Feb 16, 2011

On Being A Dad

The last few weeks I have been preaching on topics related to family and marriage.  I really enjoy the process of trying to equip God's people to be better parents and spouses.  Maybe it's because of my 12+ years in student ministry.  During that time, I had the opportunity to see some really great and godly parents who modeled Jesus for their kids.  I also saw a large dose of parents that were practically disengaged altogether from the spiritual discipling of their children. 

On January 20th, Alison and I welcomed our fourth son, Joshua Lee, into our home.  Needless to say, the last four weeks have been quite a ride.  Sleep is sporadic.  I've consumed an inordinate amount of coffee lately.  However, I know God has provided a tremendous blessing.  I can't think of a better word in the English language than "Dad".  I often forget the blessing of that name when it has been called out 2,678 times over the course of the day.  Oftentimes, it is accompanied by a complaint about one of the other "stooges" in the house.  Scripture says "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth."  (Psalm 127:4)  God has placed within my charge four men who have the potential to change the world for the glory and gospel of Jesus Christ.  Right now, I would just like to get them to put their clothes IN the clothes basket or stop peeing on the side of the toilet.  It's hard to see gospel potential when you are staring at a yellow ooze on the floor.

I also feel privileged to be a Dad because for many years I didn't think it was going to happen.  In my 20's, I witnessed many of my friends fall in love and get married.  Life didn't seem to hold that in the cards for me.  My dating prospects after college were slim.  I did meet someone special while serving my first church.  We got engaged and planned on being married, but it didn't work out.  I spent several frustrating and disillusioned years pouring into serving the church.  I tried to fill the relational void by being the best youth pastor I could be.  Everyone said that one day I would find the right one, but by age 27, I had honestly begun to doubt completely.  I was ok if God wanted me to be single.  (but not really) 

I moved to the Birmingham area in the fall of 1996 and immediately was captured by a knock-out red-head who happened to be my boss' daughter.  We were married a year later.  I was 29.  Two years after that our first son Nathan was born.  I must admit that in Nathan's first couple of years, I was a pitiful father.  I had no idea what to do with a baby.  I didn't even like being around them.  18 months later, we had our first "surprise" child in Drew.  Having 2 children under the age of 2 was even more daunting.  However, my wife was patient with me and the Lord was gracious. 

In my ministry I have seen firsthand that we have a "dad crisis" in the church.  We have millions of children, especially sons, who are growing up with Dads who felt just as ill-equipped as I did.  Most of us want to be "better dads" than most in the culture.  The current culture has domesticated men some into being more active at home, helping with homework, teaching your son to throw a ball or catch fish.  However, I agree with Robert Lewis that in the areas that are most needed - the spiritual and social engagements of the home - most men are too passive.  We haven't been equipped in how to engage our children in spiritual conversations.  We still blindly think that quantity time is more important that quality time.  I am convinced that the church ministry models of the last 50 years have failed to adequately disciple and challenge men.  We have filled stadiums of men singing praise to God.  However, we haven't taught them how to walk with Christ and how to translate that walk everyday to their children - especially sons. 

Dads, your son needs you to teach him how to throw a baseball.  He also needs you to teach him how to pray to the Father.  Dads, you are the closest thing to the physical representation of Jesus Christ to your sons.  They already hold you as close to deity as any person on the earth.  We must learn to take great care of the arrows that God has entrusted to us.  We may only get one shot of sending them out into the great cosmic battle for God's glory.  We cannot haphazardly aim our arrows to the sky hoping it hits something.  We must take careful aim to insure that our arrows hit their intended target.  The scary truth is that my children and your children will most emulate the form of Christianity modeled by you - their dad.  They will in all likelihood learn from you, good or bad, their spiritual priorities. 

Dads, let's raise our children as spiritual champions.  Let's take up our spiritual sword of God's word and the grace of the Lord Jesus and not cower any longer to fulfilling our calling as spiritual leaders.  Let's be more concerned with their grasp of spiritual truth than we are with how far they hit the baseball.  And in the process, let's teach them to hit the baseball, and shoot the gun, and climb the trail, and cast the line, and all the other things that we have the honor of doing because we are the ones called - DAD.