Fatherhood scares me to death. God has entrusted to my earthly care two gifts, to souls, to shepherd for His glory. It scares me because I know how much I struggle with the sinfulness and selfishness in my own heart, and yet I am seeking to lead my children away from those same struggles in their own hearts. I am the father of twins who just finished their sixth grade year of elementary school. The more they grow, the more I am realizing what they need, and how faulty I am at giving it to them. This reminds me of my need for my heavenly Father’s care, and also my need to point my children to Him as well. As I think about what my children really need, more toys, activities, etc. do not fall on that list. They need things of much greater spiritual value. Here are a few of my thoughts in this regard.
My children need me to be humble.
One thing youth ministry and parenting have taught me is that children can see through pride and hypocrisy as easily as they can see through glass. Humility is the queen of Christian virtues, which must be continually cultivated in my own heart and life as I humble myself before my God and King. Humility before God always yields God’s gracious help, but pride solicits the opposition of God. This humility simply reflects the humility of my Savior, who humbled himself to the point of a cross-death for our sins. If my children are going to be humble people, they need to see in me true humility before God.
My children need me to be holy.
Moral holiness and purity are essential to any life, but particularly in my own life as a father, I must continually put to death the evil desires of my flesh and actively yield myself to the Spirit of God. Holiness is a non-negotiable for the Christian. Holiness must be held throughout the normal routine of daily life, in what I say, what I do, where I go, what I delight in, what I prioritize, and in every other aspect of living. Nothing is outside of the boundary of holiness. My culture as a Christian must be distinctly Christian – holy, as God is holy; pure as Christ is pure. Holiness must characterize my children, too. However, if they do not see me striving for holiness, they will see no need for it in their own lives.
My children need me to be loving.
Scripturally speaking, this includes two notions. First, my children need to see that I love God wholeheartedly. My commitment to God must be obvious to them. One prime example of this regards the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is honored because of its importance and significance in the Christian faith, not just because I happen to be the pastor. The day and its corresponding times of corporate worship are not mere mindless, empty rituals, but ways of cultivating and shaping my love for God on a regular basis. I love my God, His Word, His people, and our times of corporate worship. Therefore, nothing but God’s providence hinders my commitment to the Lord’s Day along with its corresponding times of corporate worship. Also included in my love for God is my personal worship of God. This is part of my daily routine in order to provide manna for my daily sustenance, and cultivate a deeper love for God’s character and ways. Second, my children need to see that I love others selflessly. Perhaps there is no greater opportunity for this than with my love for my wife. My children will view God’s love for them through the grid of my demonstrations of love for my wife. Therefore, I must cultivate and demonstrate a deeper and more selfless love for her every day. My children will also see my love for them and, based on that, build a theology of God’s love for them. Therefore my love for my children must be selfless as well. I must communicate to them that they are not my slaves, or nuisances, or “oopses” or inconveniences. They are blessings from God, and must be treated as such. Love does not preclude discipline, for whom God loves He disciplines. However, discipline is always couched in love, and never to be done in anger.
My children need me to be spiritual.
Perhaps this is a summary of the first three points, but it is worth addressing separately. There is a difference between a carnal Christian and a spiritual Christian. The former is governed by his fleshly passions, while the latter is governed by the indwelling Holy Spirit through the Word of God. As a Christian, I must constantly and actively choose to walk in the Spirit every day. I must listen to His nudgings, yield to His Word, and generally do those things that are in keeping with His character. I desire my children to be spiritual people, but this does not mean that they will merely adopt certain standards. Their spirituality must be based on the Holy Spirit’s control over every aspect of their lives, from how they interact with people and respond to life’s difficulties, to how they make decisions on a regular basis, to their words, their entertainment choices, their vocations, their desires and pursuits, and so much more. Yet if my children do not see me and hear me live my life in this way, why should they?
Let me say it again, fatherhood scares me to death. My children will, most likely, be out of the house and on their own in a fewer number of years than they have been living at home. In their remaining years (and beyond) they need me to be humble, holy, loving, and spiritual. Of course, this does not happen by my own will. I desperately need God’s grace in this, as do my children. These are all characteristics of Christ, and I want my children to love Christ, embrace Him themselves, and live, by His grace, for His glory. As they grow in humility, holiness, love, and spirituality, I pray this will happen, and perpetuate a Christianity which glorifies God.