying present, alert and untied is massive, but the costs of not doing so are so much greater.
So how do we become untied? I think to start off, a sensible dose of reality needs to kick in. We have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. Realise, being a dad comes at a price, it’s not pretty, it’s not glamorous. You may wake up with knees crushing your chest because its fun to do bombs on daddy, you may discover the sharpness of the fighter jet as it impales your foot as you rush to the bathroom in the black of night. You may enjoy the sensation of “Sorry daddy I couldn’t wait” as your little one, and you, reap the benefits of one glass of water too many, just before bedtime. We will have bad days! There I said! Fatherhood is not the pursuit of perfection, it is the desire to ensure that your children know who you are, who they are, where they are going and that they will be loved every step of the way.
That being said, we have limited time and our greatest and most important “job” is the one we are paid for with butterfly kisses, sticky hugs and snuggle time. We may need to re-prioritise, we have to work, but we also need to be fathers, so perhaps the rest of our activities will need a little reshuffling. To become untied, we need to try our best to find a balance between what is nice, important and essential. We should to do whatever it takes so that when we are present we are actually present and not just filling space. So in the attempt to bless our children rather than curse them, it is quite clear that our presence as dads is a massive factor. Lets always remember, we are the protectors of our family, our children and our marriages, we are at war men of steel. Suit up!