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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

20 March 2013: Jon Piper, Hope Church

Powerless Fatherhood

I used to work in the court in Winchester where, in the gents' toilet, somebody has placed a sticker for the Fathers for Justice campaign group. I have no knowledge of the man who had stuck his sticker there - what had brought him to that court and what he was like as a father - but I imagined a father without power.

I regularly meet families who have been torn apart by their fathers. These are usually fathers who are desperate to prove their power, staking a claim and marking their ownership on their family. This usually results in emotional and physical violence, often destroying the family that they had sought to claim.

These situations seem all the more tragic when I think about the model of fatherhood that I prefer.

In a child's development from powerless baby to independent, powerful adult, its carers will need to slowly offer it more and more space to exercise its own power. As it needs room to grow and learn, it needs its parents to intervene less, while still creating a loving, safe environment to explore.

So fatherhood becomes an exercise in learning how and when to stand back and not to exercise power. It is about creating a warm and safe environment, being available when called upon and intervening at the right time. It is not about having your own way, making everything just as you require or limiting the potential of others.

This is part of what is meant when Christians call God Father. He creates, supports, sustains, disciplines, loves and encourages. And he manages to do all this without any of the faults that we human fathers have. He provides space; He gives instructions; He allows choices and expects mistakes. Despite His immense power, He will never over-power you; He always wants to forgive. He is always there when we call on Him. We should call on him more than we do.

This article was submitted for publication in the Petersfield Post on 20 March; it is possible that it was published earlier or may be published later.

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