I’m Afraid of My Dad

After a swaying minibus ride, I pushed through the last rush of evening shoppers at an open-air market in a district of the city that borders the water. Passing through the airborne kaleidoscope of fish, raw meat, handmade soaps, and sweets, I headed to a more sensibly fragrant destination. I was meeting my friend at a local bakery that had a great café. I took a seat on the ground floor and waited as the last bit of sunlight leaked out of the sky and the Call to Prayer signalled the end of another day.

My friend finished high school only recently; he’s my youngest and most affectionate local friend. It had been a while since we’d seen each other because a few months ago we moved to a new district of the city. Over late snacks and tea, we quickly burnt through the regular small-talk. My language skills still lag far behind the regular street pace of a native speaker, but my friend perceptively notices when I lose the thread of the conversation and patiently guides me back.

The conversation shifted when we moved up to the balcony overlooking the neighbourhood so my friend could smoke. I told him that my wife was expecting which elicited an eruption of excitement and congratulations from him. The locals love babies and children. It also opened the door into a facet of the culture that I had been curious about before: fatherhood.

“I have two questions for you,” I stated. “In your opinion, what does a man have to do to be a good father? What was your relationship with your dad like?” His answer surprised me. He said he was afraid of his dad. He told a few stories of watching him from afar; times when his father had demonstrated profound hospitality and generosity, captured a room with humour, and let his anger boil over. “I have never been close to my dad, and I would be scared to talk about much with him,” he confessed. “Then was he a good father?” Without hesitation, he said, “he was the best.”

My friend explained to me that fathers typically don’t get too close to their sons in this country. They demonstrate, they dictate, but they rarely take their children into their own world. He remarked on other father-son relationships he had observed where the father becomes very tender to his children when he reaches his old age – 70’s or so. My friend’s theory is that at that stage of life they become regretful and reach out to try and set the important things in order before they die.

If that is true, it will present a challenge for new believers as we disciple them. To describe God as Father in any culture carries baggage with it. Islam already portrays God as distant and uninvolved, and the pattern of earthly fathers reinforces that misconception.

As you pray for this country, pray for a widespread blessing of intimacy with fathers to sweep the land, and for a revelation of the intimate involvement of God the Father in the lives of His children.

Please Note: For the sake of security the identity of the Global Worker(s) and exact geological locations have been omitted from the article.