Boys to Men Day 7: The Challenge of Being a Dad
“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11, ESV)
I’m in my mid-40s, and have three daughters in different life stages (high, middle, and elementary school). So this final devotion is perhaps the hardest to write. Maybe you don’t struggle with this—being a “father” vs. being a “dad”—but I do. My default setting is “father.” My “dad” setting breaks through sometimes, but has to overwrite the default. For many of us, being a father comes naturally. The father part of us is to be respected. He sets rules and expects obedience. He provides, waiting to be thanked. It’s this side that needs Paul’s words: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4). But the other part of us is the dad side. He is fun, plays games, has spontaneous plans, can fix everything, buys stuff, and so on. You see the difference? For me, it’s a battle I face all the time. Which side will win? Both sides are vital. We can’t be the fun dad all the time. But we also shouldn’t earn the nickname of Mr. No, either (which I may have)!
In the passage above, Jesus describes a scenario where, when a child asks his father for something—bread, or a fish—the father gives what the child asks for. My natural inclination is to say “No!” But in His words here, He intimates that the answer can be “Yes!” Not only do you avoid giving them the opposite of what they ask for, but you can actually go through with giving them what they ask for! He plainly mentions that we should know how to give good gifts to our children.
Personally, the most disappointing thing about my reasons for saying No revolve around a far inferior currency I’m trading for being “dad.” Mostly, the reasons are nonsense—I’m “busy” sitting around, looking at my stupid phone, watching idiocy on YouTube, being cheap, or something else. And while I do enjoy being a goober with my girls (which I’m sure gets annoying), I need to say Yes more often to questions that begin with Can I have, Can we, or Can I. The default setting of No doesn’t have to be the answer.
Being a dad involves giving time, focus, and energy. And yes, they’ll grow into teenagers and put up walls to keep you from invading their world. But that doesn’t mean your walls should go up. They should always be welcome in your world, and you should never ignore them. Find things you enjoy doing together and do them. Make time for one-on-one dates (or guys’ nights). Learn about what they like: volleyball, dance, singing, basketball, soccer, football, or cooking. Do your best to discover and learn so you can better relate to them. Spend time with them. Does she like to bake? Bake something with her. Does he like to fish? Take him fishing. Does she like to play Monopoly? Play Monopoly. It will involve time, no doubt about it. But I need to recognize how valuable spending that time with them is. All too soon, they’ll be moving on in life, and I’ll look back and wish I had done more.
These roles can and should coexist. When you’re spending time being a dad, your children may begin to look more toward you as a father. When you’re with them, enjoying their interests, who knows where it might lead? Maybe he’ll open up to you. Maybe she’ll ask for your guidance. But even if they don’t, the time will still be well spent. If you’re spending all your time being a father, though, your children will probably yearn for moments with their dad. This is why I frustrate myself; I love being with them, and love them beyond words. My daughters are the coolest kids on the planet (no offense to anyone reading). I just need to do better at tapping into what Jesus said. My heavenly Father has given so much to me and for me. I asked for His forgiveness. I asked for something priceless—eternal life. I asked for mercy, love, and grace. His answer for all those things was (and is) “Yes!” No shock that He, as always, is our example to follow. Hopefully, I can follow my own advice here, and make 2021 a year where I shed that dreadful nickname of Mr. No. Maybe I’ll be a little less “father” and little more “dad.”