It's a Big World. What's a Father to Do?
Gone are the days when I was regularly seen with an infant in my arms. I remember before my firstborn turned 1, my church invited all the dads to the stage on Father's Day. We were asked to share what we like most about being a dad. I wasn't very
Before my son was born, many asked, "Are you ready to be a father?" Ready to be a father? Everybody say it with me: "No!"
We're probably never ready. We can read parenting books, articles and new discoveries on child development; and we can memorize pertinent Bible verses. But I say 'never' because fatherhood is much more than we might expect. Even with profound fatherly role models, I think we naturally overlook some things, even key things, as we gear up for fatherhood.
You see, at some point we realize:
A father may be Superman to his young kids, but Superman exists only as long as his child's imagination will embrace him.
I'm a father of three boys. There was a time in each of their lives when I could do no wrong and they truly wanted to be like me. But I'm not Superman anymore. Of course, I never was.
So what's a father to do? It's hard to fit the job description. We have empty loops in our tool belts. We can't conjure the muscles to fill the entire six-pack.
we make mistakes
we jump to conclusions
we forget important events
we feel like throwing in the towel
It's normal to miss the mark, but we will see our shortcomings take shape in our children if we don't improve. Here are a few key issues we might need to correct.
cheating or lying
being easily frustrated and angered
devaluing women or human life in general
feeling better than others and putting them down
looking outside of family and God for approval and acceptance
seeking comfort in substances or ungodliness instead of God's loving arms
But brothers, we can't do this by relying on the world's advice or even ourselves. Change begins with freedom through Jesus and compounding growth through the Holy Spirit. (See 2 Corinthians 3:14-18.)
My boys are each at different stages of life: grade school, college, and just entering the workforce. I am proud of each of them. They are all on track to
Don't get me wrong. I spent time with my kids. I took them to some of their team practices and even coached some seasons. I attended nearly all of their major events. I've been on probably 90% of their class field trips. And I was home almost every evening. I was in their lives.
But I dropped the ball, too.
I didn't lead them very often in Bible study; I didn't spend enough time talking with them about real life, including spiritual life; and I didn't pray enough with them. I haven't been the best at "training up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6).
But I did a few things intentionally and I think these things, along with God's mercy and love, made a difference for my boys. They seem to know that life with God is the best life we can have…hands down.
Here are some things I committed (imperfectly) to God as a father:
My relationship with God was the priority relationship. My wife was 2nd, and the boys came 3rd. But I also partnered with my wife and didn't speak contrary to her with my boys.
I didn't allow my boys or their situations to change the way my wife and I ran our household, even with their eat-wake-sleep cycles as infants. From birth through high school, they were welcome members of our family, but not in charge.
My wife and I never stopped serving God, even when our boys were newborns. So, our kids never knew a time when we were not serving Him in some significant way.
We didn't allow other activities to take the place of Sunday worship, including Sunday School/Community. On those rare occasions when we missed church, I led my family in Bible-based discussions.
I regularly explained how God is involved in our lives, demonstrating this truth to my boys as events transpired in their individual journeys.
While I wasn't perfect at these, I was pretty consistent. I also spent a one-on-one weekend with them to discuss marriage, purity, and the birds and bees, from a biblical standpoint.
Did I do my best? Honestly, no. I was lazy, selfish, inexperienced, arrogant, and foolish. I still am, just maybe a little less. But I was committed to being the kind of father who honored God and who practiced what he preached.
Remember this from the 10 Commandments? It still applies today.
…I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:5-6
So, let's commit to fathering in a way that honors God. We are possibly the most influential people in our children's lives, so we need to be purposeful.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Psalms 127:4
Warriors aim and fire each arrow only once, and they don't take time to retrieve them. There are no do-overs for the growing years of our children – no golfer's mulligans. We don't get to take back our offenses or remove negative experiences we piled onto our kids. Like a warrior, we shoot our arrows once – one transition into adulthood. Let's give them the best possible trajectory to hit the mark God wants for them. It's the most important thing we will do for them.
…physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8
We're learning as we go, but we are not defeated. We are victorious when we lean into God while we raise our children. God's mercy will reign.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to