Growing up on a farm in Tipton County, we raised cattle. Our pastures also contained woods with undergrowth where the fence (property) lines were. I would go with my Dad to check the cattle and the fences on many occasions. He would clear the way where there was undergrowth. He would always tell me, “Walk where I walk! Step where I step!” That was a good idea, but being about a foot shorter made it hard for me to match him stride for stride. Feeding the cows in the barn lot presented a whole different challenge. In the winters the lot was usually muddy and it was a quagmire especially around the feed troughs. It was nearly impossible not to mire up especially carrying buckets of feed or hay bales. However, Dad could navigate the loblolly hardly making a track and never step in “something.” I would mire up to the tops of my boots and end up smelling like “ice cream” as he would call it. He would say, “Follow my steps and walk lightly!” I would try my best and when I did as he said, it worked. I had a lot less problems.
There was a TV commercial several decades ago where a small boy helped his father wash the family car. The little boy did everything his father did. He put soap on the car with his little sponge when the father applied soap with his large sponge. When the father rinsed the car with the water hose, the son squirted water on the car with his squirt gun. After finishing the car, they both sat down under a tree to rest. The father pulled a cigarette from the package and laid the package on the ground between himself and his son. The little boy looked at the package on the ground and then admiringly up to his father. The commercial ended with these words from the announcer, “Like father, like son, think about it!”
Our children will follow in the steps of their fathers. They often literally follow their steps as I did in that pasture. They often follow in the same occupation, have the same mannerisms, use the same speech and have the same habits. Our children will also follow our spiritual steps. Many times as fathers, we tell our children to “do as I say do, not as I do.” Sorrow, but our children are going to follow us- do as we do in spite of what we tell them to do. That is why Solomon says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Pro. 22:6) Paul warns fathers, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
If God is important to us as fathers, he will be important to our children. If our children see us and hear us pray, they will learn to pray. If we never miss a service of the church, they will also be faithful in attendance. If we only attend on special occasions such as “holidays” or when we have nothing “better” to do, they will do or not do the same. If God, His Son and the church (kingdom Mat. 16:18-19) are first in our lives, they will be first in our children’s lives. Mat. 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
As fathers, we need to understand that we are not going to heaven alone. In a recent song, the father is appalled at the four letter word his four year old son blurted out upon spilling his fries when the father had to apply the brakes abruptly. The Father asks, “Now, where did he hear that?” The son (or the song) answers, ”I’ve been watching you.” At bedtime that night, the little boy prays and the father is amazed at his prayer. The father asks the same question, “Where did he hear that?” Then comes the same response, “I’ve been watching you”. As fathers, we have to be careful not to send our children mixed signals. James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. It will be sad indeed if we lose our own souls in hell, but if our action or inaction leads to the eternal damnation of our own children, how much sadder will that be? Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, it is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
As fathers, we need to remember that we too have a Father, a heavenly Father. We should have the same attitude toward the Father as His only begotten Son had toward Him. Joh 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work Jesus invites us to follow Him, walk in His steps if you will. Lu 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. If we as fathers will do this, our children will be safe in following us.