For the Fathers
Men, in general, are not my target audience. However, with today being Father’s Day, I’m sharing some observations.
I was seven months pregnant with our daughter, Kati Ann, when we moved from East Texas to Huntsville, Alabama, to serve at Willowbrook. Like most first-time parents, Jared and I were like two deer in the headlights as we approached becoming parents. Kati Ann had not yet made her entrance into the world when Ace Massey pulled Jared aside and reminded him of just how vital his influence on our children would be. Ace Massey spoke words of truth and wisdom over Jared that day (more than thirteen years ago), and I have continually seen and experienced the reality of a well-stewarded influence in our home.
Jared isn’t perfect. Let’s get that out of the way. If you feel intimidated by fatherhood because of inadequacies and a lack of positive models, the expectation isn’t perfection. Read that again. The expectation isn’t perfection. The expectation is intentionality—not missing out on the opportunities to personally pursue Jesus and then showing up as a father in your children’s life (no matter how old they are).
I’ve seen this done by my own daddy and my husband. So, how do you personally pursue Jesus and show up as a father?
1. Let your children see you meet with God. Jared sets his alarm early, brews a cup of coffee, and reads his Bible. Even when our children were younger (actually even this past week), when one of them would awaken early, they would pad their way into wherever he was reading and snuggle up next to him. They would usually sit quietly, but sometimes they would interrupt and ask questions or tell him about their current interests. Jared (usually) stops and listens, all while his Bible sits in his lap. My children know that Jared doesn’t just love Jesus from a platform on a Sunday morning; he values his relationship with Jesus by making time to meet with Him throughout the week. It is good for your kids to know you love Jesus and set aside intentional time to grow closer to God every day.
2. Be present. Be physically present and emotionally present. It isn’t just about quality, being a good father is about quantity. Jared has lots and lots of demands on his time, but he has always communicated to our children (and me) through his actions that we are a priority by offering us his physical and emotional presence. He listens, asks questions, and learns about interests he never dreamed he would care about. Jared puts his family’s needs over his own desires daily. By being present in our children’s lives, he has earned the respect and right to influence them (and me).
3. Be authentic. One of the things I am most proud of Jared as a dad is that he is the same godly man at home that he is in his public ministry role. The kind man you encounter at church is the kind man we live with. The most effective discipleship you can give your children is privately living out what you say you believe.
Now seems like a good time to remind you that Jared isn’t perfect. The expectation is not perfection—the expectation is intentionality. Which finishes us at number 4.
4. Take ownership when you fail. It doesn’t matter who you are or how godly you are, you will disappoint your children. You’ll blow up, mess up and forget to show up. Owning your guilt to God and your children with a sincere apology is a beautiful way to teach them (and yourself) about grace, humility, and unconditional love.
No matter the age of your children or how many wins or losses, if you are a father, your children love you. They may not express it, or they may have hurts they are still working through, but they love you. (They wouldn’t be angry or hurt if they didn’t first love.) God put an innate desire for a relationship with our fathers in each of us.
At the core of being a great father is pursuing God. When you allow the Holy Spirit who lives inside you (take that in—if you are a Jesus follower, God’s Spirit lives inside you!) to empower you to love well, to offer and receive grace and to embrace and steward the influence given to you as a father, you win. Fathers, you matter so much. God loves you and your children love you. Your pursuit of God matters. Your presence matters. Your influence is vital.
Happy Father’s Day!