Buck or Bow

“But, Dad, I thought you were the boss?”


My son asked me this question as we were driving away from church. He was genuinely confused. I’m the senior pastor, the one who stands up front and teaches others on Sunday. To a seven-year-old boy, that makes his dad “the boss.”


So when Aidan overheard me say to one of our elders, “I’ll go along with whatever the elders decide. I’m happy to follow your decision,” he scratched his head. Dad submits to the elders?


That led to a conversation on authority. Some of our best conversations happen while driving home in the truck, our eyes connected through the rear view mirror. Aidan asked several questions about who my authority figures are, and what it looks like for me, a leader, to submit to them. I could see that this idea was new and fascinating to him. I could also see his little wheels turning as he was constructing his own paradigm for authority and submission.


That moment impressed me that one of the most important visions dads impart to sons has to do with their posture toward authority. Our sons are watching us, asking questions such as:


Who does my dad need to follow or answer to?

Is authority a good thing?

Does he agree with what his authority figures are asking of him?

When he doesn’t agree, does he submit with a willing, gentle spirit or does he fight back actively or passively?


These are the issues our sons are piecing together as they study us. They’re watching to see if we buck or bow.


But they’re doing much more than watching. They’re forming little paradigms that they’ll build on and work from the rest of their lives. And here’s the scoop: how our sons orient themselves to the authority figures in their lives will largely determine whether they go through life in peace, or in angst.


The Apostle Paul said, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1-2)”


This can be a hard command to follow. People in Washington drive me crazy sometimes. I don’t always agree with my political or spiritual leaders. The police and military and other governing agencies don’t always get it right. Like you, I’m tested all the time with the issue of following my leaders with a good heart. Yet, Romans 13 reminds me that the stakes are high. Leer-jet-cruising-altitude-high. If I’m not submitting well to my leaders, then I’m not submitting well to God. And when I don’t submit to God, all the wheels start to fall off.


And as this happens, I can be certain my son is watching. He sees it all. He hears it all. Tiny ears hear us when we bash the President. They’re tuned into our words when we grumble about our bosses. They’re listening when we speak poorly of our pastors, elders, or other spiritual leaders. Our sons hear us, record what we say, and then set their own compass.


I’m working on this. It’s one of my front-line-issues. It’s a challenge, but I’m trying to pay attention to how I speak about my authority figures when my children are around. More than that, I’m trying to determine if my heart is right toward them, and then when I see that it’s not, ask for help from the One who gave them to me.


Questions: How about you? Who are your authority figures? Are they leading you well? How do you handle it when they don’t?