Not just any fatherly involvement can reach the hearts of our children. To really open up a child’s heart, a father must observe the work-and-keep model of Genesis 2:15. There must be the working — as a father nurtures and cultivates the soil of a child’s heart. And there must be the keeping—the correction that, as we will see in the following chapter, is to be exercised in a relationship of joy and love.
I am constantly amazed at the number of people who assure me that their fathers hardly ever praised them, but constantly criticized and berated. I meet people all the time who tell me that their fathers beat into their heads that they were losers who would never succeed. I can scarcely imagine what that is like. There is only so much a pastor can do to remedy such an upbringing, and the best he can do will include pointing such a person to the effective healing love of our heavenly Father, who can do far more than any man. But as fathers we can ensure that our own children are raised with the rich fertilizer of fatherly affection and esteem.
A godly father plants good things in the hearts of his children. He plants:
The seeds of his own faith in Christ.
A longing for truth and goodness.
His hopes and dreams for the godly man or woman the child will become.
His own confidence that the child has all the gifting and capacity needed to serve God faithfully in whatever way God may genuinely call.
A godly father works these things into the soil of his child’s heart as he shares his own heart, listens to and molds the child’s heart, and waters these tender plants with faith and love.