As we start in our early parenthood years and grow through our experience and challenges, our mindset is to have the greatest knowledge of what we should teach and pass down to our children. What words can we speak into their lives that will guide them down the path of prosperity, knowledge and a love for Jesus? These words are quite important but we far too often forget the best way of training our children, being the example of the type of person we desire them to become. If we are talking about sports, we would demonstrate to our child how to hold the ball, how it looks coming out of the hand, how to use our hands to catch the ball and much more. There is so much to demonstrate and we have only touched on the basics of the sport. We are nowhere near demonstrating plays or scoring and there is just so much to show them, but if we start them off right, they will grow into a great player. We are not talking about physical abilities though, we are building character.
As a young dad, my main focus was on typical teachings such as respect others, be good in public and don’t hit your sister. This was done with words, discipline and repetition. Too far into parenthood did I truly comprehend the fact that my little girls were watching every move of mine and hearing every word coming from my mouth. I knew the truths of Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”, but I didn’t know the power behind the execution of demonstrating it. I knew how to implement this in the work place with my strong work ethic but I was slow to recognize I could do the same thing with my children. Once I figured out that power, I exploited it! I used it for all it was worth.
As I grew in my relationship with Christ it became clear that I wanted to use this principle, being the example, to instill the love for Jesus I had into my children’s lives. I wanted them to know how important church was in my relationship with God. So, I demonstrated the excitement and devotion I had for this by not only going to church on a regular basis but being actively involved within the church. We only missed Sunday services if there was a youth/mission trip, a family vacation that didn’t happen very often due to finances, or we were sick. When on family vacations we would still find a church on Sunday and attend their service. One time we weren’t really sure of where to go so we gathered around as a family, pulled out the Bible, read it together, and talked through it. We never took a vacation from God. Still, as I was growing, I needed to demonstrate the importance of God’s word in my life; we started up family Bible studies. I started being visible reading my Bible on a regular basis. Verses that were impressed upon my heart were placed all over the house. Written on doorframes, plaques on the wall, godly tee shirts, and window stickers were purchased emphatically.
As I learned the importance of serving and loving others we did just that. When the neighbors had a pile of rocks dumped in front of their house I said, “Come on girls, let’s go help them do their landscaping.” Jesus tells us in three of the gospels to love our neighbor as our self and states it’s the second greatest commandment, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength being the most important (Matthew 26:37-40, Mark 12:29-31, Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Hebrews 6:10 states God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and your love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Our possibilities for demonstrating these verses are endless and I needed to show my daughters as many ways as possible how to do these things. We have a big family in our household. At Thanksgiving, there was always a big feast at our house. Encompassing these verses worked out at this time by bringing plates of turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans to our neighborhood convenience store workers. 1Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage one another and build up each other. A few Thanksgivings in, my kids told their friends about this annual tradition and their families soon adopted this tradition as well.
As my daughters were maturing, they started calling me out when I wasn’t being that good example. While there seems to be an endless amount of possibilities they could catch me stumbling in my walk with God, the most common was when I was behind the steering wheel taking them to school or the shopping center. Being the impatient person that I am, they would have the opportunity on a regular basis to state “Dad, is that the way the Bible describes how we should react to that person?” as someone was not holding up to my expectations of merging or rate of speed on the highway.
As I look at my four daughters you can see the difference between the oldest two and the youngest two. There is a 12-year age difference from oldest to youngest and you can see the progression of godly principles instilled both verbally and shown as an example from my actions. Most notable is the peace within the younger two. The older two, though great, godly women in their own right, have a bit of anxiousness that is directly related to the lack of stability and maturity in Christ. The younger ones are more grounded and stable in the knowledge of the family beliefs. They understand these aren’t just words we state but a way of life we live. In his great sermon on the mound, Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). How much would we all follow his words stated at this point if he would have punched Judas in the face when he betrayed him? We wouldn’t. If we want our children to have strong, loving godly marriages in their future, how are we doing with our wives in those categories? Trust me, I’m in the same boat as everyone else in this category. We always seem to be the worst when we are with the ones we are supposed to love the most…but guess what, our kids are right there seeing how we treat her.
Gentlemen, our responsibility for our children is overwhelming, but thankfully we have a forgiving Father and an ever-powerful Holy Spirit to help us through all of it. As you demonstrate your love for your God, wife, and children- know that it doesn’t fall flat. They pick up on it and it becomes a natural trait within their relationships. We will fail, many more times than we want to, but, that creates such a great opportunity for being the example in these moments as well. Acknowledge the mistake you made, ask for forgiveness and move on in love. It blows their minds when we do this! Like it or not, we are always the example to our children. I did not grow up in a Christian home. My father was not a godly example but yet still an example. I took two things from the way he lived within our household. I received my strong work ethic from him. From his bad traits, I promised myself I would never be an alcoholic and I would love my children and they would know that they were loved by their daddy. Those last words just brought me to tears. So, gentlemen, let us focus on growing to become great men of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Our example will live on forever in them. Let’s let it be of Him.
Prayer: Dear Lord, God Almighty. Take away distractions from us growing in our relationship with you. May you truly be our first love. Teach us to love of 1 Corinthians; help demonstrate that godly example of love to our wives, children and those around us. May your love overwhelm and flow through us. May we never stop seeking out your word and never stop growing in our relationship with you Lord. God, craft us into that godly example that will build your kingdom through our children and those we come in contact with. May we be dads that demonstrate the love of the Father and glorify you. Amen
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