Of all the images of fatherhood, none has ever moved me so much as this statue in front of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church. An African man holding his child aloft, invoking his ancestors. The great transmission of life and love. While a dedication of the new child, it also captures the threshold moment in the life of the man, when he calls down the wisdom of the ancestors in aiding his ability to form the next generation.
It is an awesome responsibility.
It calls forth greater selflessness and self-sacrifice, the responsibility of being a walking parable for the rest of one’s life.
The ‘dedication’, for all fathers, is not just the consecration of the child to a biological lineage. It is to the virtues, the character and spirit of all who have passed before. Such consecration can only take root to the extent that the father internalizes those virtues, making them part of the living matrix of his being.
I have been astonished at how my children, when they were toddlers and a little older, would imitate my behaviors, parrot my expressions. That spoke volumes to me about how much I am a model for their behavior.
I too invoke my ancestors’ virtues, as well as the broader communion of saints. I reach for their wisdom, their examples of sacrificial love, of forbearance, of faith and fidelity. I ask God only for wisdom, not wealth or material goods. I ask for His divine protection over Regina and the children. I try to remember Carly Simon’s lyric, “These are the good old days,” and try to make them so.
Ultimately the ‘dedication’ isn’t so much a singular infant ceremony, as it is a daily consecration of the father’s self to the collective ancestral virtues. It is the daily working at refining authentic masculinity through hard work, sacrificial love, submission to God, and rejoicing in the lives of our wives and children.