When my wife told our four-year old, MJ, that she was going to have another baby, his eyes widened, his face wrinkled, and he let out a puzzled question, “Mom, does Dad know about this baby?”
For a moment, I think he thought that I was going to skip town.
Believe me, there have been moments of consideration. There’s been a lot of fear, actually.
I wonder if I’ll ever be able to fully love four kids.
I’m not sure I love three that well.
Reflections on Fatherhood
Fatherhood, more than anything else, has proven how crazy I really am. I didn’t think I was impatient or ill-tempered or selfish or worrisome until I had kids.
They have a way of putting all of my bad qualities on display for all to see.
My oldest son, MJ, is incredibly smart, and he has a memory like an elephant. But lately, he has developed a sensitivity issue with clothes: he wants to dress just like his dad all of the time.
The other night, I had on a white button down shirt and that didn’t gel for him because he had on a white Polo. He insisted that we have the same number of buttons.
I caught myself getting mad at him, even yelling, simply because he wanted to match his dad perfectly.
And if one child caused all of my bad qualities to surface, two at one time has had an exponential effect. Our twins, Wyatt and Greyson, push me to the breaking point. They have me outnumbered, and they know it.
They fight over who gets to ride on Dad’s shoulders. Of course there’s always a winner. The loser usually ends up throwing a fit which sends me over the edge and, in the end, no one gets to ride.
In these moments, I feel like a failure as a dad.
As she so often does, Liz, offers me a dose of perspective: How awesome is it that our boys love you so much that they want to dress like you and they fight over who gets to ride on your shoulders?
Her words are sobering and I think they’ve helped me to see God’s purpose in all of it.
In these moments, when I lose it with my sons, I have the perfect opportunity. These moments teach me what it means to be a dad.
And a dad tells his kids, I’m sorry.
There’s something raw and real when a child understands that their father isn’t perfect. When he gets down on a knee, looks them in the eye and says, “I’m sorry. I messed up. Will you forgive me?”
I think that level of honest and authentic interaction helps them understand that I don’t expect perfection. But at the same time, I do expect them to be honest with me as well.
Deep down, they like that. Somewhere within that transparency, I hope my sons see a refection of their Heavenly Father—gracious, forgiving, true.
And in the process of failing and learning and growing, I think I’m moving from being a father to being Dad.
The truth is, I needed my kids.
Becoming Dad has been a purification process—like gold refined in the fire. As all of my bad qualities are brought to the surface, I am strengthened.
The Riches of Fatherhood
In this process of refinement, my fear subsides and I feel a peace cover me.
My thoughts transport me back to the days before we had kids, to a two-and-a-half-year infertility battle that left my wife and I devastated, on the brink of losing our marriage.
At that time, when there was no hope, our marriage counselor shared with us words from the book of Joel.
As God’s people have been devastated by locusts and famine, the prophet delivers this promise:
“The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches…I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…you will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you.”
Those aren’t just words in some ancient religious book, they are a promise that is being harvested in my own life. And I believe that they will be harvested in your life as well.
When we return to Him, God will repay us for everything the locusts have eaten. This is the ongoing process of His purification in us.
Maybe, just maybe, God knows that, if I’m willing to be refined, fatherhood will eventually bring out the very best in me.
And I guess He’s not quite finished with me yet.
I’m happy to announce that, Lord willing, this January, Liz and I will be parents for the fourth time in five years.
And we praise God, who works wonders for those who call on His name.
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About the Author
Matt Ham is primarily a husband and father to three boys. As an author and speaker, he is dedicated to guiding others toward the understanding that “Your Whole Life Matters.” Through his RICH Principles he helps folks uncover fullness, identifying real treasure and discovering true joy and contentment in both their professional and personal lives.
To contact Matt or inquire about his speaking schedule, visit www.mattham.com/speaking