Father’s Day is a day about legacy.
It leads us to think about our origins, our life-story. For some, this is a legacy filled with wonderful memories. For others–whose dad may have been abusive, neglectful, or for whatever reason, largely absent from home–the story we share is filled with words of sorrow and pain. Honestly, as a preacher, I have always found the day a bit of a challenge.
Yet, the Bible does not shy from parenthood, clearly painting the picture of God as being our Heavenly Father. It describes a Father who provides, protects, listens, teaches, corrects, disciples, loves. In reading on, we witness the evolving relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, all working together for our benefit. Do we see this image of fatherhood reflected today? Sadly, what we see is often the opposite. I see parents valuing friendship over parenthood, parents seeking quick and easy options over long-term investing toward eternity, parents handing off parenting to teachers, coaches and churches rather than taking the ownership of building a Christ-centered home around God’s Word. Solomon, the wisest man ever to live, had a word to say about parenting. He said: “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (Prov 22:6) This is no easy task, to be sure. Rome was not built in a day, neither is a healthy family.
We teach what we know.
Our culture’s current path is leaving the family decimated. Rather than raising up children who love and serve the Lord, we are raising up children who love themselves. Dads and moms, it is time to stand up and be heard. Let today be a rally cry for the generations. Our children, and future generations, will pay the price for our absence, unless we begin to (re)center our homes and lives around God’s Word. Parenthood is a vocation not to be taken lightly. God’s Word describes children as crowing jewels (Prov 17:6), a precious gift the Lord has entrusted into our hands to shape around Jesus’ cross. Let us show them what matters most by how we live our faith in Jesus. Consider these legacy-building tools:
Spend time with your kids. This raises the whole quality versus quantity time debate. Looking back, I have found the little moments in life I took for granted become the big things. Whether it is waiting in a hot car during tennis practices, sitting on the sidelines for months of basketball games, persevering tirelessly through countless sleepovers, or even as mundane as taking your kids grocery shopping. Each experience presents a teachable moment, a moment to be present, to be incarnational. I do not believe there is such a thing as quality time, at the end of the day, there is just time. We all have the same 24-hours in a day. We all make choices in regards to how and where we spend our time. It comes down to what we make a priority. A pastor-friend once challenged: “Whatever you are saying ‘yes’ to, you are saying ‘no’ to something else. So let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.” What are you saying “yes/no” to? Make your time count.
Eat together as a family. This is an important lesson I have been learning as of late. Growing up, I have fond memories of Sunday suppers with the extended family. Everything was homemade and delicious! More than that, as we gathered around a table for a meal, we talked, shared stories, and enjoyed each other’s company. My children do not have such memories, of which, I am striving to change. It is rare for families to sit down together for a meal. There is something about the sharing of food that brings people together in a way like nothing else can. The point: Take time to break bread as a tribe, to talk about matters of the heart, to share joys from the previous week or dreams you hope will happen in the days ahead.
Read to your children. In our media, technology drenched culture, reading allows us to slow down. Reading fosters the desire for continual, life-long learning in our children.
Show affection. Our children are a sponge for encouragement. As they grow into young men and women, these words become increasingly important as adolescent insecurities about self-worth and identity battle to prevail. The importance of pointing our children toward finding their identity in God begins with us. If we are not showing affection or living out our faith, how can we expect our children to do it? Whether affection was modeled in our family of origin or not, I challenge you to be courageous to break the cycle, to be Jesus in the flesh within your family. Encouragement and affection are food for these porous souls.
Worship and pray as a family. Our children need to see and experience the rhythm of being a disciple. Whether healthy or not, they mold around our habits, becoming who we are. Over time, we are a product of the decisions we make. As a pastor, I love the noise and movement of little ones in worship. I love the energy they bring and the curiosity they share about everything. The other Sunday, one of these precious little gifts zipped by me as I stood at the front of church welcoming everyone to worship. This could have been an awkward moment, but I loved it! As a church family, it takes a tribe to raise a child. The moment was a breath of fresh air in the service. How else will our children learn how to worship, how to pray, how to share faith, how to give, how to lead, unless they are immersed into Sunday worship? A couple ideas: For those with younger children, you could ask them to draw what they hear in the music, sermon, or Bible readings. Older children could take sermon notes, which could be discussed on the car ride home (or during Sunday supper, see above).
Be silly. Have fun, life does not need to be serious all the time. Do you laugh with your kids? Why or why not? When was the last time you had a spontaneous pillow fight, ate cookie dough from the batter bowl, waved at people while driving to/from church, or danced a jig in the living room? Creativity gives us and our children permission to blow off steam and allows the walls to come down.
Be a haven of grace. Would your home be described more a cage match or sanctuary? A place of continual conflict or harbor of safety? We all need a safe place to lay our head at night. If we find our initial comments more critical than bathed with grace, give yourself a 5 to 10 minute time-out before speaking. There is something about stepping out of the moment for a time that re-sets the emotional clock of our heart and clears the mind. Rather then speaking from emotion, we engage the heart-issue. Every parent makes mistakes, it comes with the territory. We are all sinful beings, doing our best to live God’s will. Give yourself grace, we stand under the forgiving blood of the Lamb.
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. (Psalm 127:3-5)
We may or may not have the most wonderful family legacy; our story is our story. Raising a family is hard work. You won’t always be perfect, but there is someone who is, and this has made all the difference. Because when you are a dad or mom, everything changes.
True, we cannot change our past, but the good news is, your family story is still being written! God is not done with us yet! We are an open book to our Heavenly Father. This Dad does what only a Father can do.
He takes the hurt of past mistakes.
He feels the sharp words seared into our hearts.
He sees the pain of our fear drenched souls.
He sees it all and lovingly leads us by His nail-marked hands to a place of healing — a cross and empty tomb — to show us the depth of His love. Blood is shed. Life for life. Forgiveness given. At the crossroads of where the Heavenly Father pours into our life, He shows us what–or rather Who–matters most … Jesus.