A Story of a Strong Father – Brings a Tear to My Eyes

I was reading an article on Vanity Fair about one of the most defining personalities of Great Britain, its only woman Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/12/margaret-thatcher-201112 I admire women that exhibit very strong masculine attributes. Below is an excerpt from that write-up.

Margaret Thatcher’s father was the single biggest influence on her life. Alfred Roberts was a grocer who ran two fairly successful shops in Grantham. He was also a Methodist lay preacher, well known for the quality of his sermons, and an alderman, a type of local politician now obsolete. Alderman Roberts had no sons and appears to have harbored for Margaret, the second of his two daughters, many of the ambitions which, had he been born to a higher level of society, he might have been able to fulfill for himself.

Roberts impressed upon young Margaret the importance of knowledge, duty, and hard work, the power of both the spoken and the written word, and the value of public service. The Roberts girls had to borrow and read two books from the library every week, at least one of them nonfiction. They attended church twice on Sundays (where Margaret sang notably well), and Margaret often accompanied her father to political meetings. Because the family lived above one of the shops, Alderman Roberts usually came home for meals with the girls. He and Margaret discussed public events, including the coming war with Germany. Of her mother, Beatrice, Margaret Thatcher said, “Oh, Mother. Mother was marvelous—she helped Father.”

When I read the excerpt above, my eyes were getting filled with tears, quite inexplicably. I think there is something wrong with a man who cries for himself. But here, I wasn’t crying for myself. Being human beings, when we see something that signifies something that is exquisitely beautiful or deeply profound we feel ‘moved’ deep within and some of us that have sensitive souls easily get mushy. Something about the excerpt above ‘moved’ me very deeply. So I stopped to think through…

There are a few noteworthy points in the excerpt.
1. The father is an industrious man who is also deeply religious, obviously intelligent, capable of giving ‘high quality’ sermons.
2. He is a father who really understands his kids, tries to bring out the best in them and has BIG dreams for them.
3. Even though he is intelligent, industrious and gregarious, his not being from ‘high society’ put a glass ceiling above him. But that doesn’t make him cynical. He INVESTS in making his Kid’s life more fulfilling than his is.
4. The father INVESTS in nurturing his kids with good values, education and real life experiences.

I couldn’t help but wonder how Alderman Roberts seems such an anti-thesis to much celebrated men of the likes of Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison. Steve Jobs made it BIG in life, but he was not in good terms with any of his daughters. In fact, one of the reasons he attributed to wanting to have an authorized biography was in his own words, ‘to help his kids know who he really was’. Alderman Roberts on the other hand was someone who remained small in life, but he ‘poured himself’ out into the life of his kids.

There were two reasons I got mushy…
1. The article started off stating Thatcher’s political accomplishments and suddenly took a dive in an moving account of a personal nature, it sort of took me by surprise, my emotional guard was down.
2. Alderman Roberts’ life depicted a profound masculine strength which is not valued much in the society we live in. Robert’s Strength is in not living his life for himself (to chase his ‘American Dream’, ought I say ‘British Dream’??? :P), but in ‘pouring himself’ into the lives of his kids. The beauty of the relationship between him and his daughter and how it impacted the course of History of Western Europe, brought a tear to my eye. All because one man decided to really understand his kids and pour into their lives.

Contrary to what we are led by our cultural-conditioning to believe, a man’s Strength is NOT in what he has achieved in his life, NOR is it in the legacy he leaves behind. A man’s true Strength is in how he has been able to pour into other’s life, especially those close to him. This sort of Strong man often pours himself out at the cost of losing his chance to prove to the world that he is somebody to be reckoned with. He is the true revolutionary.

Margret rightfully calls her father the greatest influence in her life. Her father poured into Her by being her TEACHER. As per the Biblical model, it is the duty of the Father (also) to be his kids’ Teacher. God command Moses and other Prophets that they are to teach the commands and statues to their children and children’s children….

Exodus 10:2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.

Exodus 12:26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.

Any parent would know that teaching kids is not a easy job. It is a 24/7 ‘work’. Frank Schaeffer said, “the man who said that parents need to spend ‘quality time’ with kids is a fool. Parents need to spend LOTS of time with kids”. Alderman Roberts did precisely this. In a world where the fathers are busy with work, else are occupied with their own recreation whether in the form of music or gym workouts or garage projects or watching NFL or hanging-out with buddies at the bar, Alderman Roberts depicts one important facet of true masculinity – that of being his kid’s Teacher instead of outsourcing teaching to someone that wouldn’t care less for his kid.

Being your kid’s Teacher is a reflection of an aspect of God’s relationship to man too. Christ was primarily called a TEACHER. He poured out his life in teaching and leading people to life transforming Truth. His work is continued by the Lord the Holy Spirit in our hearts as He counsels us and reminds us of the Truth. If a man is not inspired in his Spirit to be Christlike and be a good Teacher to his kids, his negligence will affect his generation and the next one and the next one.

Exodus 34:7 Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.

What Roberts did to his kids was the right thing for the father to do. In a world where more than a third of the kids are born to single-moms and irresponsible fathers, in a world that is so bereft of good models for true masculinity, reading Roberts story feels like coming across an oasis in a desert. It is a story of how one man, a Strong Father who lives not for himself but for his kids; and in reflecting Christ-likeness pours into them and nurtures a personality who impacts lives of millions. It is something that is beautiful and profound that it brings a tear to my eyes.