There have been a number of events throughout the course of my (relatively short) life that I have looked forward to with great anticipation. Some were things that I knew were going to happen, yet still eagerly awaited, such as birthdays and Christmas and the like. Everyone loves birthdays and Christmas morning, because you know that, barring some unfortunate circumstance, they are always joyous occasions, ones where you are surrounded (mostly) by people you love and you get a bunch of (mostly) cool presents. It’s a win-win situation. Then there have been other situations that, while I knew they were going to take place, wasn’t quite sure what the outcome would be, for instance, how well I would hit in my next little league game or how well I would perform in the upcoming play for which I’d been memorizing lines for the last month (if you’re interested in the results of either, you may try contacting my mother, who I’m pretty certain has a few of the aforementioned events recorded on a VHS tape somewhere). And finally, the last category includes those select few events that, while I’d always dreamed of them coming to pass, I wasn’t quite sure that they ever would. One of these, as you may well have guessed, was marriage. I’m not sure that anyone ever thinks or simply takes for granted that they will, in fact, one day be married. Some folks get married very early in life, others late, and some may never desire to be married. Still others dream of marriage, and yet it takes much longer than they had ever hoped it would, and may still be waiting. Personally, I am blessed to be going on two wonderful years of marriage, and there are times when it still seems surreal.
But there is still one more event that fits in to the latter category, one that I have given a great deal of thought to over the years, even from a fairly young age, and one that I can now say is going to happen, and that is this:
My wife and I were incredibly blessed to find out on Valentine’s Day of this year that we had conceived a child essentially just after we had started trying. While I am not a very expressive individual, and perhaps to her my expression was still a bit more subdued then she would have preferred, the moment my wife announced the news to me that she was pregnant, I immediately felt an intense sense of joy and exuberance, and yet also a sort of fear over the reality that this was actually happening. There was no turning back. We were being given the responsibility of raising another human being.
Quite frankly, I am terrified of the idea of being a father. I don’t play the comparison game by looking at other fathers who have failed their children, who aren’t there to support their children or who abuse their children or what have you, but I look at me, at my role, my responsibility, and I wonder if I have what it takes to be the loving, caring, compassionate, yet strong leader and disciplinarian father my child needs me to be. This is something that I take very, very seriously. Sure I have ideas of what kind of a father I want to be, the things I want to teach my children, the way I want them to behave, the example I want to set, but when that child is actually here, in the flesh, will I have the courage to carry them out? Will I love them even when they annoy me or disobey me, or will I get frustrated and angry with them? Will I be consistent in lovingly disciplining them, or will I give up because I’m “too tired”? Will I love them enough to spend time with them, play with them, teach them the truths of God’s Word, or will I keep to myself, contending that I “never have enough time for myself” or to do the things that I enjoy doing? These are the questions that I wrestle with, and probably will to continue to wrestle with, until my baby arrives, and likely even beyond that.
I know that every person, both men and women, have those things in their minds and hearts that they have vowed to do differently from their fathers and mothers. I’ve never questioned that my dad loved and continues to love me. He always tells me how proud he is of me, and if there’s one thing that can always make him smile, its talking about “his boys”, whom he loves dearly. However, there were ways in which my dad wasn’t there for me growing up. His idea of being a good father was to provide for his family, and that he did. He would work two or three jobs at times if it meant that we had food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads. That also meant that we didn’t always see him, and when he was home, often times he was too tired to play with us. He didn’t like sports, so playing catch with us happened about once a year. He didn’t like any kind of games, so if we were playing video games it was in our rooms so he could watch TV, and if it was a family board game, he passed in favor of, well, watching TV. Sleeping in any bed other then his own for any period of time longer than one night was not something he preferred to do, so family vacations, while fun when they did happen (see Orlando, Florida), were few and far between. He did take us to things like car shows and drag racing events, and while these things were a blast and are great memories for me, it just never seemed to make up for all of the other things that he couldn’t do or chose not to do with my brothers and I.
These are the things that I always vowed to change when I became a father. I wanted to spend as much time with my children as possible, even if it meant doing something that I had absolutely no interest in (Lord, please help my future son to not be a dancer. Amen). I wanted my children to know that I would always be there for them , to give them advice, or to simply listen to their problems, even if I didn’t have a great answer to give them, just so they knew that I cared about them.
Yet while these are noble goals and things that I believe every parent should do, there is something that I have learned, even prior to my first child being born, and that is this: the entirety of my fatherhood cannot be based on a reaction to the mistakes that my own father made. I should want to spend time with my children not because my father didn’t, but because I love my children and it should bring me joy to be with them, and while there is most definitely great value in learning from others’ mistakes, that should be secondary to the primary goal of being a loving and godly example to my children because that is the role in which God has placed me.
I do hope that I have not conveyed a sense of fear and uncertainty that exceeds my sense of excitement, joy and anticipation at the arrival of my child, for that is certainly not the case. October can’t come quickly enough! Ultimately these are fears that I must entrust to the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and believe that He will provide me with everything that I need to be a loving, Christlike father to my children. And that’s just it. The things I now fear that I won’t be able to do are things that only He can do through me. I cannot be selfless to my wife and children apart from having the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), who loved us and gave of Himself even to the point of setting aside His heavenly throne, putting on flesh, and dying for our sin. I cannot love like that on my own power. And there is actually great comfort in that truth. Try as I may, I will only fail apart from His strength.
I pray that I will be humble enough to admit my mistakes to my children and to ask them for their forgiveness. I pray that I will be selfless enough to lay aside my (incredibly) selfish desires in order love and serve them for their benefit and my joy. And I pray that through my growth, through my trials and errors, and through my love and sacrifice for them, that they will in turn encounter the living God, to know the truth of His Word, and so be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ by repenting and placing their trust on Him as their saving Lord.
That is the legacy I want to leave as a father.