For [our fathers] instructed us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] instructs us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all instruction seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
I remember summer Saturdays as a boy. They would inevitably revolve around a “quick trip to the office” with my father up Peachtree Industrial Blvd. While I never understood distribution channels, franchise royalty fees, disclosure statements, or the other aspects of his job, I do recall walking through the building to watch him “work.”
Those finer details of his tasks escaped me, but I would notice that as he passed by an office he would stop to check in on an employee before rushing into his. Also, he’d often get up and go to meet employees on their turf rather than calling them to his. He spent time knowing, asking and investing in their personal lives beyond the business components. Looking back, I realize that his workspace was a training ground.
Robert Bly has noticed that one of the problems with our post-industrial and post-enlightnement culture is that we have created compartmentalized lives. Work and Family are at odds with each other. They are in constant tension. Men leave the home to head to “work” and often return depleted.
Therefore, as a result, sons rarely get to see their fathers at work, let alone apprentice under them. Men head off to the factory floor or the business office divorcing themselves from their fathering responsibilities. They pour their energy into the tasks. This leaves young boys wondering what work really is and often creating an animosity towards their fathers’ professions.^
As Bly describes, “in most families, the sons and daughters receive, when the father returns home at six, only his disposition or his temperament, which is usually irirtable and remote.” Work sucks the life and vitality from fathers. It also diminishes the joy and privilege a father bears in his work to provide for his family. This leaves generations of children with a disdain for work.
Separated from their father’s workspace, sons can no longer stand beside their father as he sharpens an arrowhead, or repairs the plow, or cares for the cows, or toils for their daily bread.
So has your child ever seen your office space? Or felt the power when welding metal together? Have they seen you close a deal, or talk to a client, or argue your case? Or do you just show up ragged and weary from the office, speaking begrudgingly of the daily grind?
This is why the incarnation is essential for our understanding of the Heavenly Father. Rather than removing Himself from his children to work out our Salvation, our Heavenly Father decided to come and labor and toil beside us. He wanted to break that barrier down so that we could see his work in action. To show us that kingdom-work is hard work. It is the daily persistence to care for the broken, the lonely, the hungry, the lost and the least. It is a struggle that will call us to sacrifice and serve rather than seeking to be elevated and esteemed. The incarnation shows us that God is interested more in people than tasks. Rather than holding up in his corner office, Jesus Christ decided to enter the factory floor to sweat–to sweat blood in fact–under the burden of his daily toil for us. To invest in us on our turf, so we may feel empowered and equipped to go to work.
So Pops–since I know mom will forward you this devotion–though I grumbled about the quick trips to the office it confirms the writer of Hebrews that “for the moment all instruction seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it has yielded fruit.” And yes…I do owe you another $5 for sermon illustration.
^BTW-this is one of the reasons I think pastor kids have been known to struggle not only against their fathers but also God. Their animosity not only gets directed towards their father’s job but also their father’s Boss.