Ahead of Father's Day (Sunday 4th September), we'll be sharing stories of every day Christian fathers and how the gospel shapes their parenting. In this interview, Glenn Calderwood shares how discovering God the Father through the Scriptures has informed and guided his parenting—both locally in Australia and on the mission field in Papua New Guinea.
1. Please introduce yourself!
I’m Glenn and I have been married to Beth for 40 happy years. We have three adult daughters, two sons-in-law, six grandsons and two granddaughters. I was born in Northern Ireland and came to Australia as a 15-year-old. Beth and I met at our church in Tamworth and married a few years later. When our oldest daughter was 6 years old and our youngest just 6 months old, we were commissioned as missionaries to a remote tribal area in Papua New Guinea to commence an evangelistic and bible teaching ministry.
For 25 years, we ministered together in the same tribal hamlet until my life was openly threatened by criminal gangs. This triggered our relocation to Newcastle where our daughters were living at the time. Since then, I have continued to teach the believers we left behind via annual retreats in P.N.G. (until 2019) and written material through the mail. Beth and I currently attend All Saints Anew Anglican Church at Lambton in Newcastle.
2. What have been the joys and challenges of fatherhood over the years?
It has been a battle to provide a home where our children feel loved, accepted and cherished. Our commitment to our ministry ran the danger of giving our children the impression that work is more important. It was a challenge to provide a safe and happy home environment where the children knew they were cherished and assured that we would give up our ministry to respect their wellbeing. Thankfully, our children did feel loved and cherished, and consequently had the resilience to go through some very difficult and dangerous times with us.
3. How has knowing God the Father shaped the way you father your children?
When I think of my own Dad, I rarely think of how he performed as a father and more about what kind of person he was. Similarly, when I think of God as Father, I think about what kind of person He is.
Jesus’ invitation to address God as “Father” in prayer, is an invitation for me to remember that God is not an impersonal deity but a person. When I pray, I try to understand my life experiences in light of what God has said about Himself in Scripture. It’s in this process that I have come to know and appreciate God in an intimate way—so that I fear and respect Him on one hand, and delight and have joy in Him on the other.
This has had the remarkable effect of changing my character to be more like His. For me, this has been the bedrock of my parenting. The great treasures of what God has taught me from God’s parenting of me, informs and guides my parenting. The whole range of “tools” God has used to change me—in suffering, loss, failure, gladness, fruitfulness, bountiful provisions—will be reflected in how I guide and mature my children. Of course, I’m not always successful at doing this, botching it many times, but it nevertheless remains the intent and trajectory of my parenting.
4. How has God used you in your role as a grandfather? How can grandparents continue serving their family for God's glory?
The whole purpose of God saving us is that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who saved us (2 Corinthians 5:15). Essentially that is what parenting is about—no longer living for ourselves, but for Him in everything we do, and us teaching our children and children’s children to do the same. This is a life-long endeavour.
The “hands-off” approach once our children marry is not really a tenable biblical idea. God’s call for parents to train their children to maturity does not end once children become adults or get married. In the church, the young ones are to learn from the older ones, the younger ones are to be willing to be instructed by the older ones, and there isn’t an exclusion if the younger ones are your own children.
How you help your adult children mature will be manifestly different as adults, but the intent and trajectory remain the same—to help our children become mature in their knowing of God as a person and in their living for Him in whatever their life’s circumstances are. Having adult children (and their spouses) who are not offended or find it too confronting to have their parents speaking into their lives (including speaking to their parenting) and being encouraged to speak into the lives of their children, is such a blessing for us grandparents. What a concrete way to be counter-cultural!
5. What is one piece of advice that you would give to new dads this Father's Day?
God brings a whole range of life experiences—heartache, sadness, gladness and delight—to encourage us to engage with Him, know Him as a person, and to fear and delight in Him. My advice is to genuinely pursue this with all your might.
Our children will see through any façade of “niceness” Christianity. Instead, children need to see real engagement with God: real struggle with what He brings to our lives, real knowing Him, and real change. God loves deeply. He disciplines relentlessly. He is kind, self-controlled, generous, worthy of respect, He is good, and much more. Experience God in all aspects of your life and begin to be these things in your own person and character.
Do not be afraid of failure or to admit to failure, especially to your children, for this is one of the tools God uses so we and they can experience Him. If you do this, your children will see authentic Christianity, and as you are changed, they will have an example worth following and will have every opportunity to embrace God, our Father and Saviour, for themselves.
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