August 22, 2011

Fathering can be a humbling experience.

As a father of four, I am humbled regularly, confused often, wrong more times than I care to admit and constantly wonder if the decision I just made was the best. Every day you and I face a tremendous number of choices about how to invest our time, how to interact with our children, how to discipline, how to set aside time to date our wife, what leisure activities to engage in, and on and on. In the midst of all of this, it’s not hard to get on the wrong track.

There are many different goals that fathers have for their children. Some of the goals prevalent in our society are a good education, proper behavior and manners, high self-esteem, social or economic success and of course happiness. While these goals are good, they fall short of our ultimate purpose as fathers, because they miss the heart of the matter our children’s relationship with God.

At the risk of sounding to spiritual our ultimate goal should be God’s ultimate goal, to help our children live a life of faith and dependence upon Him. The primary purpose of parenting is to create an environment that helps our children be transformed into the image of God. The Bible shows time and again how God changes the heart of men and women so that they can have a renewed relationship with Him. As dad’s we cannot change out children’s hearts …only God can do that. But we can be His instruments by helping our children learn that they desperately need to depend on Him. Psalms 146:5 tells us “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”

With all the mistakes that I have made, I’m surprised my kids have not locked me in a closet somewhere and thrown away the key. However, His grace is sufficient …Praise God whom from all blessings flow! What I do know to be true is that through showing unconditional love we teach our kids that they are valuable and that God has created them to live in a relationship of dependence upon Him. When we administer appropriate discipline we help them see the limits of their own “self-righteousness” and their desperate need for Christ. Through our honesty and vulnerability we model for them a life of dependence and faith upon God. They need to see that we are not self-sufficient, that we cannot make it on our own. These four things go along way to growing kids God’s way.

My wife and I are blessed with the four children God has given us. Today our oldest is on his own, one is in college and the other two are 15. Not a day goes by that I am reminded just how different each of them are, but showing unconditional love and being honest and vulnerable works across the board! I will say that it is the discipline thing that can be tricky (when, what, how, etc.) and not just for actions, but poor attitudes.

For what it is worth I have learned this about discipline …it is different for each child, what works for my sons is not necessarily the best for my daughters. Young children need a lot of instruction and direction. As they become older it is best to ask right questions at right times which hopefully lead to right decisions. My wife and I often discuss what is appropriate discipline for each child before acting upon the enforcement thereof. Do know that when your children hit those teen years they tend to be totally into themselves and you will find that being authoritative and treating them like 9 year olds will only stir their heart to rebellion.

When it comes down to it …our dependence upon God is the key to raising kids in this messed-up world. Every kid is different and it has been my experience that the more time I spend getting to know them …that is how God designed them …the more I can help them live a life of obedience and dependence on God. Proverbs 22:6 clearly instructs us to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Remember it is God who changes the heart. Get on your knees and Pray for your children and wisdom to guide them! It will help you accomplish your objective as a father.

– Article contributed by Tim Chastain, Director of Men’s Teams for the Master’s Men ministry.