Not Walking with Jesus
Men face many enemies in the quest to raise our children and greatest enemy stares back at us in the mirror every morning. Our own personal sin and selfishness wars against us. We wrestle with the temptation to either pamper our children our neglect them. We waver back and forth between permissiveness and control. Our children ask for more of our time but we struggle to give it to them because our face is buried in our phones.
A man must continue to grow as he grows older, and this only happens by growing as a Christian. We possess no power to change ourselves over the long haul because the sin in us is too deep. We need the forgiveness and restoration which comes through faith in Jesus as well as the transformation he works in those who belong to him. We call this process sanctification and it happens as a man hears from Jesus through his word, depends on him through prayer, and acts on what he learns through obedience. When he fails, he repents and gets up again by the Spirit’s power.
This process of repentance and growth produces lasting change in a man. The man who was irritable grows more gracious, the anxious man becomes more peaceful, and the timid man finds himself more courageous. Therefore, fathers must make the time to read the Bible to hear from God, spend time with him in prayer, and find brothers who know him and can help him as he walks through fatherhood.
Not Loving Your Wife
Not all fathers are married, but many are. If you are married, your relationship with your wife is second only to your walk with Jesus. You must take heed to Paul’s command to, “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” You do not push the pause button on this injunction because children have been born, but instead you double down on it. For the husband, this means you daily look for opportunities to serve your wife and to prioritize making time to spend with her. Rather than allowing the kids to stay up until all hours of the night, you work with your wife to get them into bed so you can spend time together. Instead of walking in the house and plopping in a chair to watch sports, the wise husband comes home ready to engage his wife and help her in any way he can.
For several years the prevailing wisdom was that the health of a marriage depended on a consistent date night. While I still believe making time to do things together without the kids is important, I’ve come to see the daily time as having greater importance than date night. The consistent time together day after day creates a strong bond than many hours together spread out weeks apart.
Before the birth of our first child someone told me, “the best gift you can give your daughter is to love her mother.” Ten years and four children later this statement proved itself to be true. A strong relationship with your wife builds a safe environment in which your children can thrive.
Not Making Time for Your Kids
Everything about our culture makes war on the man who wants to spend time with his children. Long commutes, smart phones, homework, and the outrageous demands of youth sports leagues set up for men to have minimal interaction with his children. Therefore a father must take control of his family’s schedule in order to prioritize quality time with his children.
Many men believe they will “find” the time to spend with their kids only to find it does not happen. Those who want to find time must instead begin to make time for connecting. This begins with Dad being all the way home when he is home. Dr. D.A. Carson wisely counsels us, “Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely.” Following this advice will create ample time to spend with our children and reduce much of the frustration our children experience with us. When Dad gets home but still needs to answer emails, our kids don’t understand why we need to keep working when we get home. They become irritated with us because we are working and we get angry with them because they won’t leave us alone. The only answer is to work until you can finish and then come home and be completely at home. Turn off the phone or put it in another room. Work when you’re at work and be home when you’re at home.
Men should also create opportunities for connecting with their children in the ordinary rhythms of life. These opportunities come around the dinner table, in the living room, and in the front yard. Eat dinner together as a family with mobile devices in another room so you can talk and laugh. When you have yard work to do, involve your kids and let them help. It will take longer and won’t be done as well, but that doesn’t really matter. The wise Dad would rather have shrubs trimmed too closely with his children than to have a perfectly manicured yard while the kids sit inside.
Every father must learn the key word, “intentionality.” Growing as a Christian, connecting with your wife, and enjoying children cannot happen by accident. The pace of life in our culture refuses to allow it. Men, I challenge you this week to spend time in prayer with an open notebook. How will you begin to prioritize time for growth, time for your bride, and time for your children?
For Further Reading
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp