Recently a well-meaning individual in my church said to me, “I find it so amazing that you were taking care of your children yesterday and shared the sermon with us at church today. You work so hard.” This person was referencing seeing me the previous day with my kids while my wife was working. Like anyone else, I’ll take a compliment, thank you very much! But that comment lingered with me for days as I wondered why me being a dad deserved praise as some kind of exemplary act.
While the stereotypes about fathers often paint them as ignorant, absent, or downright abusive, God’s Word on the importance of the father is quite clear:
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. Psalms 127:3-5
Children are a reward, and the man who is able to be called dad is truly blessed, says the psalmist. Yet society today refers to children as a burden and has taken away the expectation of men raising children to grant that responsibility exclusively to the mom. Or even worse, to the public school system. The role of a teacher is vital, but let’s be clear that it is not the job of a teacher to raise a child, that is for the parents.
If the expectations for fatherhood remain minimal we’ll never be able to call men up to something greater. In the process it is the future generations who suffer, as endless studies show the various negative effects absent dads have on their kids. Why not choose to expect the men around you to be active and engaged dads and then support them in that endeavor?
Being a dad is not my only role in life, though. As a pastor, I help lead a church, working on helping make disciples and bring about life transformation in the lives of congregants. I’ve often extended this calling beyond the walls of my church through various projects like writing, speaking, and podcasting.
The hardest adjustment I had after becoming a dad was balancing being a good husband, dad, and pastor. It seemed as if I was constantly failing at something to try succeeding at others.
I often feel the temptation to ignore my calling as a father to put all my eggs into my career basket. After all, that’s what pays the bills and that’s the message I receive from the world around me.
I’ve often told my wife that some of the parenting instincts come more naturally for her, and that I have to try a little harder to do the things that seem to just flow for her. Even if this is partially true, it does not exempt me from my God-given responsibility. I’m still responsible for raising my children, even if it feels like I’m less equipped to deal with some of the daily tasks of raising kids.
The past few weeks have been stretching for my family, as we’ve had to hospitalize both my children at separate times for a bad case of the stomach flu. In both cases I was in the middle of a workday and dropped everything to be present for them. I’m grateful to have a job that is often flexible enough for me to get away when needed, but I was reminded again of the tension of trying to be a faithful and present father while also maintaining aspirations within my vocation.
I’m not sure I’ll ever hit the target where I lead my church well, love my wife well, and care for my children well. But I do know it’s such a privilege to wake up each day, and with God’s help, try my best to do all 3.