“Kids rarely listen to their parents but seldom fail to imitate them.” Those words were on my mind shortly after the completion of our Tuesday night Bible study. That, in turn, shifted my attention to a very talented songwriter, singer and storyteller who left us during his prime. As talented as Harry was, it was difficult for his songs to be played on AM rock stations, since they were mostly stories that expanded beyond the usual 3 to 4-minute recording. They included such hits as “Taxi,” “A Better Place to Be” and “Mr. Tanner.” His most popular recording, released in 1974 and the #1 song for weeks, became popular at a time when my son had just turned four. I enjoyed the song immensely and would sing it out loud often; unfortunately, by the time the lyrics hit home it was too late.
“And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me; my boy was just like me.” With these words, Harry Chapin ended his epic hit “Cat’s in the Cradle,” a tale of a father missing in action later copied by the son. And with it, a reminder that I knew the song but did not comprehend the words. I remained an absentee father through most of my son’s early years, which in turn created wounds in him which he has now transmitted to my grandchildren. Numbers 14:18 clearly delineates the issue when it states, “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Irresponsible fathers breed irresponsible children
Back to Tuesday night. The topic of conversation involved Psalm 3, where King David took to the desert, much like when threatened by King Saul, as his son Absolom usurped the throne. The King was indeed an absentee father, which led to the debacle. Unfortunately, this scenario was carried out by other pivotal characters of the Old Testament to include Eli, the High Priest; his student Samuel; Abraham’s nephew Lot; Isaac and Jacob, and finally Solomon, whose children and their generations were responsible for the division of Israel. We took away the fact that God disciplines his children, for David paid dearly for his actions with Bathsheba and lack of action with Absolom. Yet, we, as parents, do not imitate God’s admonishment in how we rear our children. The Lord, as Our Father, makes his presence known at all times, but we fail to learn from Him.
An absentee world
We live in an absentee world, from ballots to schools, from businesses to churches. The pandemic has exacerbated this tendency, where we now tend to “just mail it in.” We currently believe that most important tasks can be accomplished from afar. I grew up with the understanding that a great part of life entails just showing up. Most folks who fail to finish school do so mostly because they give up when they should show up. And as simple as it may seem, a good chunk of parenting involves just being there. One of my biggest regrets is that I provided my son “quality time” when what he desperately needed was “quantity time.” Hillary told us that “it takes a village.” And although this sounds wonderful on the surface, one becomes “the village idiot” should parental duties be surrendered to the society at large. Before accepting Jesus as my Savior, my relationship with Him was basically at the church level; now I am privileged to have daily personal contact with my Savior. And hopefully, as the end draws near, I can do a better job of imitating the Father…”my boy is just like me.”
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