How do I connect with my daughter's heart so she can connect with God's heart?
That question drives me the most as I stand at the plate ready to swing away at being a good father for my daughter. No pressure, but she's an only child—I don't get a do-over if I screw this up! Here are three things that help me keep an eye on the ball and connect with her heart:
1. Die to Live
We cover this principle in Volume 5 of 33 as it relates to a man and his marriage. The same principle applies to fatherhood. As a dad, the moment I begin to think "I've got this" is when things start to unravel. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus told His followers: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
In dying to myself, I must not go soft and drift into passivity, but in accepting responsibility and leading courageously I must not grow harsh either. I need to be authoritative without becoming an authoritarian. Fatherhood must reflect servant leadership.
2. Rest in God's Grace
Just about every day we pray as a family, "God, help us see others the way you see them. Help us extend grace to others as you have extended grace to us." That prayer reflects what Jesus said in Luke 6:36: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Remembering what God has done for me is a game-changer as a dad. It helps me focus on my daughter's heart and and her need for Jesus, not just my need for her behavior to change. When she was only four-years-old, I gave her a tiny silver ring with a heart on it and promised that God will love her no matter what, and so will I.
I don't hesitate to draw a hard line when necessary, but one night I crossed the line into harsh leadership. After the fact, I knew I needed to clean up my mess. Kneeling beside her bed before we prayed that night, I opened m heart: "What I said to you earlier was right, but the way I said it was really wrong. I need to ask you to forgive me."
In another instance, I was trying to help her face her fears about some things. It felt like I was taking a big chance when I said to her, "Anna, I've never told you this, but before you were born, when I was thinking about the responsibility of being a father, I was so afraid that I wouldn't be a good dad for you. I asked God to help me then and every day since...and He has. I know God will help you with your fears like He is helping me." Taking the risk of being vulnerable with her opened up a much deeper and honest conversation.
Successful fatherhood isn't batting 1000. None of us are going to be perfect dads. But if we'll die to live, rest in God's grace, and be willing to be vulnerable, we'll be much closer to connecting with her heart.
This article is an excerpt from 33 The Series Volume 6: A Man and His Fatherhood.
View the Video and Training Guide for Session 1 of A Man and His Fatherhood.CLICK HERE to view all 33 The Series resources.