Happy Father's Day! I hope your day with your family is a sweet time of celebrating God's goodness as a Father and giving thanks to him for blessing you with a family—even if your family is not all with you or is broken in some deep way.
I want to encourage you (and me) to continue to be a man who looks up, shows up, and stands up. I know I sound like a preacher but honestly these were the phrases that popped in my mind when I began reflecting on Father’s Day.
I found that there is little else in life that will stretch and challenge me more than being a Dad. The thought, when I'm in my right mind, of being responsible for the lives of little human beings that are created in God's image and are so important to God that Christ died for them, is something that overwhelms me. At the same time, I have never gotten over just how my girls got wrapped around my heart without me even trying. Between my deep love for them and the awesome responsibility they represent I have been tempted to shrink back and even take off on a run. I simply am not sufficient for such a task! However, I have come to realize that this is a good place to be. I need to feel out of my league because I am. I cannot do this without God's help. I need to be a Dad who always looks up. God not only defines what a good Father is, he is the only one that can transform me, empower me, direct me, and clean me up and restore me so that I can be a Father like him. I need him to show me how a Father behaves and where a good Father should be taking his kids--what really matters and what is most important. I need him to protect me from my stupidity, to keep me from trying to make my family serve me (or at least just not bug me :), to keep me pressing through the daily grind with a view to the long impact of my life on the lives of my kids, to keep me pressing toward their mother out of love and to settle and orient me when I get overwhelmed, insecure, or confused. As Jesus taught us, reflection on him and prayer to our heavenly Father that celebrates him, learns from him and looks to him for everything we need are indispensable for the immense task that fatherhood is (see Matt 6:5-15).
I have also found that one of the most important things I did for my girls (though imperfectly!), and something they still want, is for me to show up. They want me to be around at the moments that matter in their lives and, generally, just to be a part of their lives. They have always wanted me to be present so that we could just be together, or so that we could laugh together, or so that we could celebrate some achievement together, or so that I could answer a question, or so that I could help them work through a relationship issue, or so that I could weep with them over a disappointment, or so that I could be a sounding board for working through some issue, and on and on and on. I know in my own life that when people show up it says "you matter to me", "I am here for you". And, their presence for me makes me want to be present for them. This, of course, is something always true of God. He always shows up for his children, loving them consistently, relentlessly, and always in the right way and in the right measure (Matt 6:25-34; 7:7-11; 28:20). May we never be absentee Dads (an oxymoron if there ever was one!).
I have also found that I need to be someone who stands up to the responsibilities of being a Dad. I need to shoulder, with God's help, my responsibility to lead spiritually (by life and word), to provide materially, and to protect spiritually, emotionally, and physically. To lead spiritually, I need to tend to my own walk with the Lord so that he can transform my heart to beat with his. I need to live out my faith by letting God shape my priorities, my speech, my habits, my attitudes, my marriage (broken or whole), my friendships, my involvement in the body of Christ, etc. etc. After all, as one has said, we teach what we know but we reproduce who we are. To provide materially, if I am able, I need to go to work and work as if I'm working for the Lord directly. As God provides, I want to take any sense of financial insecurity out of my wife's and kids' lives that could be tied to my character. I want her to know that I take my responsibility to provide seriously. I can be trusted to handle my relationship with my boss and not be a hothead or a baby. I know where the family is financially and can be trusted not to spend foolishly so that I compromise the family's ability to pay its bills and meet the needs of the members of the household. I reflect God's priorities with our money so that he gets first dibs and his priorities govern my use of money and my counsel with regard to the family's finances. Lastly, I need to fight for my family's souls on my knees. I need to watch what influences are coming into my home through media and relationships. I need to take care of the car so that it is safe for my wife or kids to drive. I need to pay attention to the emotional health of my wife and kids and provide a safe place for them to unload or work through what is troubling them (note to self: I cannot run from emotionally charged moments!).
Dads, I'm already too long so I'll stop. I don't write this as a man who has succeeded in all these areas all the time. I write as a man leaning in on Jesus with a constant feeling of how weighty and overwhelming the task is and of how inadequate I am for it.
May we all be fathers like the Father, to his glory, by his grace, for the blessing and flourishing of our families.