The prophet Malachi envisioned a great movement of God that would come at the arrival of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus:
“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).
The Lord predetermined a day of revival in families where a true heart connection would happen between fathers and their children.
In our day there’s a lot of talk about the phenomenon known as the “absentee father.” It describes the terrible predicament in homes where children grow up with the healthy, positive presence and influence of a dad. Sometimes dads can be physically present, but emotionally absent from their kids.
Steve Smith, in his book The Jesus Life describes his own heart-breaking experience with an emotionally absent father:
“One of the deepest memories I have of my father is when we would have breakfast together. We’d each pour a bowl of cornflakes and sit at the same table, but my father’s mind would wander beyond our kitchen while I was in his presence. I called it “the Cereal Stare.” It was a stare that I can easily picture even now in my mind. He emotionally left the breakfast table and was evidently chewing on the day’s concerns at work. That look would overtake my father’s eyes as his mind wandered to another country—a place of work deadlines, problems with a colleague, a crisis that had claimed his mind and heart, possibly even unfulfilled hopes and dreams. My father sat in this stare while I looked on, always an arm’s length away but never invited into this distant land.
“He rarely asked me a question. We discussed no topic. We would just sit and eat in silence. Now I realize the pain I was in—wanting so badly to connect to my dad, to be seen, to be noticed, to be loved by him. And I can also imagine the pain that perhaps choked his words: paying for college for my two older siblings, a conflict with an associate at work, trying to remember if he had actually returned a call that came in at closing time yesterday. Did he sit in silence because of a fight he had with my mom and felt at a loss as to how to make it right with her before he left for work?
“It’s uncanny how many people comment to me about the Cereal Stare, saying it was so descriptive of their families. We simply must learn to do more than eat cornflakes together and call it a family meal.”
Years ago I heard someone say something that really struck a chord with me: “Wherever you are … be all there.” What great advice! Whatever we are doing, whether it’s eating breakfast with our kids, sitting quietly with our mate, or listening to a hurting friend, we must strive to all there. So dads, give your children your time, your ear and, most importantly, your heart.