The Night I Learned What It Meant To Be A Dad

Our first born will graduate from High School on Saturday. She is bright, hard working, mature, and brave. I am amazed at her growth and maturity. She is going to be a great adult.

My most vivid memory of Grace as a toddler involves the moment I feel I first became a Dad. Sure, I was a dad by function and circumstance but it was this incident that showed me what kids can do to you and how they can teach you profound lessons.

Grace was two years old and a pleasant kid despite the age. My wife had a weekend commitment and that meant that I was in charge of Grace for the night. I would have to feed her, get her ready for bed, and make sure nothing seriously went wrong.

I was, and still am, an incredibly self focused individual. All of this responsibility was incredibly inconvenient, hard, and was removing me from my own agenda and preferences. I was feeling sorry for myself and bitter towards my wife for leaving me alone for hours on end with this bundle of demands, irrational behavior, and diapers. As the evening progressed, my plan was to do what I had to do and then get her in bed as soon as possible so I could be free of all of this annoying responsibility.

We lived in a duplex at the time and our neighbors had a toddler size play set out front complete with a slide. They were kind enough to allow us to use the play set whenever we liked. After I fed Grace, we went outside and she started to play and slide and slide and slide. At first, I thought this was a great way to occupy her before bed and I wouldn’t have to entertain her and I would soon be on to my own agenda. But something changed in the course of a few moments.

GRace

I think I first noticed her smile. Each time she went down that little slide, she had the most joyful grin on her face. It was infectious and I started to smile along with her. I began to notice everything, I noticed her joy, her beautifully cute hands and feet as she went about play. I noticed the way she completely lived in the present. Then I noticed the incredibly perfect night that enveloped us. West Texas sunsets are the best in the world and this night’s sunset was a masterpiece. The coolness of the early spring evening was so pleasant I wanted to soak in it.

Slowly, I began to live completely in the present myself.  This moment was beyond anything I could have ever concocted. This little girl was mine and she was planted on this earth to show me a side of love, compassion, and sacrifice that is unique to parents. I became a Dad that evening because there was nothing I wanted more than to have a thousand more moments like that night. To share a bond that only a parent and a child can experience. To recognize what family means on a heart level and not just a surface level.

I am grateful for that little girl teaching me this lesson and for the lessons she has taught me the following 15 years. Hopefully, I have taught her a few lessons and given her a few priceless moments along the way as well.

Why I Am Not A Dad Blogger

I am a parent but I hardly write about parenting. I am a husband but I hardly write about marriage. I hold a managerial job but I haven’t mentioned leadership on this blog. I am a member of a church but I barely mention church. I am a citizen of a democracy but I avoid political discussions and social commentary.

What is my problem? Am I avoiding these things?

This blog is about the maturity, wisdom, character development, and renovation of the heart that comes from the transforming power of Christ. My whole point of writing this blog is so that other people can find ways and methods and inspiration to be the Jesus they would be if Jesus were they.

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If individuals reading this can find growth in love, in compassion, in service, in sacrifice, in perseverance, and humility then their marriages will be improved and their parenting will be less selfish and their work will be more excellent and their participation in church will be more intentional.

I could make every post on this blog a listicle on how to have a great marriage but the heart of the matter wouldn’t change. I need the transforming power of Christ in my life in order to be the person, in all of its states and phases, that blesses others and makes a real difference.

I have a lot of work to do and so do you but the surest way to reach stronger, healthier, and blessed aspects of our lives is to follow Jesus, do what Jesus does, and be like Jesus is.

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29

When I Grow Up I Am Going To Be A Good Parent

I am the father of three girls, ages 17, 13, and 8. Parenting is hard enough but having kids at such distinct phases of growing up forces me to wear different hats each time I try to be a father figure.

For my 17 year old, I am thinking about all the things I need to tell her so she can survive a complicated and hard world. For my 13 year old, I am thinking about how can I instill in her how precious she is and that today’s frustrations will be forgotten tomorrow. For my 8 year old, I am trying to demonstrate to her what a father’s love looks like and that she is safe in this world because she has strong parents who love her.

The above paragraph makes me sound so good and noble but the reality is that I am thinking about these things and maybe even acting on these things in the midst of eye rolls, shrugs of disinterest, raised voices, and little patience.

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So much of my work in personal spiritual growth is to be able to manage life as a husband and father. My family is the great laboratory for measuring Christ’s transforming power in me. Everyday I am given a status report as to the improvement I have made in being more loving, or being more merciful, or being forgiving, or being a servant. The old cliche of “parenting will keep you humble” is so true.

The results are not always negative. There are times when I have said something kind and loving that I knew came from a place of Christ transformation and change. There are times when I was willing to sacrifice and extend myself for my children out of care for them and not for myself. There are times when I see past whatever I have planned next and provide words of encouragement, or advice, or teaching that might even resemble what Christ would have said.

I am grateful for my kids and what God has taught me through them and by them. I am grateful that all of my reading, learning, praying, meditating, studying, and work on my own growth in Christ isn’t locked away in a closet but gets a chance to be lived out in a way that stretches me and helps me grow but also, just maybe, benefits the ones that are closest to me.

The Parenting Test

Tests are provided in school to determine how much a student has learned. But does life provide consistent means of assessment when it comes to our Christian life? Sure, we can think of life’s big tests such as disease, death, and tragedy, but what about the every day? Are there moments in our day in which our discipleship to Jesus is put to the test? If you are a parent, it certainly is.

Let’s just take the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ teachings against anger in Matthew 5. As a parent of three kids under the age of 13, there are many instances where fighting occurs. You try not being angry when every time you walk out of the room, two of the kids begin to fight and you have to stop what you are doing and go back to the room and tell them to stop fighting.

What about his teaching on oath taking in v. 33? I know that I have made promises to my kids that I haven’t been able to keep and some that I never really intended to keep, I just wanted them to move on to something else. What about the Golden Rule? Do I demonstrate the same respect for my kids as I expect out of them? Sometimes I don’t.

Parenting is a great test of where we are spiritually. If I am impatient, quick to anger, and rarely gentle or kind then I am reminded that I have some work to do and that I need to rely more on Christ to provide the heart change that I need. The tests results are not always pretty but if we are honest with how we parent then we will find the areas where we have the most room to grow.