I actually remember that morning very well. It was two or three in the morning. Our youngest son was still just a baby and he was hungry. Our routine with all our kids was simple. The baby would cry. I would get up and get him or her and hand the baby to my wife who would then feed, change and put them back down to sleep. In the meantime, I would go back to bed and fall fast asleep hardly being aware of what I had done. (My wife on the other hand would be awake for hours because she didn’t fall back asleep as easily as I did.) This particular morning was different. I went down to the kitchen to warm the bottle and I remember standing there really upset. “ I have to get up and go to work in a few hours?” “This seems really unfair.” “I’m tired!” Then the ultimate question, “Why do I have to get the stupid bottle?” In the quietness of that early morning, while the microwave hummed, an answer to that question broke into my life. God spoke! Of that there was no doubt. It was so clear, so specific, so divine, I practically heard it with my ears. Yes, it was that monumental and life changing. And what was the divine answer to my grousing “why do I have to…” question. Are you ready for this?
The answer was, “Because you are the Father!”
DUH! Right? It doesn’t seem that dramatic when I write it out like that, but for me is was a radical and unexpected moment. Let me give you some background so you can understand what this meant to me. Like many men, I understood that I had some responsibility for my children. I understood that I had a role in the child creation process, but the child-rearing process belonged to the mom. My role in child-rearing was to assist is some vague way so that my wife didn’t go completely bonkers. I thought that was rather clear and simple. Wife – raise the kids. Husband – stay mostly out of the way and help your wife when she calls for you. So far, so good. But God had a different idea. (Who would have seen that coming?) That morning when he broke into my sleep deprived, semi-consciousness he had much better and bigger idea. “You are the father” meant much more than just help your wife. It meant I had a role and responsibility in this child’s life. As the father, I was important and had important things to do and teach. All these thoughts flashed through my mind in that one instant, that one early morning encounter. It changed how I looked at my life, myself, my wife and my kids.
“Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” Paul instructs us. Yikes! This fatherhood thing is serious. What does that mean? I need to know what the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” is, then I need to make decisions and take actions in my children’s lives to make sure those principles are built in. How do I apply them to each child. They are all different. I need different instructions for each. I need to know who they are, what God has built and is building in their lives. I need to know when to press in and when to let go. I need to know when to intervene and when to let them experience consequences. What battles to fight and not fight. How to make them secure, confident and independent, yet not arrogant and rebellious. It has taken me these last 18 or so years to work out the implications of that one morning. Sometimes with more success than other times.
There are two points I want to make here. First, to the men out there who have kids. “Dad up!” Not just “man up”, but “Dad up.” Embrace who you are as a father to your kids and take that responsibility – that Dad name – seriously.
Second, there is a wider principle that applies to all of us who call ourselves Christians. That Name, that self-identification as Christian, believer, follower of Christ, means something. It means we have responsibilities to live consistently with that Name. It means we have to make different decisions than others who don’t carry that Name. It means we need to know and follow the “discipline and instructions of the Lord” for our lives. We have to take the Name seriously. As a dad, I want my kids to reflect the values I have built into them over the course their lives. The Father also wants His kids to reflect His values in their lives.