It’s 5:30am and my daughter, Sara James, is sitting in her swing beside me. She’s just learned how to touch her tongue to her upper lip and it fascinates her. It fascinates me as well. I love staring into her clear, blue eyes as they cut me to my core. As her father, I feel a sense of gratitude that is inexpressible.
When she was born earlier this year, it rekindled something within me that seemed to have been lost in the challenges of parenting her older brothers. While my three sons remind me of what it’s like to have a childlike heart, they also push the envelope on my patience. To the point where it feels like I’m failing. When they melt into a puddle of emotions on the floor or throw punches at each other on the basketball court, it frustrates me beyond expression.
But in the stillness this morning, as I reflect on each and every moment, I’m reminded of the joys of being a father.
A Father is More Than a Paycheck
Four years ago, I wasn’t a very good dad. In my defense, I had never been a baby person. Taking care of three little humans made me feel incapable. I guess that’s God’s sense of humor on display. Sometimes He gives us the very things that incapacitate us so we’ll finally let go and trust Him. In hindsight, I’m grateful that He loved me enough to chip away at my selfishness.
I thought that loving my children well meant providing for them. If I could make enough money to support them, then they would know that I loved them. I justified it all by thinking that it would teach my sons a great work ethic and model the value of hard work. But the truth is, I began to value my role as provider rather than my role as their father.
Kids need to learn the value of hard work and they need a healthy respect for money, but there’s so much more to being a dad than simply being a paycheck. Fatherhood is about forging an example for your children and cultivating in them a trust and respect that points to something greater.
The relationship between a father and his children is intended as a direct reflection our relationship to God. The truth is, my kids don’t want my money, they want my time. Little kids just want to be with their dad. That childlike spirit echoes a longing in each of us to be known and still be loved. And any good father lavishes his kids with provision and blessings, not because it’s his duty, but because he loves them.
A Picture of Fatherhood
The other day, I took the boys to the beach. The ocean was fierce, far too dangerous for a child. But like boys often do, they wanted to see how close they could get to danger without getting hurt. As their father, I walked with them, holding their hand as they courageously tested the power of the ocean.
At one point, my son let go of my hand. His bravery began to conquer his fear. But as the next wave came in, it swept him off of his feet and churned him in the salt and sand. He jumped to his feet and wiped the salt water from his eyes, then quickly reached back up for my hand.
In that moment, it all made sense.
Too often, I’m like my sons, wanting to do life on my own—rejecting the hand of my Father. But when the waves of circumstance crash and churn me in their wake I’m brought to that humble place of remembering to reach for His hand.
As I look back and reflect on all that I’ve learned, that’s a picture of fatherhood. When I hold fast to the hand of my Heavenly Father and reach down for the hand of my children. Then, I’m so much more than a paycheck. I become the conduit by which they will come to know Him.
Yes. My role as a father is to teach my kids to love their Father. It’s really that simple.
If you’re struggling to meet the demands of fatherhood, check out my faith development series at www.mattham.com/faith