To be a dad is to be so many things: Batman, Spiderman, a doctor, tea party guest, cuddle master, protector, etc.. The question is, “How can we be what our children need the most?”
I have two children, ages four and six. These are such fun ages.
They are ages I treasure, particularly because I was raised by a single mother. This means I don’t have a reference point for what it means to be a dad. So, why am I writing to encourage and challenge dads, you may ask? Well, I am a son who experienced potholes in my childhood as a result of not having a dad present. This made me hyper-sensitive to all the ways children need their dads. Here are two things I have tried to be to my children lately and I encourage you to do the same:
1. Loving as God Is Loving
As dads, we should be crazy in love with the children the Lord has given us. Since God is a Father and he is perfect at it, we can look at his actions throughout Scripture to see countless examples of how he is madly in love with his children—the children of Israel in the Old Testament and the elect in the New Testament.
I often tell dads, “If you want an example of patience, mercy, and love, look at how the Lord loves Israel through all their foolishness.” Throughout the Scriptures, we see God’s love toward his children—that is, us. His love is fully expressed in the work of Christ and it is both specific and intentional.
Likewise, our love should be thoughtful and purposeful. It should be obvious to anyone observing us that we love the children God has given us. Practically, this can be hugs, kisses, words of affirmation, public acknowledgment, thoughtful gifts, and thoughtful discipline. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that love is not selfish. In light of this, we need to care about what our children like and who they are so we know how to love them according to their needs.
2. A Dad Who Weeps As Christ Weeped
Dads, we also need to be weepers. Our sons and daughters need to see us when we hurt and how we deal with it. Let not the only emotion that our children see be anger. Or joy on Sunday afternoons between September and February when our favorite teams are playing with a weird shaped ball.
Let’s remember the shortest passage in Scripture: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Christ experienced sadness, demonstrated by his tears. You may say, “I’m not a crier.” Yet, if Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), it is godly to show emotion and shed tears.
I had to train myself to do this. Our culture of false masculinity discourages emotions other than anger. But to weep is to be human; our children need to see our humanity. My kids need to know that I am not superman and that I can be hurt, overwhelmed, and be in need. Displaying this is an opportunity to actively show them who to run to when life gets hard. As Pastor Mark would say, it’s good to lament. Our tears help our kids believe that.
Of course, our kids need us in a thousand other ways. Their limitless needs show us our limitations and remind us that being a dad is about sanctification. God is using fatherhood to make us look more like Jesus. Fatherhood helps us understand his love for us.
So, if you are like me, trying to figure this thing out, be encouraged: our heavenly Father is way better at being a father than we could ever be. Yet, he is faithful. We can lean on his Word for both the perfect example and the truth we need to be godly fathers for our children.