What is a good father?

My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. -Proverbs 3:11-12 

Dear members and friends,

Being a father comes with challenges regardless of time, place and environment. These days, it has come to my attention that many men are struggling to figure out what it means to be a man, and many married men are challenged to know and understand what it means to be a husband and a father. As a reflection on the coming Father’s Day, I would like to share my story. To me, the journey to become a father started with uncertainty and fear. The uncertainty stemmed from the fact that I grew up without having a father or father figure in my life. The fear arose from the fact that I was not sure how to be a good father for my child(ren), and that I might end up damaging their minds and lives. As a matter of fact, I had no idea what it means to be a real father to a real child until the birth of our son, Roiy. For the nine months of pregnancy, my wife Heejoung was doing her best to keep herself and the baby healthy and strong. Meanwhile, I underwent a deep inner journey of becoming a father. At times, I was jealous that her experience of becoming a mother was undeniably and entirely more experiential than mine. So I turned to what I knew and read hundreds of books about fatherhood, fathers, and father and child relationships. Yet, acquiring mere knowledge was not as useful as I hoped it would be. 

The core of my struggle was not about just how to be a father, but specifically about how to be a good father. What I mean by “good” here is from what Jesus said in John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd.” The Greek word for “good” in John 10 is kalos, which means, “beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable.” And, among the sub-meanings of kalos are “affecting the mind agreeably, comforting and confirming.” I wished to be a good father who would affect the mind of my children to move forward in a good direction, while comforting them when they are dismayed or in trouble, and confirming their self-worthiness and choices made by them. However, a more important lesson that I learned from Jesus was from what Jesus added in John 10:11, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Until the moment I was holding my first child in my hands, I was not certain what Jesus meant by this specific teaching. What shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the sheep? But when I was holding Roiy and looked down on his face, I felt it: for this little one, I am willing to lay down my life. I am still trying to live by the lesson that Jesus taught me at the time of Roiy’s birth, and at times I am still challenged regarding what it means to be a good father. But there is one thing that I am very certain of: I am still willing to lay down my life for my children. In the center of this truth is a love that I have never experienced with any other human being in my entire life. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee