I have recently been reading a New Testament translation by a leading New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright. I Cor. 4:15 reads as follows, “You’ve got a thousand babysitters in Christ, I know, but you haven’t got many fathers – because I became your father in the Messiah, Jesus, through the gospel.” When I read those words, I knew I had to write a blog for men. The word “babysitter” grabbed my attention. Earlier in I Cor 3: 1 Paul made reference to some in the Corinthian church, “…I couldn’t speak to you as spiritual people, but as people who were all too obviously merely human, like babies in the Messiah.” Paul goes on the say , “I fed you with milk, not solid food, because your weren’t able to take it – and you still can’t, even now!” (I Cor 3:2) Obviously Paul was working with some immature believers.
Men, if we are honest there are times when we prefer a babysitter to be with us on our journey. We don’t want solid spiritual food offered by another mature believer. When have you preferred a spiritual babysitter? You want a baby sitter first of all, when you don’t want to be responsible for your behavior. We look to an adult to sympathize with us when we are justifying our childish behavior. This leads to a second response. We want someone to enter into our pouting. We feel sorry for ourselves and look to others to join our “pity party.” We’re wanting empathy for our childish behavior. Mind you, it is subtle, but it is childish. We can make it seem so spiritual.
Thirdly, we have a preference for a babysitter when we don’t want to face reality. We simply want someone to agree with our immature behavior and attitude, even while we pose as a spiritual guy. We are afraid or ashamed to face the reality of our fallen nature. Fourthly, we wish adults around us would just give us some easy answers to the issues of life. We resist doing the difficult inner work of facing our”ingrained habits of sin” (Foster). One more – we want someone to make us feel good. We have worked so hard at being good. We need affirmation for our”dysfunctional” behavior as a man of God.
Men, these are some of the reasons why I look for a babysitter. How about you? It will vary due to personality, background and life story. We all need spiritual fathers in the faith. Who has been a father for you? It could be for a short time, during a critical period of your journey or someone who has traveled with you for a long time. Spiritual fathers are mature, caring men who have been on the journey longer then you, whom you allow to speak into your life. A spiritual father, first of all, will know how to give affirmation, encouraging you, while giving you honest feed back. He will know when to be “soft” and when to be “hard.” He will secondly, be in your life to bring needed correction. He will be used to lovingly point out your “flaws.”
Thirdly, he will act as your confessor and stand with you when the times are tough. He will love you at your worst while hearing you confess your “spiritual junk.” Fourthly, he will defend you and speak well of you when you feel the most vulnerable and broken. That kind of spiritual father is rare, but will be much need in the days to come. Finally, a spiritual father, will help fill “the hole” in your male soul. Only a spiritual father can do this for a younger man. Rohr calls them “male mothers.”