Remember playing tag as a kid? Hours flew by as you ran for your life from someone who wanted to get you. The goal was survival. You darted around, barely dodging that outstretched arm. Out of breath and sweating profusely, you finally made it to a base.
The base area was set aside so you could temporarily take a break from the intensity of the game—you could calm down, strategize, and refuel for the challenges ahead.
The feeling of being on base is what should be experienced in a relationship with a father. In a dangerous world full of spiritual predators, a father must act as a safe haven. Having a caring father helps us become more aware of ourselves. When we feel threatened, we withdraw and become blind to what is happening both within and outside of ourselves. Our view of life narrows, causing us to overlook our own gifts and skills. We suppress our need for external guidance and miss the meaning found in our relationships. However, when with our father, we can thrive.
Building a complex attachment with a good father creates a secure base we can launch from. When we feel safe, we experience our value, despite being aware of the imperfections that creep into every aspect of our lives. Knowing we are loved through our failures acts as a powerful healing force. Bouncing back and starting again seems less daunting. A father provides us with a resource for feedback that confronts our inadequacies. He gives us an example of resisting passivity and actively stepping toward our self-development and need to contribute to the world.
Fathers show us how to self-initiate by pursuing a relationship with us individually—while also making life better for the family as a whole. In the security of their presence, they teach us to set goals, understand our existence, pay attention to details, make difficult choices, establish our values, consider our priorities, express our thoughts and feelings, and strengthen our faith. A father is an essential influence.
In a world that often makes us feel lonely and disconnected, we hear a father’s voice saying, “You are not alone. I want to get to know you and help you to know yourself better. Your thoughts, feelings and dreams are all important to me. You matter despite what the world says. I’m here for you, and my presence empowers you to exceed your expectations. To be with me is to discover the greatest parts of yourself. My eyes reflect the value of who you are. You can always rely on me to give you the best of who I am.”
As a base, a father is always accessible relationally. Our behaviors, choices and lifestyle, no matter how negative, cannot destroy the bond between us and our father.
A father is also responsive. He listens to others and communicates his own perspective in order to strengthen his relationships. He tunes in to what others are trying to say and perceives verbal and non-verbal messages accurately.
Lastly, a father is engaged. He deliberately attempts to understand and respect the perspectives of other people. He willingly sacrifices himself in order to help others succeed.
A father meets us where we are at. A secure relationship with an accessible, responsive and engaged father is a miraculous advantage in having a fulfilling and meaningful life. “A.R.E. you there for me?” we ask. He loudly replies, “You bet I am!” May we be that base that our children can rely on. Thank you, God, for being our ultimate Father. It is because of your presence and love that fatherhood can be positively expressed among us (1 John 4:19).
Dr. Roy Smith has worked for over 35 years as a psychologist/counselor to men and their families. He is an ordained minister, founder of Pennsylvania Counseling Services (www.pacounseling.com) and author of Knights of the 21st Century (www.K21.men), a men’s ministry. Through K21, Roy has written several books and DVD programs in the area of men’s issues and has consulted on two women’s curriculum series (www.realwomen21.com). He also founded Servant’s Oasis, a non-profit that provides books and DVD resources to men and women in prisons (www.servantsoasis.org). Roy has a M.Div. and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He is married to Jan, also a psychologist, who has been supportive though the process of creating K21. They have two children and one grandson.