Recently a friend of mine, whom I had the honor of officiating his wedding six years ago, became a father for the first time. Chase emailed me the other day telling me that he is asking various men who have had influence in his life to give him three pieces of advice as he begins this incredible journey called fatherhood. It was an honor to be asked for my input. After responding to him, I thought it may be of some encouragement to others out there, so here you go:
1. Seek godly models.
For me, as someone who did not grow up with my father in the home, I really needed the model and influence of godly men. That happened best for me when I was an intern at the Camp Hansen Christian Center in Okinawa in 1998. There I lived for 3 months with a great and godly family - the Arliskas family. Drew Arliskas showed, by example, what it meant to spiritually lead his family. He also modeled God honoring repentance when he failed as a father.
2. Quantity time always trumps quality time.
There's a myth that says as long as you have quality time with your kids, then you're good. Your career as a Marine is demanding and time consuming - you can't help that - but when you can, invest in your kids' lives. What this means practically, is that some of your most treasured pursuits, hobbies, and leisure time activities may need to be retired and/or replaced. As with marriage, God uses parenting to show us our selfishness and to sanctify us as we die to ourselves in the service of others.
3. Love your wife and prioritize her over your children.
The greatest gift you can give your kids is a great relationship with their mother. Show them, and tell them that she is higher on the totem pole than they are - and that's a good thing for them! Your son desperately needs to see the servant-like love of his father for his mother. (fyi, this should be true for your wife as well... often times, children become the focus in the home... and when they do, our children become our idols).
4. Disciple your children, don't just raise them.
I remember the lightbulb moment in my life when my mentor shared this insight with me. What this means is that our mindset as parents should be gospel-centered. Our goals for our children should spring from the gospel. We should regularly speak about, pray about, and celebrate the gospel together as a family. We should strive to show our children that life is meant to be a pursuit of Jesus. When we see evidences of God's grace in our kids' lives we should celebrate those with them. For more on all this, I wrote another blog here.
5. Realize you will fail as a father, but by His grace you can get up.
God calls men to a very high standard... in fact it is an impossible standard for us to achieve on our own. But, by His grace, and His Power in the Holy Spirit, you can succeed. At times though, you will fail... that's ok... get up... confess your failures and be empowered by God's grace and Spirit once again.
Next week I will post five messages from our Gospel-Centered Parenting Workshop in the sermon/podcast section of this website.