I’ve never been in a fight. Well technically that’s not true. I was in two fights that both consisted of wild swinging with not a single blow landed by either side. To this day it’s safe to say that I’m a lover and not much of a fighter.
My dad didn’t teach me to fight…or defend myself, I should probably say. I always wanted to learn some form of martial arts ever since living in Okinawa, Japan for 3 years. Unfortunately, I had to be content with vicariously living through Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon rather than unleashing my own fists of fury.
I used to think that being protected meant that I had someone to fight for me. Not only to fight for me but to teach me to defend myself. But now I know that protection is much more than a macho dad who taught me to beat up bullies.
The Protection of a Father
I’ve had to walk through a lot of fear issues because of what I lacked with my dad. One of the most pivotal relates to the area of protection. As God teaches me what He looks like as a protector, I’m receiving some profound revelation in my own life.
Here are 3 ways to look at protection:
1. Protection is defending physical safety
I think part of why I wanted to take martial arts classes so badly was because I didn’t always feel protected. If I was in trouble or physical harm, I’m sure there would have been someone there to step up for me. My older sister did have to step up on more than one occasion, but never a man in my life. I never really felt the physical protection I longed for.
This lack can come in one of two ways. The first is the most heinous, which is abuse (which I never experienced). The second is less conspicuous but still legitimate and it comes in the form of passivity. Both instill the root of fear in our lives.
The most damaging thing a father can do is be the perpetrator of abuse (physical or emotional). Abuse from a father will leave deep scars in his children that are not quickly healed. An abusive father is the greatest injustice on the character of God. It is the most egregious perversion of the responsibility of a father to be a defender of his family.
Lack of protection also manifests in the form of a passive father. Children need to see their father as a protector. When a father is non-confrontational and is not comfortable to step up and defend the honor of his family, this resonates deeply with his children.
A good father will protect the physical well-being of his family. A good father will protect his daughter from predatory men (every father should own a shotgun!). A good father will protect his son from the bully on the block trying to terrorize him. A good father will also be the first to refute a rumor that violates the character of his family.
Children who have a father to defend them are more likely to overcome the fear of man.
2. Protection is establishing healthy authority
In the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about a concept called power distance. A higher power distance means that we view ourselves as far from authority and are much more submissive and obedient. A low power distance, on the other hand, means that we see ourselves close to authority and more likely to challenge it.
The United States has one of the lowest power distances in relation to all other countries. Our individualistic culture conditions us to be very close to power and quite distrustful of it.
Compound that with an an environment where we do not feel protected, our fight or flight response kicks in. We either become outright rebellious or terrified of authority.
A good father models healthy authority by establishing trust in his children. A reprimand or rebuke is done in a loving environment. A good father teaches his children consequences to over-stepping boundaries as opposed to punishment for breaking rules. Children are taught to believe that authority is good and can even be questioned when done the right way.
The environment of protection and trust established by a good father at home will instill both a healthy sense of respect for authority and self-respect.
3. Protection is encouraging risk
When I think of taking risks, all the hair on my body stands on end. It’s terrifying and uncomfortable. Risk is not something I’ve ever associated with protection or safety. From a young age I learned how to minimize risk and avoid confrontation at all costs. I learned that facing both of those things leads to loss. Safety to me was control and assurance.
But what I’m learning now is that the more you are protected, the more freedom you have to take risks.
Do you ever wonder why rich kids go to Ivy league schools and end up with a liberal arts degree? It’s because they view opportunity very differently than poor people.
In the previous entry in this series, I talked about the importance of a father providing opportunity. Along with that opportunity, a good father encourages risk taking.
When we are not protected, we fear risk, failure and disappointment. When we are in an environment which equates success with love or acceptance, this fear is deeply instilled in us.
A good father will teach his children how to take risks and how to fail well. A good father will not base love on performance. A good father will teach his children how to learn from their mistakes and demonstrate that love is not conditional based on accomplishments.
Fear and anxiety evaporate in an environment of protection.
God Our Defender
Of all the ways to view God, this has been the most difficult for me. It’s not easy to view God as a protector and defender when you’ve never seen it fully demonstrated in your own relationships.
Psalm 59 is an entire chapter about God’s protection. Verse 9 says:
“O my strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress”
The thing is that until I stopped projecting everyone else’s failures on to God, I couldn’t see Him for who He truly was. The pain I experienced filtered my view of Him. I was prevented not just from seeing His protection, but experiencing it.
It wasn’t until one day when I hit the end of my rope that I finally let Him in. I cried out that words on the page of a book weren’t enough to meet me in my pain.
There was no magic to the words I said but there was raw honesty. And God was faithful to meet me there. I felt Him gather me up in His arms and allow me to come undone. He comforted me in that place and I literally felt His presence surround me like I had never experienced it before.
Verse 16 of Psalm 59 become a reality:
“But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress”
Many of us have been hurt deeply by a lack of protection. Some have experienced the atrocities of abuse and others the pain of passivity. Both are deep rooted and a cause for a lifetime of fear and anxiety.
But there is hope. God is the true protector. He will show you that He never left you, even in the midst of what you’ve experienced. If you ask Him, He will meet you where you are most afraid. I know, because He met me there.
How have you experienced God as a protector in your life?