I am writing these few lines on the 9th anniversary of becoming a father. OK, actually I became a father 9 months earlier than that, since babies are real, live human beings from the earliest moment of conception! But I first saw Julia’s face nine years ago today. I first began the day-in, day-out process of being a dad nine years ago today. It was 2:59 in the morning, on July 31st 2002, at Bethesda North Hospital, when almost everything changed for Tobey and I! And, all these glad years later, I’m both thankful for fatherhood … and reflective, too. What has God taught me these last 108 months? What has fatherhood meant to my life as a follower of Jesus? Four lessons come immediately to mind:
1. “Wretched man that I am.” I don’t know if Paul (who first penned those words) ever had any children. But I can attest that, while I could certainly echo Paul’s self-recrimination before I had children, I can do so all the more nine years in. Children are wonderful! But they are also challenging. They do not work on your schedule (especially when you’re type-A!). They require more time than you thought you had. They’re messy. They’re sometimes contrary. They are all, like their parents, born with a sin nature. And they seem to have a peculiar knack for pushing mom and dad’s buttons! And what does that leave a parent with? A window on his or her own soul! Without knowing it, children have a way of helping their parents see just how selfish we really are; just how impatient and petty we can sometimes be; just how wrapped up we are in our own routines, and desires, and preferences. Children, perhaps like no one else can do, show us what’s really inside – and it’s not always pretty, moms and dads. We desperately need a Savior! And I realize that more than ever nine years into fatherhood. “Wretched man that I am” … but “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7.24-25).
2. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” So says David in Psalm 103. And, wow, do our children help us understand this truth! How much do I love my kids? In spite of my sinfulness, more than I ever thought possible! I cannot imagine the thought of being without them. My heart grieves when I think that harm might befall them. I long to see them do well and walk with the Lord. And if I – sinful dad that I am – want that for my kids, how much more does my heavenly Father want it for me? Do you see the logic? “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” I have opportunity to understand that compassion a little better every time I hold one of my little ones in my arms, or give them a gift, or comfort them when they’re sad. And, O, what a glimpse of the Father’s love it gives me!
3. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Here’s another verse that I’ve always understood … but that makes a much deeper imprint on my soul now that I have kids of my own. I wouldn’t give up Julia, or Andrew, or Silas, or Sally, of Elisabeth for anyone! They are the most precious commodities in the world to Tobey and me! And if we love our children so much, how much more must God love His only begotten? Yet He delivered Him over for us all. He handed Him over to be mocked, and spat upon, and beaten, and crucified … for my sin! What a gift! It’s almost unthinkable. But that’s the measure of the Father’s love for sinners. He gave His Son for them! And now, having sons and daughters of my own, that fact plucks the strings of my heart much more firmly and sweetly than ever before!
4. “Children are a gift of the Lord.” Those words from Psalm 127 are so true. For all the reasons above – for what they teach us about ourselves, and about the Father’s love – children are a gift. For the opportunities they give us to laugh, and smile, and hope, and dream … children are a gift. The privilege of shaping their lives in the instruction of the Lord, every day for eighteen years, is a gift. The joy of pointing them to Jesus day after day after day is a gift! And after nine years of such opportunities (with many days of failure mixed in), I thank God for the gift of children and fatherhood, and for the light that both have shed on His word!