In volume 11 of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga we see a reunion between Edward and his father, Van Hohenheim. Van Hohenheim criticizes his son for burning down their childhood home and leaving. Why? He said it was cowardly act, that he ran away, and did it to ensure there was no longer a reminder of his mistake. Edward says he wouldn’t understand, to which Van Hohenheim says he does. That evening Panako gives him a scolding telling him he should have been around for his children, that it was his responsibility to guide them to ensure they did not try to transmute their mother from the dead. She said, he should have been a father and present to raise them to which Van Hohenheim says the powerful, yet sad words, “I don’t know how.”
Everything about this situation is heartbreaking. Van Hohenheim has admitted in two conversations his own failing as a father. One, that he ran away when the going got tough. Two, that he did not have any idea how to be a role model for his children. Let’s talk about the first.
For this, I think of Jonah – who ran away from his responsibilities and tried to flee from the Lord. What did the Lord do? He brought Jonah back to complete what he was responsible for. He did it begrudgingly, but he did what the Lord asked of him. Van Hohenheim fled from his responsibilities as a father and did not want to be reminded of this mistake, this weakness. We as Christians are called to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8). That means we have to be present in order to do that! Van Hohenheim’s absence made that nearly impossible to do. By running away, he was shirking his parental responsibilities. Were there extenuating circumstances? As the reader, I don’t know yet. But as a parent I say – I don’t care. His responsibility was first with his children and he should not have fled when the going got tough. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is an old cliche. That doesn’t mean they flee from their difficulties – it means they get started on getting things done. Van Hohenheim fled and he saw that same cowardice in his son.
As a father of four, I find it difficult to serve as role model of the Christian faith myself. I can, at times, relate to Van Hohenheim feeling like I don’t understand or am inadequate. And, frankly, compared to my heavenly Father – I am woefully inadequate. But, I have a guideline to follow given to me early on in Deuteronomy chapter 6. Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9. What did Moses write here? God alone is above all else and so we must love the Lord Your God above all else. Do this for your children’s sake, for your grandchildren’s sake, so they will know the Lord. That is my ultimate responsibility. I am to live as Christ taught me to live, and I am to love God above all else.
If I do that – as Christ points out, everything else we are called to do will happen (Matthew 22:36-38). If you love God above all else, you will listen to what He told us to do. You will not cheat on your spouse. You will not steal. You will not allow jealousy to consume you. You will read the scripture. You will give with a happy heart. You will do these things because they are the fruit of your faith (Galatians 5:22-23, James 2:14-18). This is not to say that you need to do specific things to be saved by Christ – but that if you love God above all else, you should be gladly, happily showing that through your actions.
As a Christian father, that is how I should teach my children right from wrong. That is how I should be raising them on how to not dabble into life and death magic. Showing them how I love God would help them respect God’s law; and God’s law clearly would not want them to manipulate the universe in order to resurrect their dead mother.