People who know me have heard me jokingly say that I’m planning to write a book titled, “How Not to Suck in Life”. It’s sort of my take on how to flourish in life using the wisdom of the Scriptures. There really is a “grain” to life and when one lives counter to that “grain”, the Bible calls this the unwise way (at best naivety and at worst foolishness) and where it feels like life is something to be contended with as continuous barriers keep popping up. Why is life so difficult? Why can’t I keep friends? Why do I keep bouncing around from job to job? Why am I sleepwalking through life? Why doesn’t God make my life better?
With Father’s Day approaching there are a number of articles speaking directly to dads. I realize these articles are meant to inspire and challenge but I can’t help but think that a lot of it has the opposite effect – it makes fathers feel like they suck and there’s always something they aren’t doing right. Fatherhood is so important to “get right” that it seems to hit us at the deepest level of our own insecurities whether it’s out of our own sense that we didn’t get something from our own father or it’s out of this contrived mental picture of the perfect Christian dad.
I have no doubt that there really are guys out there who need serious coaching on what it means to be a father. They operate with no point of reference as to what a father is supposed to be and what they are supposed to do. I also have no doubt that every guy can learn and grow at becoming a better father. However, most of us dads who care deeply about the gospel, often can get this compounding sense of inadequacy that we not only aren’t doing enough but also what we are doing isn’t right.
After seeing my two boys grow up into manhood, the best advice I can give on this Father’s Day is something I heard Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, say a few years ago. He said that our kids need to know that we as fathers are desperately fighting. We might not get it right consistently and we might not give them everything they need but we need to let them know that regardless of our struggles we are progressively giving our life to something greater than ourselves. It’s our way of saying, “I’m in”.
This was helpful for me. I’m not the perfect father. I have told my boys that whatever good things have been deposited in their lives through me, these were good gifts from their Heavenly Father to them. But whatever I didn’t deposit in their lives due to my own brokenness and shortsightedness, their Heavenly Father can and will meet their needs. He is big enough to graciously fill in the gaps I leave behind. In the meantime, I need to let the gospel sink deeply into my own heart and let that stir courage inside of me to press forward and grow in my fathering skills.
I want to press into the unknown because I firmly believe that there is some type of reward whether it’s for my family’s sake (and my sake!) or even a heavenly reward. But I also press ahead because it’s in the gospel that as a father I realize, my identity is not in anything else other than the good news that Jesus brings about Himself. The fact is at the core of who I am, I am not a father. If that was essential to my identity, I would rise or fall depending with how well I performed. Actually my performance as a father is often abysmal. I get some things right but there is much as a father that I neglect. Courage to press into the future, or as Soren Kierkegaard called it, the angst or anxiety of the unknown, is rooted in a relational security with God because of Christ’s performance on my behalf. When I know I am loved and accepted beyond all measure that it is the springboard for the virtue of courage. Whether I succeed then or fail, the relational security with my Heavenly Father is intact because of Christ’s work for me.
The honest truth is there’s enough of what I do as a father that qualifies for the descriptive of “suck”. I wish I had more time in life to actually grow in areas where I am nowhere near being a good dad. But I do have a Heavenly Father who is more than enough for me. The only way I know I can move forward and continue to fight is to continually realize that there’s nothing that can separate me from His love (Romans 8:28,29) with no condemnation (Romans 8:1). As we observe Father’s Day, that is the great hope of fatherhood.