You won’t usually hear me say that I want to be famous, but one place I long to be famous is in my home. I want to be a super-star to my kids. At my funeral I want them to be able to say of me that no one loved me like my dad … no one enjoyed me like my dad … no one encouraged me like my dad … no one believed in me like my dad … no one challenged me like my dad … no one cared for me like my dad … no one invested in me like my dad. If I could be famous in anyone’s eyes, it would be in the eyes of my children.
The reality, though, is that this is easier said than done. Being a parent is hard work! If it were easy, I don’t think it would start out with something called “labor.” I want to be famous in the eyes of my children, but most of the time I feel completely unqualified as a parent because the journey of fatherhood can be pretty overwhelming. I find myself often feeling like Jim Gaffigan when he said: "Every night before I get my one hour of sleep, I have the same thought: 'Well, that's a wrap on another day of acting like I know what I'm doing.' I wish I were exaggerating, but I'm not. Most of the time, I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent. I call these times being awake."
Even though I often feel weak and unqualified to be a dad … of all the tasks given to me by God, I believe raising my kids is the most vital. I firmly believe that the influence I have as a dad is the greatest influence I have as a man. Never in my life will influence come easier than it does with my children. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of my role as a father because dads (as well as moms) are pivotal figures in the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development of children. I am charged with the task of preparing my kids for the future. I am charged with the task of driving out "foolishness" in their lives as the book of Proverbs teaches. I am charged with helping develop in them a heart that considers others before themselves, teaching them about responsibility and contentment and generosity and, to top it all off, trying to give them a clear picture of who God really is and His love for them through Jesus Christ. God has given me no more worthy endeavor.
Psalm 127 describes children as a gift and a blessing. In that Psalm they are also described as “arrows in the hand of a warrior.” If you’re a parent … I don’t know how you think of yourself, but God thinks of you as a warrior. The moment you became a parent you became a warrior. And God has placed in your hands a quiver full of arrows called children. If you’ve ever shot a bow and an arrow, you know that this requires skill and practice. You may have the best arrows money can buy, but if you do not handle the bow properly, the arrows will never go where you want them to go. The direction of the arrow depends upon the way the warrior handles the bow. (Rainey)
My children are the arrows. How I treat them, nurture them, discipline them, instruct them, guide them, love them … those qualities, and many others, are my bow. And, I cannot shoot randomly. Aiming is never left to chance. I must have a target in mind. So, I must ask questions like: “Who do I want my children to become? What do I want them to experience? What character traits do I want to see developed in them?” I answer those questions and then I use my “bow” to aim my “arrows” in that direction. So, I must to be intentional with what I teach them and show them and in what I want them to experience.
And, along the journey of raising my children, I cannot forget my need, and their need, for grace. Permanent behavioral change only occurs when the heart of a person is changed by grace. (Tripp) It is so humbling for me to admit that I have no ability to change my kids. I may be able to control their behavior … for now. I have four young children. The simple fact that I am bigger than my kids and stronger than my kids and more imposing than my kids means that I can, with some degree of work, make them behave the way I want them to behave. I can enforce my will upon them and administer my standards of behavior for them making them compliant and obedient … for now. But, there is going to come a time when I am no longer bigger than my kids and stronger than my kids and “Because I said so” will no longer be a sufficient answer for them. So, my job, as a parent, is to partner with the Holy Spirit and to be used by God to point my children to a Savior who can change them … who can transform their hearts. So, this means that I, as a man, need to learn to live this way first. I cannot offer them what I myself do not have. Lasting change and true character always travels the path of the heart. (Tripp)
Nothing reveals what is in my heart faster than my children. When they don’t respond how I want, when they don’t do what I want, when they don’t act how I want … I find myself becoming impatient and angry. I can find myself becoming embarrassed and bitter. When their needs interfere with my wants, I can find myself become selfish and egotistical. All of those wonderful traits lay dormant within me when life is good and the family is peaceful and all is going how I want it to go. But, kids have a way of stirring things up and when my happy little world is shaken, what lays dormant rises to the surface. My kids do not force me to be impatient. I’m impatient because impatience lies in my heart. My kids do not force me to become angry. I’m angry because anger lies within my heart. My kids do not coerce me toward selfishness and bitterness. I can be selfish and bitter because selfishness and bitterness lie within my heart. Kids can stir it up. But, the good news of grace is that God wants to clean it up!
God’s untiring agenda for my life is growth. The frustrations we sometimes experience as parents, though difficult and taxing, can be a way that God, in His grace, brings to the surface what Jesus wants to transform. When what happens on the outside reveals what’s lies on the inside, we can come face to face with our sinfulness as parents. This is a gift because it reminds me that I’m more like my children than unlike them. There is no outburst of anger they have had that I myself have not had. There is no form of selfishness that they exhibit, that I myself have not shown. There is no type of laziness that they display that I myself have not paraded at some point in my life. When God allows to rise to the surface what He desires to transform, I’m reminded of my continual need for His limitless grace. This, in turn, helps me to extend the same grace to my children. No one gives grace more than the one who grasps how much he or she needs it themselves. (Tripp)
The more I allow Jesus to travel the path of my heart, the better equipped I am to partner with the Holy Spirit in the same process with my children. So, yes, I still want to be famous in my home, but fame in the eyes of my children comes as God’s fame grows in my heart. No matter their age, our children need us. And, as God's fame grows within me, I am more able to be the father my children need me to be and offer them what they, and I, desperately need most ... the grace of Jesus.