Water Blasts to the Back and Thoughts on Fatherhood
I was mowing and sweating profusely when I felt a sudden and unexpected shot of wet and cold on my back. Though it felt briefly refreshing, it startled me and for an instant it irritated me. Isn’t there an unspoken rule that you don’t sneak up on a man when he is working? After all, mowing requires concentration and effort and I could have cut my foot off or chopped down a flower. So I turned to confront the culprit and standing there with water gun in hand was Elijah “Sniper” Prentice, smiling from ear to ear and looking as though he had done something worthy of commendation.
Seeing his pleasure, I playfully acknowledged his feat, and an instant of irritation turned to a moment of joy as we delighted in each other as father and son.
This prompted me to think about the unexpected joys of fatherhood and how I should cherish them while I can, because the days of water blasts to the back will soon be gone.
Here are some other truths, responsibilities, privileges and unexpected joys of being a father that came to mind because of a direct hit from Elijah.
- There is a Heavenly Father. A human father should recognize that there is a heavenly Father who is perfect and worthy of our emulation (Matt. 5:48).
- Fathers should embrace biblical manhood. To be the father that the Heavenly Father would have us be, each of us needs to be the kind of man who will “gladly embrace sacrificial responsibility (Eph. 5:25) to cultivate (produce) and protect (keep)” what God has given to us (Gen. 2:15). You don’t have to be married or be a father to be a man, but you do need to be a Godly man to be the father that God would have you to be.
- Fathers will need to patiently repeat themselves. Before I could mow the lawn, I had to pick up balls, bricks, toys and rocks. How many times have a I instructed the boys to be responsible and pick up after themselves? A father should accept the responsibility of patiently instructing by repeating himself until authority is respected, and truth is understood and applied. He will need to do this with gentleness and sometimes he will need to do it forcefully, but always patiently. Is this not how the heavenly Father teaches us?
- Fathers should show and tell. Instruction is essential (Eph. 6:4) but so is modeling. If a man is going to tell his children to pick up after themselves, then they need to see him picking up after himself, and better yet, they need to see him showing what he expects by helping them do it the right way.
- Fathers should take less so they can gladly give more. Augustine of Hippo said of God, “You release (forgive) us of our debts, but lose nothing thereby.” God gave His only Son to ransom many (forgive) from sin by death. And yet in giving, did He not gain instead of lose? A father should realize it is in giving that he receives. Instead of pursing boy toys and earthly treasures for himself, a father should want less so he can give more to his children; especially of his time and energy. See Matt. 7:9-11.
- Fathers should love deeply the mother of their children. One of the greatest gifts a father can give to his children is the security of a verbal, visible, consistent and sacrificial love (Eph. 5:25). Children need to see and hear fathers stick to their covenant commitment before God – for better or worse.
- Fathers should work at loving the bride of Christ – the Church. You can’t fully love the heavenly Father if you don’t love the Son. And you don’t fully love the Son if you don’t love His universal and local body. Children need to see fathers love what God loves.
- Fathers should ask for forgiveness – a lot. I’m fairly confident that we all know that fathers fail a bunch – it’s a hard and demanding job. We are pretty good at failing and it is one of the few things in life that doesn’t require training and effort. So when a father fails and causes disappointment, he must see it as a powerful opportunity by acknowledging his failure and asking for forgiveness. “Will you forgive me?”, is a powerful question that should be familiar to your family.
- Fathers should learn to rest despite the failures. Present failures, and regrets about distant failures, can destroy a father. Though we are called to be perfect, none of us is, and that is why we need Jesus and His gospel so very much. Godly fathers must learn to rest in the finished work of Jesus. It is in Christ that we are made perfectly righteous in the sight of God, and because of God’s grace in Christ that we find the strength to be the father God has called us to be. Grace is never an excuse to give up or coast, rather grace protects us from living in guilt and motivates us to glorify God in all that we do because we have been given so much – including the grace and privilege of fatherhood.