The Father Trap
I say this all the time: there are few things in life that rise to the same level of importance as fathering. How significant is the calling upon fathers to be the primary instruments in the shaping of a human soul? It's a calling that we should accept with humility and holy fear, but also with excitement and courage because Christ is with us and for us.
But over the years, I've had thousands of conversations with Christian fathers who are discouraged, angry, grieved, and ready to quit (or who have already quit). Thousands of fathers don't know what they're doing or why thy're doing it. They've simply lost their way, or in many cases, they never knew the way to begin with.
Why is this? Well, there are several reasons I think, but I want to focus on just one:
We have fallen into the trap of believing that our calling is to enforce LAW, when in fact God has chosen for us to restore AWE.
Are rules important in parenting? Absolutely! Your family won't be able to function if every kid can do and say as they want. Is discipline necessary? Yes, the Proverbs are filled with reasons why. But, your fathering strategies must go deeper than setting up and enforcing rules. You must target the heart of your child.
Beneath the layers of their personality, your child has a heart hardwired for awe, but sin has enabled their heart to wander from the Lord; you should know from personal experience! So, God has ordained for fathers to do everything we can to restore the awe of God in the hearts of our children.
How do you do that? Let me give you four brief examples.
It's very easy for us to settle for superficial and insignificant chit-chat with our kids. Instead, locate heart-focused and gospel-centered talking points and engage. Talk about the significance of human relationships and how sin has the ability to destroy them. Talk about the reasons why we can and should love difficult siblings, neighbors, friends, and classmates. And talk about personal identity and the reasons we find it in the world instead of Christ.
God created the physical world to reflect his magnificence and power. Take your kids to see their favorite animal at the zoo and gaze in wonder with them at its size and color. Take a day trip to a mountain or lake; go fishing; watch the sunset—and while you're there, remind your child that all of that creativity came out of the mind of God.
When your kids break God's law, treat them as God treats us. Mirror the tone of his voice; mirror the look on his face; and mirror the nature of his character. Every time you exercise authority, it should mirror the patient, firm, forgiving, and faithful authority of God.
Finally, when your children struggle with sin, share how you struggle in the same way: "I get angry too when things don't go my way at work—I know how you feel and I often react in the same way." Or, "When people gossip behind my back, I want to spread nasty rumors about them, just like you." Don't pretend that you don't struggle like your kid. Share in their pain and sin and point them to the help and hope found in Christ.
I said at the beginning that we should approach fathering with humility and a holy fear. Why? Because you and I have no ability to talk, show, mirror, and share as we're called. Sin and selfishness hijack our best fathering intentions, and we'll respond with anger, impatience, and self-righteousness.
It's only when we live in awe of God and his glory and his grace that we'll be able to help our kids do the same. You can't give away what your heart already doesn't possess as a parent, so why don't you spend the next few minutes asking the Lord to restore his awe upon your soul.
Dr. Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. Paul lives in Philadelphia and is hopelessly in love with his wife, Luella. They have four grown children.
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.