One of my uncles is a somewhat well-known author. In order to protect his privacy he will remain nameless. This uncle was Dean of the history department at a local university and the favorite teacher of many. He was funny and smart and fun to talk with. In fact, he was my favorite Uncle. I admired everything about him. I was amazed at his career, the fun he had doing crazy things with his wife and three kids. I even loved his unorthodox tradition of buying a large pizza for the family to share on Christmas Eve, so it could be a relaxing time for everyone.
But one year his life began to unravel. He became distant to his friends and family. He was seldom home and the fun times he had once shared with those closest to him ceased. Then after about six months he filed for divorce and then remarried. During that period when his family was struggling to work through this, I was able to sit down with my favorite Uncle and hear his heart. What he said went something like this, “I have been able to succeed at teaching and have become known as a good writer and am well-respected and liked; but in what I valued most I have failed. I only wanted to be a good father!”
The Bible says in Psalm 127… Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
Being a father is a humbling and challenging thing. Whether you are the father of toddlers, teenagers or adult children you will always have the opportunity to be a Dad. We sometimes are failing when everyone thinks we are a success. We are succeeding in Heaven’s sight, often when the world considers us a complete failure. Learning to keep in perspective those opposite viewpoints is one of life’s greatest struggles. For me it seemed I only began to understand how to be a Dad when my job was apparently over! As an encouragement to my fellow Dads out there let me share some of the lessons God has helped me to learn along the way.
First lesson: Today Counts!
In the home office section of any store there is an area filled with planners. I have received many as gifts from well-intentioned friends. There have been maroon leather planners, electronic planners, planning calendars and more! Every time I opened another I longed to open and begin the well planned life that others around seemed to have. Each time I would set that planner aside only to discover it still new and shiny a year later. Don’t be discouraged if you have failed to make the formal plans to do things with your children. Don’t give up if that scheduled “quality time” doesn’t seem to happened the way you hoped. Just remember that our battle is always for today. Today alone counts in our struggle to be a good father. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, today we can begin to be the father that God intended. There is not a better time, there will never be enough money and no one else really has the answers to how fathering is supposed to work. God chose today to give us a new chance. Don’t give up , don’t wait. Pick up the phone, put down the tools, reschedule your evening routine. Do whatever it takes. Today is a gift God has given us. Pick up a basketball and spend ten minutes shooting hoops. Open the door and invite your kids to bicycle down to the ice-cream parlor. Pull a story book from the shelf and offer to read with your little one. Then, when the day is finished, hug them even if they are grown-up; pray with them if only for a minute. Never doubt that God can use even our smallest efforts to make an impression that will linger for a lifetime.
Second Lesson: Forgiveness works!
If you have ever lost your temper with your kids, said things you regretted later or done things you are ashamed of then join the club! If you’ve had some truly terrible fathering days then take a number and get in line. God is more interested in helping us find the solution to our struggles than he is in pointing the finger at our failure. Our son once came home with a paper that was filed with red. There were red arrows, red X’s and various corrections throughout so much so that his original effort was all but wiped out. In looking at it I got the distinct impression that the ultimate message to our son was that the teacher was a lot smarter than Him! We already know that in our own life as fathers we often fall short of what God expects. He has set a loving example for us to follow and we have missed it! He has been gentle and wise and we have been harsh and foolish. He has been good and faithful and we have been too often selfish and uncaring. But in spite of all our own failures God is ready and willing right now, to offer forgiveness, a new start and a rekindling of his love within our families.
As G. K. Chesterton has said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” So it is that the central issue of Christianity is not our superiority or goodness but the availability of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We need to try it! Let’s not give up or give in to discouragement. Where we have failed we can always…always go to our heavenly Father and there we will discover that the heart of our Father is forgiveness. Forgiveness works!
Third Lesson: Our Family is God’s reward!
On the walls and along the top of the shelves of my doctor’s office there are a large variety of diplomas, awards and certificates. I guess they are to put our minds at ease about his ability to help us. But our awards only point back to a day when others said we were great, though today they hardly remember our name! Sports trophies, prizes, and special awards only collect dust. They are all temporary, but our children are God’s eternal rewards! No matter how time passes we will always be a Dad. How we value the gifts that God has entrusted to us will be reflected one day in eternity. This Father’s day is a chance to remember how God has given us the amazing opportunity and experience of being a father. In the words of Robin Williams from the film Hook;
“I remembered my happy thought… I’m a Dad!”
Happy Fathers day to all my fellow Dads. God bless us all, we need it!