“After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, ‘Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.’ And he worshiped the Lord there.”
– I Samuel 1:24-28
What is fatherhood? The American heritage Dictionary defines fatherhood as: the state of being a father; the qualities of a father; and fathers considered as a group.
I prefer the definition given by an African doctor, to a patient: “Parenthood is not about conception and biology; it is about nurturing a child and giving it love.”
Being a father is much more than conception and biology. The man who rears a child, nurturing it and showing it love, is the father of that child. It does not matter that he has no biological attachment to the child. He provides the child with all those basic needs that help the child in its social development.
Children need love and the warmth and touch of a parent. Where they find such warmth and love, they call it home. The givers, they call parents.
Dr. Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs pyramid, placed love at level three. Love is related to the psychological needs of a person. A child that grows up in a home where love is prominent, stands a better chance of developing into a productive citizen.
In the text, a mother gave her baby boy to the priest of Israel, to nurture and to love and to train in the ways of the Lord. At the time, the priest, Eli, was an old man. Yet, he took the young boy into his home and trained him as if he were his own son.
I am sure that Samuel, the infant boy, knew who his biological parents were. However, he knew who was the father that gave him the nurturing and the love that he craved.
Even though scripture does not say very much about the rearing of Samuel, we have the confidence that Eli was a loving father to the boy. Scripture does say that, “The boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.” (I Samuel 2:11) This suggests that the priest trained the boy well and that his role as a father to the boy pleased the Lord.
There are many men in our country and around the world who have and are raising children who are not theirs. In some cases, they may have a biological attachment in that they may be an uncle, grandfather or cousin.
Whether they are related biologically or not at all, they are the father. They are because they are seeing to these children’s physical and psychological needs.
They teach and prepare them to be good citizens in the land in which they live. These are fathers because they are fulfilling the needs that should be provided by the biological father.
I extol men who take children into their homes and raise them as their own. This is commendable. Through such actions, they are helping to build the nation.
This coming Sunday, June 21, is Father’s Day. To all the men who have raised children and are raising children, providing nurturing and love to those children, I say thank you for your care and for all that you have done and continue to do for these children.
You are a blessing to these children and a blessing to the country in which you live. You are appreciated. Fathers of the fatherless, we salute you. You are serving God in what you are doing, Happy Father’s Day! Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone 426-9084; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or website www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.