I love being a dad. I love the constant activity around the house, the games, the lectures, the noise, and the adventure that each day brings. I love chasing them around the house, telling them stories, and pestering their mother together. I am also terrified of being a dad. Of all of the endeavors that I have undertaken in my life, parenting seems like the one for which I am least equipped and the one that has the most uncontrollable variables. Obviously being a godly husband is difficult, but I don’t feel like I am on a time limit like I do in parenting. I will, God willing, continue to hone my husbanding skills for another 40 or 50 years. Parenting, however, is crammed into about 20. I recognize that there are skills and lessons that I will still be able to teach my children as they navigate their own marriages and parenting adventures, but by-and-large parenting lasts about 20 years.
There are days when even that number seems overwhelming, but truthfully, it should add a seriousness to the commitment that we make to our children. It forces us to prioritize our time because we realize that it won’t be all that long until they are out of the house and my opportunity for teaching and training will be over. It also forces us to evaluate what our priorities are going to be. This is where it gets a little difficult and personal. It is important for us to realize that parenting is as much about liturgy as it is about lessons. It is as much about your habits as anything else. In other words, what you model and make a commitment to is every bit as important as the lectures you give. Think about your own life. You probably don’t remember every lecture your dad gave you, but you do remember what he did after work. You may not know his philosophy on marriage, but you do remember how he talked to your mom.
Your kids will rarely remember what you said, but they will always remember who you were and what you did. They will quickly recognize what you value the most by what they see you treasuring and by what you spend your time doing. When you routinely skip church, you are sending the message that fishing, soccer, or football is more important than worship, and it doesn’t matter what you tell them. Don’t be surprised then if when they are in college, they don’t find it important either. When you spend significant overtime hours at work so that you can provide them with a boat, fancy vacations, or the newest toys, you are telling them that stuff is the key to life and that time sacrificed in relationship is worth it. Dads, the best way to get them to read their Bible as an adult is not to tell them to do it, but for you to do it. My point is that our kids are watching probably more than they are listening. It was a scary realization for me when I realized that my kids are slowly becoming more like me in how they talk and what they do. Think about how much like your parents you are!
This Father’s Day I want to encourage and challenge us dads to look at the patterns of our lives and the messages that we are sending to our kids. After work, do we sit down in front of the TV or change clothes and play with our kids? Do they see us memorizing scripture or movie lines? Do they see us opening our home in the ministry of hospitality or protecting our house from wear and tear? Have they ever seen us sharing the gospel, praying with their mothers, serving our neighbors or discipling others? Can they recognize our generosity, our sacrifice to spend time with them, and will they remember the way in which we gathered them into our arms to pray? Everything we do is being watched and is likely to be modeled. Will we be pleased with patterns we have set as we see them repeated for our grandkids?