ICONIC FATHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN’S FAITH
Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Genesis 48:21
When good fathers are alive, their children dwell securely under their shade tree. God’s favor is on the father, and by extension, the sons and daughters who share their faith. The children might not think about the day when their father no longer lives. If they do, they wonder if God’s favor will shadow them in the same powerful way it has hovered over their father.
How reassuring were Jacob’s words to Joseph. “I am about to die but God will be with you.” Didn’t Joseph already know that? God brought him safely through slavery, captivity, and enthronement. But ascending a throne in Egypt is not the same as stepping into the role of a patriarch within a covenant family. It was easier for him to follow in the footsteps of Jacob alive then to step into his shoes after death. This, every man of a larger-than-life father, feels.
In taking Joseph to Egypt, God gave Joseph distance between his iconic father and himself. He became his own person, a unique son of Yahweh. And this very thing, sons of famous fathers must do. Leave home. In their father’s shadow, it is difficult to get to know themselves and give themselves permission to be different from what others expect. How unfair to hear, “He not like his father. Or, he’s going to be just like his father!” Either way, it’s a pile of expectations. The problem with icons is that the public sees perfection. The family sees the humanity. We are god-makers and cast this heavy burden upon their children.
Like you perhaps, I’m aware that the story would be different if Reuben, or Judah, or Simeon had become the vice-chancellor of Egypt. Great fathers don’t always raise great sons. Joseph was great because God had his hand on him and cast him into refining fires early in life. The others stayed in their father’s shade, resented his faith, and acted out a kind of teenage rebellion throughout their adult lives.
I’m married to the son of an iconic father ~ a larger than life evangelist. No matter where we go, Ron is Jack Wyrtzen’s son. Expectations have always been high. At 32, God called Ron away from his father’s organization to become the unique leader he is today. He was cast into great refining fires for two decades. Today, he is a great man much like his father but different from his father. He is a ‘Jesus’ in the business world while his father was in ministry. This metamorphosis would not have happened without time and distance. But one thing has proven true. As God was with Jack Wyrtzen, God has been, and is, with Ron Wyrtzen. I see God’s favor on him every day as he brings the kingdom to our world with wisdom, holy restraint, and grace.
You made me. Only You should shape Your own creation. Strengthen the holy legacies with our fathers and break the back of idolatry. Amen