Four years ago, I wasn’t a very good dad.
I never was a baby person, but taking care of three humans made me feel incapable. I guess that’s God’s grace on display. Sometimes He gives us the very things that incapacitate us so we’ll finally let go and trust Him. The truth is, He was molding me for something far bigger than I could see. And this is what it was going to take to break the strongholds that would finally set me free.
In hindsight, I’m grateful that He loved me enough to chip away at my selfishness, impatience and pride.
Back then, I thought that loving my children well meant providing for them. If I could make enough money, then they would know that I loved them. Somehow, the idea of a trust fund felt like the most honorable legacy I could leave. I even justified it by saying that I was teaching my kids the value of hard work. But the truth is, I valued my role as their provider more than my role as their father.
The more I valued my ability to provide, the less I valued the One who promises to. In short, the more I valued myself as the provider, the less I valued God and the less I valued myself. I was simply a paycheck.
Kids need to learn the value of hard work and they need a healthy respect for money, but fathers are more than a paycheck. Being a father is about forging an example for your children—cultivating a trust and respect that points to something greater.
The Role of a Father
The relationship between a father and his children is intended as a direct reflection of our relationship to God. In effect, fathers are mirrors by which their children come to understand the love of a Heavenly Father. A father isn’t a magical genie who grants every wish. Neither is he a condemning authoritarian. A father weaves provision and grace and authority together with love and patience.
We can’t fall into the trap of believing that our kids want our money. The truth is, our kids want our time. They want to be loved and taught and guided. That’s the same childlike spirit that echoes in each one of us—to be known and still be loved. And of course, any good father will lavish his kids with provision and blessings. Not because it’s his duty, but because he loves them.
Our responsibility to provide for our kids flows from God’s promise to provide for us. My mentor, Kevin Adams, taught me, “You are not the provider. You are the conduit by which God provides.” What a beautiful thought. I am supposed to be the conduit by which my kids encounter God.
It has taken me a long time to learn this, but it has completely removed the stress of provision. In its place, is the desire to be present.
A Picture of Fatherhood
The other day, I took my boys to the beach. The ocean was fierce. Far too dangerous for a child. But like boys often do, my sons wanted to see how close they could get to danger without getting hurt. As their father, I walked with them, holding their hand as they courageously tested the power of the ocean.
At one point, my son let go. His bravery seemed to conquer his fear. But the next wave swept him off of his feet and churned him in the salt and sand. He quickly jumped up, wiped the salt water from his eyes and quickly reached for my hand.
In that moment, it all made sense.
Too often, I’m like my sons. I want to do life on my own, so I reject the hand of my Father. But when the waves of circumstance crash and churn me in their wake I’m humbly reminded to reach for His hand.
That’s a picture of fatherhood.
When I hold fast to the hand of my Heavenly Father and reach down for the hand of my children. Then, I’m more than a paycheck. I become the conduit by which they will come to know Him.
It’s really that simple.