The Samsons are Awakening
By Mark Sandford
For years, Maureen and I have called fathers to wake up and pursue their children. We feel encouraged, for many men of our generation have begun to plead in prayer, “Please make me a better father than I was when my children were little.” But a spiritual stupor often sucks down that determination like quicksand.
Why do we men feel so lost and unable to take hold? Because we have cut off the generational blessing of the fighter. Our fathers handled their childhood pain — and ours— by denying there was any. Despising their hardness and insensitivity, men my age (the "baby boomers") made a collective inner vow not to be the kind of fighters they were; we would be the “peace and love generation.” But inner vows never inspire love, and bitterness gives inner vows a life of their own. So, in our heads we determine to fight for our children, but in our hearts this inner vow tugs in the opposite direction, restraining us from taking hold and taking charge of the task of loving at any cost. Like St. Paul, we lament, “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15, NAS).
Maureen and I have also seen younger men awakening. Young Samsons are asking us for help. They are the movers and shakers of their generation, whose bearing and charisma will draw crowds for God's kingdom — if they can only be freed to rise to the occasion. But they, too, are lost. They plead in prayer, “Please send an older fighter to mentor me!” Maureen and I bring them inner healing and as much mentoring as we are able, but we can't mentor them all. We would like to present them with healed fighter-mentors who will take them under their wings.
Is God calling you to mentor the next generation? Here's how to find the lost fighter in yourself: first, recognize how much God values a fighter. The Bible consistently describes the Christian life as a battle. “Put on the armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). Fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). “Demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:;4). Take the kingdom by force (Matthew 11:12). As repugnant as literal warfare may be, no other metaphor adequately conveys the intensity of Christian commitment. For centuries, the church described the saints in heaven as “the Church triumphant” and those on earth as “the Church militant” who fought the good fight of determined love and repentance. Reclaim that militant outlook, and choose to fight to love. Without a fight, we will not win the hearts of our children.
Second, ask the Lord, “When and how did I decide not to be a fighter?” Did you despise your abusive father and vow in your heart, “I'll never be as forceful as him”? Are you now unable to forcefully (and at the same time, tenderly) love and discipline your children? Did you cave under a barrage of criticism and come to believe, “I don't have what it takes to lead”? Did you melt under the heat of painful family chaos and retreat into a safe inner sanctum? You cannot fight the war for the next generation because you are at war with yourself! This is the quicksand you are drowning in. Your Samson mind tells you to fight your way out of your selfish, self-absorbed ways. But long ago, your Delilah heart cut your hair and stole your strength. Confess those fateful decisions you made as a child. Let Jesus reap their weakening effect on His cross. End the war against yourself, and run back to the battle lines of love.
Third, reclaim your generational blessing. God designed your father to be a loving fighter who would pass his fighter's mantle on to you. Whether he fought unlovingly or gave up the fight altogether will have little bearing on whether you become the fighter you are called to be. What will make the difference is that you forgive him for not fighting for you in love. Bless and honor the fighter your father was designed to be, trusting that your Father in heaven will provide what he did not: “My father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up” (Psalm 27:10, NAS).
If you do these things you will soon find your strength returning. Samson's hair grew back. His strength returned as he stood, tied between two pillars that held up the temple of Baal. Placing his hands on the pillars, he pushed until the temple collapsed, crushing the enemies of godly manhood (Judges 16:30). Place your hands on your children. Draw them to your heart, and don't take no for an answer. With all your loving might, use your returning strength to push on the pillars that buttress their resistance to your love. Let them experience the fighter in you. You may yet win this war!
© Mark Sandford 2019