Are we shaped by nature or nurture?
Rather than the somewhat naive either or debate, I believe both play a vital role in shaping who we are. And more than anyone else, fathers are the predominate influence in determining our identity.
My parents divorced when I was very young so I didn’t spend much time with my biological father. My mom remarried a few years later and so my step-father raised me until I became a man.
My step-father was a military man and valued discipline, responsibility, honor and hard work. He raised me with those values and to this day they have stayed with me. These qualities were instilled in me through the nurture of my step-father and became a part of my character.
On the other hand, many aspects of my personality came directly from nature. I’ve always been a goof ball and I love to make people laugh. I remember while growing up, once my mom said to me: “Your father and I divorced and I still live with him!”
She would tell me how much of his personality I acquired. His humor, his passion for knowledge and learning and his charm are all qualities I inherited, even when he wasn’t around.
The Nurture of A Father
As I reflected on the nurture aspect, I thought about what a father intentionally gives to his children. These are the aspects of identity that come from the relationship and environment created by a father.
While these aren’t exhaustive, here are 3 key aspects of identity provided by a father:
1. What a man looks like
We get our first and most influential concept of manhood from our father. The example we see in our home determines what we believe men are like.
If our father is the outdoors type, we may grow up believing that a man knows how to hunt, fish, hike and start fires without matches. If our father is a business man, we may grow up believing that a man owns his own business, works long hours and strives to be successful.
Fathers teach their sons how to be men and teach their daughters what to look for in a man.
2. What a husband looks like
There is no clearer picture of what marriage looks like than what we see in our own home. Fathers set the tone in the home. Our views on marriage are shaped predominantly by the type of husband our father is to our mothers.
I know many people that swear they will never be married and without fail, it can be traced back to something that was missing from their father. When a father doesn’t provide that provision and protection in the home, a child’s view of marriage and what a husband looks like is far from reassuring.
A father teaches a son how to treat a woman and teaches a daughter how to expect to be treated.
3. What value looks like
Value is by far the most critical aspect of our identity that comes from our father. Our fathers have the most access into this part of our heart. What our father says about us determines our identity.
The words of a father can cripple or heal. Our value and worth comes primarily by what we perceive our father thinks about us. Even if our father loves and values us, if it is not clearly communicated, we can still perceive something completely different.
Our perception determines our truth. A father’s estimation of his child and how he communicates it will establish the value of a child.
How our father sees us determines how we see ourself. How we see ourself determines our identity.
The Nature of Our Father
I believe there are generational blessings and curses that are passed down to us. There are diseases and sickness for which we are predisposed. My dad has high cholesterol and diabetes runs in my family. I’m susceptible to both. Others have healthy genes and are predisposed to full heads of hair, minimal wrinkles and great body structure.
What is beautiful is that in Christ, we see the reality of how nature determines our identity. Regardless of our nature or nurture, something supernatural happens when we come into covenant with Jesus.
We may have earthly fathers that fell short but if we look back to the beginning of our bloodline, we can see where we really come from. There’s a great verse in Ephesians that says “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14-15).
Every family in heaven and earth came from God. He is the heavenly and transcendent father. Just as we receive identity from our earthly father, even more so we receive our identity from our Heavenly Father.
The apostle Peter talks about us becoming partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This isn’t just lofty talk that we can gloss over. This is our hope!
Regardless of what we’ve experienced in our family, we can take on the identity of the One who is the perfect Man, the perfect Husband and the One that has the authority to give us our true value.
We’re shaped both by the divine nature we’ve been given and we’re nurtured by God who longs to Father us.
What do you think it means to be a partaker of the divine nature?