My third child was born this week. I’m not sure I can completely put into words all of the emotions and thoughts that have been running through my mind over the past few days. I dearly love each of my children and they have each changed my life and blessed my life in profound ways. But as my youngest was born this week and my oldest will turn 8 next week, it causes one to think.
I’m already realizing that time moves too quickly. As I held my newborn son this week I felt like it was just yesterday that I was holding my oldest daughter. Where has time gone. My two oldest, 8 and 5, have grown into beautiful young Christian girls who are sweet and kind and more like Jesus than I will probably ever be. My prayer is that they continue to reflect God’s love and acceptance to everyone they meet.
And as I held my son this week I was thinking again “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Being a father is the most amazing, life changing, stressful, wonderful, confusing, experience I’ve ever undertaken. These children are completely in my hands. When they are little my wife and I have to provide their every need; feeding, changing diapers, moving from one place to another. When they get older, we are responsible for teaching them and guiding them to maturity; spiritually, emotionally, physically. There is no instruction manual for this. Sure, there are books you can read and people you can talk to for advice, but most ultimately say the same thing…we have no idea what we are doing. It’s trial and error, and each child is different. With one you need to be more firm, with another alittle more compassion. Always changing. Always adapting. Changing course to determine what works best.
And as I’ve taken some time over the last few days to hold each of my children alittle tighter and thank God for each of them and their unique gifts and personalities, I’ve pondered my role. And I’ve come to realize that what my children need most from me is not discipline, time together, or advice. They don’t need more reading stories at night or playing together in the back yard. All of those things are important and vital, but that’s not what they need most. What they need most is for me to be a follower of Jesus. What they need most is for me to fall more desperately in love with the King of Kings. What they need most is to see a father who makes his highest priority following in the footsteps of the Messiah. Who not only makes spiritual maturity a priority in life, but then lives it out in the way I love God, in the way I love them, and in the way I love the world.
I’ve come to learn that following Jesus is not about getting everything right. It’s not about perfect knowledge or perfect attendance. Instead it’s about slowly allowing the Spirit to transform my life. It’s about allowing my life to reflect the image of the Son as I grow and mature from one degree of glory to another. It’s about not conforming to the world but of allowing the Spirit to transform me by changing the very way I think and live. It is the Spirit that works in me; changing me, molding me, shaping me into what God desires me to be.
What my children need is not a great leader in their life. What my children need is a great follower. What my children need is to see their dad following in the footsteps of Jesus in everything I do. What my children need is for me to make my spiritual life even more of a priority. Because what I desire most is to help them fall in love with Jesus. But I can’t give them what I don’t have. I need to be a follower of Jesus, and mentor them to do the same thing.
I must admit, I don’t have a clue how to be a good father. I’m not even sure I have a clue how to be a good follower of Jesus. But as I look into the eyes of my children I am more convicted than ever to make following Jesus my highest priority, because that is the greatest gift I can ever give them.