It is Father’s Day. As we turn our attention toward our own fathers and thank them for being who they are I also pause to think: I am a father. As I think of this I consider all the mistakes I’ve made and the times I’ve exasperated my children. I realize I have often cast doubt on my ability to father well.
Yes, I feel asleep on the couch holding my first, my son. He was newly born and I dropped him from couch edge to floor. Yes, I played with my first daughter—the one I was worried I would break—she was a girl after all! But I played with her anyway, tossing her in the air as she giggled. And yes, I tossed her too high and she hit her head.
The list goes on and on, not just of times I have been clumsy or careless, but also times of poor decisions, times when I’ve made it about me, instead of it being about what was best. Times I’ve been angry or selfish or clueless. And it’s tempting to think I have no business fathering.
But I also know that there are greater things at stake than my misguided attempts at fathering that often occur. There are godly things, eternal things going on. And I realize that I am not just seeking to father them as my biological children, but I want them to be my spiritual children as well.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
This is great perspective for me. This is truth. I will make mistakes, I will choose poorly at times, but I am not just trying to raise productive members of society. I am not just seeking to instill manners and a know how for when to use them (and a willingness to use them). No, I am raise up those who I long to see walking in the truth. I am raising up children to know and begin to love Jesus and his Father; raising them to hear the moving of the Spirit and choose to walk with him. This is about so much more than my relationship with my kids. I want them to have relationship with their eternal Father.
A few months ago one of my daughters said to me, “Dad, you’re not our real dad.” I was, to say the least, a little concerned about where this conversation was going. I thought, as I asked what she meant, that perhaps living in a society where step-parents and broken homes are the norm that perhaps she thought we were just like everyone else. But she responded with a sly smile and a “God is our real Dad, you’re just taking care of us for him.”
Perhaps I am fathering better than I thought.
This verse from 3 John also reminds me of the job my own father did. When we become parents it’s easy to look back on our parents and see all the things they did that we didn’t like or to determine to not parent as they did in certain aspects. And this is what our children will do when we have raised them; it’s just the way of things. None of us are perfect. But here is what I know on this Father’s day. I am walking in the truth. As are my two sisters and my brother. So I must say that my father, and my mother, have done something—the most important thing—right. And I know, it wasn’t all them. I’ve seen parents raise their children with love and grace and the truth of Jesus only to have those children walk anywhere but in the truth. It’s ultimately our own decision. But they showed us the way and offered the truth.
This is what it means to be a good father this Father’s Day. And it gives me hope. I don’t always make the best choices. I don’t always do everything right, but I am striving to lead them in this truth walk, this Jesus following. And they are seeing and following and walking in truth in ways that inspire me and teach me.
So perhaps I am doing a little better than I thought. I just know that fathering well will take all the grace and all the wisdom of God as he continually undoes the messes I make, and replaces my careless and confusing words with words of hope and joy and truth.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
This is what it means to father well. This is what I am striving to hear.