I just watched the movie I can only Imagine, and it got me reflecting on the importance of fatherhood. The movie is about how the lead singer’s relationship with his father negatively and positively impacted not only his life but influenced his penning of one of Christian music’s greatest contemporary songs. It shows the impact of having a father who is physically present, but emotionally distant.
Any time I reflect on stories about an absent father, I praise God that my father was always there. The first lesson about fatherhood, I learned and Im still grateful for is that fatherhood means being present.
Being a parent is intimidating, but the great thing is that you don’t have to know everything, you don’t have to have all of the answers. There’s something about being present physically and emotionally that really impacts a child. When we were younger my dad like many fathers worked long hours and had a long commute of at least 3 hours on the road every day. At the same time despite being gone, throughout the week, I remember him devoting his time on the weekends with us. I remember him taking to my sporting events, but also I remember just riding in the car with him and asking him all kinds of questions. Its interesting as I reflect in writing this and assess how long his working days were. Because though he worked a lot, I still remember my dad as being present. You may not have too much physical time with your children, so it is important that you make the times you have with your children count. My dad made those times count. Fatherhood doesn’t stop. Even as an adult with my own children, my dad has made himself available. If I have issues or need help, I know my dad is available and willing to help. Its funny because his dependability is something that I’ve been able to count on and realize is a blessing that many men do not experience. You never know what kind of scars you can leave on your children; my dad definitely did not leave any on me. So for all of us fathers, lets make sure we are available.
Part of being available is not just being a lump on the couch, but being able to emotionally engage our children. One lesson I have learned I need to improve on is how to verbally affirm my sons more. This year was one of the first times I didn’t coach my son in basketball. It was interesting because I had practiced with him a little bit in getting him to play and shoot on a 10 foot court. So when we signed him up for a league and I discovered they were playing on an 8 foot court, I got a little discouraged. I didn’t want him to play with beginners, who were just learning to play. I wanted him to play with a more advanced group of kids and on a bigger court. I remember the first two or so games I missed and my son came home telling me that he made like 16 points. He was very excited, and said “guess what dad I made like 7, 8 baskets.” His mom also was shouting his praise telling me, he did so good. I just looked at him and was like you should have made that much, you are playing on an 8 foot court. You are one of the biggest boys out there. In my mind, I was not impressed. It was something I expected of him, so I didn’t really praise him. Its funny because the other observation I made when I went to his other games, is how every time he would score he would look for me on the sidelines. His face had a smiling expression that said Do you like that? Am I doing good? It was weird because in those moments I had my the coach hat on thinking, you need to pass the ball more and lets see you do this on a 10 ft court, while my dad head was like don’t show off, its just a basket. After the game I would tell him what he needed to work on, when he just wanted to hear he did good. This is the hard part about being a father. We know that life gets hard and gets harder and sometimes we want our young boys to not get too excited or complacent because there will be obstacles that they need to deal with. They need to be strong. They need to be smart. They need to be prepared. They need to fight. We focus on those things which are good, but sometimes we miss taking the time saying, Im proud of you you did good. I can’t close without mentioning this passage about Jesus being baptized.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,c and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,d with whom I am well pleased.”
I can do a whole sermon on this passage, but I want to highlight the most basic thought. God the father is giving Jesus, his perfect son a verbal affirmation. Its easy to think that Jesus probably didn’t need affirmation. He was perfect. He knew he was, so why did God give it? I think we miss out on the fact of the humanity of Christ. Even as a man he needed validation, to know he was doing what he was supposed to do, that he was making the right decisions.So if the son of God who was perfect needed verbal affirmation, how much do our sons need it especially when they know they are flawed. In fact the less perfect and confident the child, the more affirmation they need.
As a man, a father and husband, I have had times where I have questioned myself, my ability to lead, my effectiveness as a leader in my home. I have my insecurities. We all have our insecurities. It is in these times, that is so important to hear the words, you are my son with whom I am well pleased. You see there are two parts to that phrase, one is about performance, the other is about identity. So often we worry about performance, how well are we doing. Without neglecting that we should spend more time on the identity portion. You are my son, you are my daughter. I love you, simply because of that, because you are my child. You are mine, you belong to me. You carry my name, my seed. This is what God says to us, its what I’ve at times heard God saying to me. You are my son. I am with you. I love you. No you are not perfect, but you have me. I’m available. I’m here with you. I have all the resources you need. Now that’s emotional availability.
Guys lets be that for our children, and remember God is that for you. He’s available.
To my dad: Thanks for being there for me, and for my brothers. You are such a blessing to me and the kids. You are a model of the servant leadership of Christ. You have helped me relate to God because I have an earthly model of a good father. You are loved, and I hope you have a Happy Father’s Day.