A Father's Advice

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” is the first line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem entitled “If”. As a kid, I loved poetry and still do.  I love the pulse and rhyme of poems.  My first poetry book was Read-Aloud Poems where “Eletelephony” by Laura Elizabeth Richards, quickly became my favorite. But as I grew, I moved on to more thoughtful and introspective poetry like “The Duel” by Eugene Field: “The gingham dog and the calico cat side by side on the table sat…” Just kidding. But seriously, this poem remains one of my favorites, even if it’s a bit morbid.

One Christmas my mother purchased the book, One Hundred and One Famous Poems as a stocking-stuffer. Perusing through its pages and remembering my youth, I came across Kipling’s poem. All those years ago the poem’s full message escaped me, but now Kipling’s words made sense. I wondered what persecution this man must have suffered to write such poignant words. Kipling wrote in his autobiography, the poem was based on the exemplary character of his friend, Sir Leander Starr Jameson. Still, I saw something more. It felt as if Kipling was actually speaking to those who may have hurt him and then rising above to know he was the better man.

Yet the poem may be exactly as it reads, simply a father’s words of advice. If so, and his autobiography is to be believed, then Kipling’s advice was for his son to grow to be a noble man like his friend, Sir Jameson.

Advice is one of those good gifts God allows us sinful people to give to our children. But, what type of advice do we give?

Kipling applauds fortitude, resourcefulness, and ingenuity as the way to become a man. And while these virtues are impressive, they seem to encourage hope in human ability alone.

Nevertheless, they are God-created.

In Proverbs King Solomon penned advice from our heavenly Father. Solomon may have thought he was writing to his own son, but God had greater plans and centuries of children to advise.

Father God declares, true wisdom, knowledge, and understanding begin with a fear of the Lord.  Without this fear, God says we are like a fool despising wisdom and instruction and hating knowledge. However, no unbeliever would ever admit they are lacking intellect because they do not fear God. But they are.

Innate within every human is the capacity to know God personally.[1] Nevertheless, in choosing to glorify self instead of God, we become futile in our thoughts, our foolish hearts are darkened. We lose the capacity to see heaven and earth as they were created.

Placing reverential fear in man and man’s abilities brings a snare, because sin corrupts character and even the virtuous are subject to it.

So listen to your heavenly Father’s advice. Fear the Lord. Gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Hate evil, pride, arrogance, and a perverse mouth.[2] For only trusting and fearing God prolongs days, gives strong confidence, a place of refuge, and a fountain of life.[3]

[1] Romans 1:19
[2] Proverbs 8:13
[3] Proverbs 14:26-27


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