“How a Father Can Anchor His Family in Christ for the Next 100 Years”
What’s important is not who my ancestors were. What’s important is who my children and grandchildren will become. (attr. Abraham Lincoln; Steve Farrar, Anchorman, 12)
An agency I used to work for suggested this book on a list of highly recommended books covering Christian life and growth. Farrar wrote Anchorman specifically for fathers and husbands who desire to strengthen the character of their families in such a way that they positively impact the direction that family will take for the next three generations (i.e. the next one hundred years, 7-8). This concept, however, is not original with Farrar, for Moses himself—at the tail end of his life, while he rested wearily just outside the Promised Land—suggested the same in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, as he was carried by the Spirit: “This is the commandment that the LORD God commanded me to teach you…that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son…You shall teach them to diligently to your children.”
This concept strikes powerfully at my heart as a father of two small children. I recognize that, simply because my children cannot yet think through tough concepts, I have delayed my responsibility to teach them as we come or go, sit or stand, walk or lie down. God and His Word are a special thing for our family to enjoy apart from our regular lives, and while that’s probably better than in some Christian families, it’s still certainly not the ideal that Moses had in mind!
Recognizing my failure is one thing. Getting ammunition for resolving that failure is quite another, and thankfully Farrar shares plenty of sound advice throughout his book about what I can do instead. For example, I really appreciated his list of “Fifty Ways to Coach Your Children” (61-64). Farrar also emphasizes the importance of a father living by example:
- “If you attempt to teach your children about God without loving God yourself with everything you’ve got, believe me, they are going to figure that out.” (76)
- “You can’t force a son to love God, but you can encourage him to love God…Don’t force the issue. Live the issue.” (81)
One difficulty I had with Anchorman, though, began very early into the book, something which tainted my perception of his ideals for a number of chapters. His proposition early on that the actions of today’s father will impact the lives of the coming generations begins on a sketchy note, for while it’s understood that God’s Old Testament promises resulted in blessings and curses (i.e. Ex 20:3-6), such a cause-effect situation today sounds eastern and unreasonable—at least on the surface. After all, we’re God-fearing Christians, not karma-terrified Hindus! So when he suggested the idea that my bad choices would impact my children and grandchildren, it appeared to be phrased in such a way that our vengeful God was just waiting up there to curse our decedents anytime we strayed from the straight-and-narrow. Obviously, this wasn’t what Farrar has in mind.
Digging deeper, I recognized that Farrar eventually does develop the concept more clearly, for rather than suggesting that “one bad act will return to haunt my grandchild,” he suggests that my faithlessness today as a father could very easily result in a faithless generation down the road, just as much as my life of faith today could help my own children to eventually choose a life of faith themselves. In fact, Farrar later asks pointedly: “Is God going to punish my children for all the bad stuff I did? The answer is no.” (75)
Perhaps my favorite chapter in the book was Chapter 7: “Bent by God.” Too often, parents simplify a verse like Proverbs 22:6 as saying, “If you teach your child the Bible, he’ll become a Christian.” But that’s really not what the verse means! Farrar repeats Chuck Swindoll’s expanded translation of this verse: “Adapt the training of your child so that it is in keeping with his God-given characteristics and tendencies; when he comes to maturity, he will not depart from the training he has received.” (145-146) Here, Solomon is suggesting that God has instilled into each one of us special, natural gifting that we ought to recognize and develop. When one begin to see such bents in his own child, it’s the parent’s responsibility to encourage the child towards perfecting these gifts, specifically in service for the Lord. Farrar writes:
“If you teach your children to recognize their bents and strengths, then the bottom line is that they will live lives of fulfillment and contentment…Because you taught them how to recognize their strengths, they will probably teach their children how to recognize theirs. And they will live lives of fulfillment and contentment when they become adults, because they too are functioning in the way that God intended.” (159)
I would have to add a personal caveat to this concept, however (as also suggested by Dr. Benjamin Carson in several of his books): if this bent is merely a physical ability (i.e. he’s great at sports), then you’re not looking deep enough, and you’re not developing in your child the true mental or social gifts that God intends to be utilized for His service. This is not to say that a Christian should not pursue a basketball ministry, but it is to suggest that talent in playing ball is definitely not all it takes to serve Christ with sports. Mental and social skills are vastly more important and far longer-lasting than anything physical. Also, when considering that only 1 athlete in 10,000 ever makes it to the professional stage, you avoid setting your child up for a lifetime of disappointment. Personally, no matter how physically gifted my children become, learning and communicating (including arts) will always take precedence over sports.
This book was a challenging read that certainly got my brain gears moving. I likely will return to it for some of the more practical ideas in how to engage my children and develop their God-given abilities, while at the same time fulfilling my own God-given responsibilities. When all is said and done, though, it will be my own spiritual integrity and prayer for my children that will have the greatest impact on their lives, and from there the choice is theirs alone.