Father’s Day is always a special time of year dedicated to celebrating our dads. The fathers who have done it right and stayed in there when life got tough cannot get enough credit. I am not taking anything away from mothers; they are on another level. But good dads get overlooked and bad dad’s are way too common these days. Billy Graham put it this way, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” I couldn’t agree more. I am fairly new to fatherhood and have already made my fair share of mistakes. I know I will make more before I’m done.
Just last week, I managed to hit my 2-year-old son twice with a wiffle ball. He loves to play baseball. He loves to bat but lately he has enjoyed pitching to me. I love to bat too. The first incident was him pitching to me and I swung away. This led to ball whizzing past my son, grazing his hand, and him melting into a puddle of tears on the shop floor. I am still learning to turn down my competitive drive. The second time it happened, I just bunted the ball (So I wouldn’t injure him). He hurled his fastball and I laid down a bunt. It went straight back at him and hit him in the lip. Yep, you guessed it; another giant puddle of tears on the shop floor. Worst dad ever!!!
Over the years, I have been watching dads. I truly desire to be the best dad and husband possible for my family, but I have work to do. I want to highlight some the dads or father figures that have invested in me over the years. I will only briefly mention the dads that showed me how to be a good dad by doing things the wrong way.
First, it starts with my dad. He taught me the value of a hard days work and he instilled it in me to my core. Honestly, I have had to retrain my thinking on work so I don’t let my drivenness turn into neglect of my family. My dad taught me how to work on old equipment and how to operate it. Little did I know that I was being groomed as a farm hand, but I was good at it. He taught me the value of my relationship with Jesus and how to walk by faith. If you want to grow in your faith. Move to Kentucky, start renting old farm ground, and buy junkie Allis Chalmer tractors to farm with and you will see your faith and pray life grow in an amazing way. (Just FYI, that old equipment only moved and worked daily by lots of prayer and the faith was that Jesus would protect you from dying on it. I don’t have time to tell you about all of those stories.) My dad made lots of mistakes along the way. I will not share them because they have long since been forgiven. But in my mind, they serve as reminders of how I want to do a better job in certain areas. I cannot fault him for most of his mistakes because he barely had a father to show him the right way. I choose to love him in spite of his flaws and I learned a ton from him. I couldn’t ask for a better dad.
The next father that invested in me was a neighbor by the name of Joe. He didn’t have a son, but He treated me as his. He taught me how to grow a crop of tobacco. He taught me a lot about finances and business principles that I had somehow missed in college (probably because I skipped a lot of classes to go farm). He always wanted to talk and know what my plans were. He was exactly what I needed for that stage of life. We shared many raining days sitting in his shop talking about next years crop, old funny stories of friends, and drinking RC cola.
The next father was a crop insurance agent in the middle of nowhere southwest Kansas. He became such a valuable ally during some of my worst days in ministry. Leading up to and the days after I had lost my job as a youth pastor, John poured words of wisdom, insight, and courage into my heart and mind. He gave us a safe place to retreat when life got to real. I will never forget the figurative banner that he flew in that community upon hearing of my dismissal. It was simple but so profound, “You just don’t treat people that way, especially in a church.” He had no dog in the fight and could have easily just stayed out of it. But like a good father, he rushed in with support and help; a quality that is so rare these days. He had purposed in his heart that he wouldn’t treat folks that way, and he didn’t. I will never forget that lesson.
Many more men have invested in me over the years, but sadly many have shown me the wrong thing to do as well. These men put self above all else. They have sacrificed their family on the altar of pleasure, sports, jobs, affairs, climbing the ladder, and many other things. These men made an impression on me, but not the good kind. The worst thing that I have observed is that they say one thing and do something totally different. Hypocrisy comes in many forms. But even through their failure, I am thankful that they showed me how to be a better father…by me doing the opposite of what they did.
I don’t have it all figured out as a father and may never get there. But I am striving to be like Christ and wanting my children to see Him through me. Here are a few things that I have learned so far. First enjoy every second of snuggles, sweet kisses on the cheek, hugs, bedtime, and times they want to play with you. Because a day is coming when they may not want so much together time. I have learned that this sometimes means that my plans go on hold until nap time or after they go to bed. Yes this is inconvenient, but no one becomes a father because of the convenience. Fatherhood is not a gas station. Second, start talking and teaching as soon as possible. My son is two and a half and my daughter is a little over a month. We are already memorizing Scripture, songs, animals, numbers, alphabet, and Bible stories with our son and will start with our daughter soon. It warms my heart to have my son singing “Bless the Lord, Oh my Soul” at the top of his lungs all the time. The truth is that he is learning by what he sees and hears. He could be singing a pointless jingle, secular song that is planting seeds of promoting sin at an early age, or something worse. Start teaching and leading them at a young age. Because if you don’t, the world is laying in wait for your child.
Last is discipline. I could get on a soapbox here because of my time in student ministry, but that is not very edifying. So I will only share what is in my heart. My son has a wild, restless, rebellious heart just like his mother (Anyone who knows me knows that is not true, Ty is my clone). But he also has a soft, caring, servant heart. There are days when I am tired and I have offered my son a ton of grace for his rebellious attitude (Remember he is 2). There is war that springs up in my heart as well. The devil whispers to just let it slide and deal with it tomorrow if the problem continues. But I choose not listen to that voice. The temptation is to delay the punishment for the rebellious attitude instead of dealing with it. The thought behind it is that my son will reject me and not want to be around me. But what I have learned is the opposite of that lie. Every time that I have disciplined my son for his rebellious attitude, I have seen his kind side of his heart blossom. Yeah, he does not like the spanking in the moment but he loves the fact that his dad in not mad at him any longer. I always explain to him why he was disciplined and that he has a choice to be obedient. It was difficult for us both, but the fruit that has been born out of it has been worth it. I want other people to enjoy my children when they are around. I don’t want my kids to be the kids that everyone is excited for them to leave.
Whether you are new to being a dad, been a dad for years, or looking forward to being a dad; your job could not be more needed today. There is a high price to pay to be a good dad and it comes with loads of sacrifice and adjustments. But you can do it. Learn on your feet. Learn from strengths and weaknesses of other dads. Read books. Surround yourself with godly men who will pour into you. Do not take this title lightly. Your children’s future is riding on your choices.
What have you learn along the way? Who has taught you how to be a better father? I would love for you to share with me. If you would like some advice or need a listening ear, I am happy to help in any way that I can. Grace and Peace to you as you navigate these tricky waters of fatherhood. Aim to be the best father that you can possibly be, you just might turn out to be one.