Last Friday, our school had its final assembly for the term. This assembly is annually the Easter assembly – the school’s celebration of the most important day in the Christian calendar. It is often a time of joy and fun, as many children are excited about their upcoming holidays and teachers look forward to weeks of having to only manage their own, biological children. However, last week’s assembly was not the usual, it was not formulaic, it was certainly not a standard school meeting… rather it carried a weight, which profoundly challenged me.

The Thursday before this, the news broke of our president’s reshuffle to his cabinet – causing South Africans and international investors alike to appear as stable as a toddler on a newly polished floor. As the toddler grabbed for the metaphoric support structures (ranging from passports to offshore accounts) we, at school, received further destabilising news – a staff member’s new born infant had taken a turn for the worse. It was in the light of these national developments that only 60% of the school populace filed into the assembly hall. Many of the teachers were having last minute peeks at social media and news sites, monitoring the developments of the marches taking place around the country, at which their friends and spouses were present. Parents chatted nervously about national developments, quickly changing the subject to upcoming holidays, while their children in the front of the hall seemed unsettled in the half-empty space.

Personally, I felt the weight of leading a school that was wrestling with the role it should play on a national and collegial level. We had begun the morning praying for our nation and our friend and now needed to put on our ‘teacher masks’ to control a group of 500 children for the next half an hour. There was an unease about. Typically, we begin our assemblies with praise and worship songs, led by a Junior Prep teacher – these songs tend to be very repetitive, annoyingly catchy and ultimately simplistic. These songs are aimed at our Grade 1s, 2s and 3s. However, this morning, our regular Junior Prep teacher was not at school and the Senior Prep teacher, armed only with her beautiful voice and piano, began to play out of her own repertoire – the song was entitled ‘Brave’. Within a few chords every individual in the auditorium was singing, from the most energetic grade 1 to the most easily distracted dad, the words of the song seemed to galvanise a group of people whose personal and national fears were laid bare for all to see. Beneath the watery eyes of the parents, there appeared a steeliness, the children’s faces spoke of hope and belief in what they sang:

“You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way”

The words spoke of a security, a deep-seated knowledge that the God who had orchestrated that His son would die on a cross for each and every one of us, was the same God who held our nation in His hands. He was the same God who walked beside our broken-hearted colleague, was the same God that children fundamentally believed would make them brave, because He loved them.
Easter became a reality in that moment. A God who so loved His creation that He sent His son to pay the price that we should have, in so doing, defeating death and cementing our relationship with Him.


Are dads really that important?

Moms try and force feed Purity into the mouth of a screaming toddler, dads land helicopters full of life-saving nutrients on the tongue of their child. Moms have ‘bath time’, dads have epic sea battles in which their children are fired with soap suds and bombed with shampoo. Moms are “so intense”, dads are “so chilled” (read: distracted), moms “make me go to bed”, dads “let me watch anything” (read: still distracted). Dads should hold a special place in the minds of society but all too often they are just the comics and jokers, or merely the workers and decision makers. Far too often they don’t occupy the critical space that they should…  so how do we fix this?

Possibly having a look at the interaction between Samuel and Eli may shed some light on the matter. As a young boy, the prophet Samuel lived apart from his parents. In a life-changing moment, an old man, Eli, provided Samuel with the wisdom and sense of perspective that the young boy needed. Eli was a father to two other boys, the Bible mentions that he was a poor father, who had not raised upstanding sons but in this moment, he plays the crucial role of dad in the life of this young boy. Samuel has a dream, a dream that would scare the daylights out of any 9-year-old, he hears audible voices. When he climbs out of bed to find out why Eli (the only other person in the house) is calling him, he discovers that Eli hasn’t called him. This happens a few times until Eli’s wisdom and experience kick in and he instructs the young boy to wait and listen because it is God who is speaking to him. Once he has heard from God, Eli says to Samuel to obey any instruction God has given him. This story highlights a couple of things:


We all need a dad in our lives

Dads provide a sense of safety, a sense that all is going to be OK. We feel as though risks are worth being taken, because dad says they are. We feel as though catastrophes are manageable because dad offers solutions. When our most deeply-hidden insecurity is revealed for all to see, dad pulls us towards himself and assures us that we are not as broken as we believe we are. This role is a critical role to be played out in everyone’s life, but not everyone is blessed to have a biological dad who can play this role.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Whether it be because of age, geography or pain, many of us have to look elsewhere for this dad. Samuel had to! He turns to someone who has walked the paths of life already. Now Eli, may not appear to be a prime candidate for a dad – he had failed with his two already. But, to be a dad, one doesn’t need to be perfect, just available. Eli happened to be old, but dads don’t need to be old to occupy that role. One of my most father-son like relationships in the professional world was with a fellow only a few years older than I. He shared two traits with Eli, firstly, he was available and secondly, deeply interested in me and my well-being. While I have a dad with whom I have a solid relationship, this more mature, wiser and more experienced colleague took me, the novice, under his wing and guided and protected me in my first few years of work. We all need dads!


Dads need to be dads in people’s lives

Eli was a prophet of notoriety in Israel in his day and yet receives no mention in the Bible other than for his role in Samuel’s life. In fact, the writer of the story even insists on mentioning his failings as a prophet and a father. But, for all its failings, Eli’s life seems to gain an eternal significance when he (finally) plays the role of dad in the life of his ‘surrogate son’, Samuel. God has put a key in the DNA of every man, a key that has the ability to secure, a key that can unlock. The greatest tragedy is that many of us men live our lives in the same way that Eli lived the majority of his – not having the courage to ever really use our key in the lives of others.


Let us begin to recreate the critical role of dads within our society

  • Look for a guy who has walked the road that you are walking and begin to develop a relationship with him. Value the input he has in your life.
  • As guys, look around for those who need guidance and security and become intentional in using your God-given key in their lives.
  • Dads of young kids – get the basics right. Love your children’s mom, show them what God means to you and be patient.
  • Dads of older kids – let them always know how much you love them and keep to your word. Never rest in building the depth of your relationship with them – your dad in heaven hasn’t with you!