Shortly after leaving the rap concert, because Cathy’s contractions were getting too close together, our first son was born into this world. Then after a whirlwind of activity at the hospital and our home we were finally alone with Nathan. When he fell asleep in his crib Cathy and I looked at each other and said, “what do we do now?” Little did we know that when the baby sleeps you should sleep! Looking back I’m amazed at how much we didn’t know. But that’s one of the interesting thing about being a father, there’s no owner’s manual.
Sure there are books written about parenting, and some are very helpful, but I think the best training for being a father is having a good father of your own. My dad was always the dad who played with the neighbor kids. We’d have kids over and my dad would teach them how to throw tomahawks, or he’d be teaching us how to make a fire with flint and steel. I remember jumping into his warm truck after a particularly cold Boy Scout camping trip. And as long as I can remember back we’ve always had a project that we were working on together. We’d be fine-tuning a pinewood derby car, shooting something, painting my car, or bending the handlebars on my bike so I looked “cool” on my bike. Where did my dad learn to be such a good dad? I really doubt that my dad ever read a book on being a father, rather he learned it from his dad.
Of course I wasn’t there for my dad’s childhood, but I’ve heard stories of grandpa and how he raised my dad. He would often come home from work, grab the shotgun and he and my dad would go out rabbit hunting. Besides hunting, my grandpa would take my dad fishing, they would build things together and there’s also many stories of them joking and laughing together. Grandpa was a WWII veteran, a hard-working welder on the railroad, a faithful churchgoer, and a good father.
Maybe you come from a very different background than what I’ve had. Maybe your dad was absent. Maybe work meant more to your dad than you did. Maybe even worse, your dad was physically or sexually abusive to you. Maybe your dad was in prison or an alcoholic. My grandfather, my dad, and I were not (nor are) perfect fathers. There are times that we’ve messed up. I’m sure there are things that my children will have to unlearn from the way I raised them. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That verse doesn’t just speak about our relationship to God, it also speaks about our human relationships and our fathering.
Yet God chooses to reveal himself to us as our Father. “Our FATHER, in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9 ESV emphasis mine) Where we see only a shadow of what perfect fatherhood looks like in our earthly fathers, in God we see what it means to have a perfect father. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV) “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (James 1:17 ESV) In our heavenly Father we have one who will never leave us, nor forsake us. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)
Being a father is not an easy job, nor is it ever done. I’m thankful that my heavenly Father isn’t done raising me and I’m thankful that He even guides me in my fathering. When the prodigal son came back to his father, the “father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15: 20b-24 ESV)
If you want to be a better father, I suggest you take lessons. Take lessons from a perfect father. One who will teach you to be loving, faithful, encouraging, patient, kind, knowing wrong from right, and oh so much more.
To all my fellow fathers, I say “Happy Father’s Day!”