A few years ago a minister that has shaped my life from a afar left a very prominent ministry. Immediately the ‘why’s’ and the ‘he’s in sin’ and the ‘I wonder what happened’ rhetoric hit social media. I defended both of the ministries only to get a few phone calls and messages from people with ‘insider knowledge’ to tell me I was wrong. On the first call I was being told how the man was wrong and had been caught in multiple things and I believe my response was straight from the Spirit. I said ‘those accusations may very well be true, but a good son will cover his father’s nakedness.’ Now, that was a very public ordeal, but what happens when things happen on a 1 on 1 level? How do you cover a father’s nakedness when it affects your relationship directly.
Let me be clear, this short writing is not about like blatant failure like falling into adultery. This is about our interpersonal relationships with those in our lives that we call fathers.
On a more personal note, I had lunch with a spiritual son of mine a few days ago and we began discussing mistakes in ministry and how someone responds to the shortcomings of a leader they are close to. I assured him that I have had mentors and fathers that have failed me, that have fallen short of the expectations I had for what a father looked like. I also assured him that there will come a time when I let him down. There will come a time when I unfortunately fall short of his expectations of me. One HUGE thing I’ve learned in ministry is that there is nothing as detrimental to the relationship between a spiritual father and son as the power of unmet expectations. I know this sounds harsh, but we all know it’s true. There’s only one good, and that is God. I’m not perfect, nor do I pretend to be.
One aspect of being a good son, a mature son, is their willingness to cover their father’s nakedness even when they fall short. You see, each one of us has an Adamic, fleshly nature, and at the end of the day that means there will be times that we don’t rightly fulfill our duties as leaders. We could go on and on about leaders falling, but I want to give the other sons and daughters 4 things to establish over the course of your relationship with leaders that will make it easier, especially in the event of unmet expectations, which usually is the root of every issue in these relationships.
1) Honor Till It Hurts
Let me be frank. Your ability to honor will never be tested until you are presented with the opportunity to NOT honor. Showing honor is easy when it’s smooth sailing, but let Saul try to kill David and see if honor still prevails. How do you honor even in harsh situations? By refusing to talk about your fathers/leaders and by esteeming them even as you would Christ. David had ample opportunity to kill his mentor Saul, but even presented with the opportunity, honor prevailed and he reaped honor’s reward in his own life. This is how you ‘cover their nakedness’ in your personal life.
2) Pray, pray, pray
When you are hurt by a spiritual father the most impacting thing you can do is pray. Why? It really has nothing to do with them, but everything to do with you. When you pray intentionally and purposefully for someone it is impossible to stay angry or bitter for a long time because the heart of God for that individual will begin to impact your own heart for them.
3) Now Talk it Out
One thing I know about myself is that when it comes to leading I can have a strongly abrasive personality. I like to get things done, and you can blame it on the military but when we are in the middle of getting stuff done I don’t really care about feelings. Just being honest, and hey, I’m working on it. But this also means that people get rubbed the wrong way. With sons in particular I EXPECT them to come directly to me if this happens. That’s they only way this gets dealt with in a healthy manner. There is great harm when a spiritual son is walking around carrying an orphan spirit that attached itself after a father was harsh or blunt. I care DEEPLY for those in my charge, but I’ve learned also as a son that my mentors and fathers are usually oblivious to the fact there was even an issue or offense. Don’t sit on that offense and let it grow. Go to them. Talk it out. Get over it.
4) Discuss Expectations
Earlier I mentioned there is nothing like the power of unmet expectations, but the reason most expectations go unmet is because they are never known to the other party. I think at the OUTSET of a spiritual journey between a father and a son that these expectations need to be laid out. Every time I’ve been hurt or feel let down by a leader in my life it has been because of this one thing. I expected something that they didn’t know I expected, and that unmet expectation caused a riff because ‘they weren’t doing their job.’ That could have been avoided altogether if we’d had an honest convo about it. Sons, be bold, go to your fathers and discuss this. Fathers, be wise, and establish this before the relationship suffers.
What about you? Do you have any other suggestions for young men and women that feel their relationships with their mentors are failing?