In this part of the world it is Father’s Day weekend.
My sons are blessed to have a Daddy who is loving, involved, and dedicated to living out his faith in everyday life. Christians call these attributes I’m writing about ‘The Fruits of the Spirit’, because we believe that it is in God’s strength that we can truly exemplify these qualities. You can find a good description of each of these attributes here.
I decided to write this blog post to my boys and tell them a bit about what it would mean to walk in their Daddy’s shoes – they’re not old enough to understand the post in its entirety just yet (although I am encouraging them to display these virtues, themselves), but one day I will share it with them. In the meantime, I will share it with you!
It’s not easy, in this world, to find a male role-model who is worth emulating. You might look to the stars – the Hollywood type, that is – but famous men are no different from ordinary men; all are flawed creatures. Some are brash and arrogant, dishonest about their advantages and unwilling to exercise humility. Others are quick to criticize others, while remaining blind to faults in themselves. Many are impatient with their loved ones and unforgiving of transgressions. Some mistake gentleness for weakness. Others abuse their authority and manipulate those under them for their own gain.
But there is a man in your life to whom you may look as a guide in how to live a grace-filled life – a man who, himself, walks in his Father’s shoes. He, too, seeks to emulate God and His perfection in all he does. That man is your Daddy.
Let’s look together at what it means to walk in your Father’s shoes.
Your Daddy is full of love – love for you, for me, for our extended families, for his friends. His actions display this love, as he works hard to provide for us and as he humbly pitches in around the house, changing D’s nappy, graciously giving me a sleep-in while he gets up with you early-birds. He shows his love for others, too, by allotting money for charity and supporting our sponsor child. He is generous with others as well as with our family. That’s what love looks like.
Daddy loves a good joke. He knows how to bring the mood up and helps us all to lighten up when we’re feeling grouchy or impatient. He knows how to laugh at himself. You know that your Daddy’s not a natural optimist – I’d be dishonest in trying to portray him that way – but he is still joyful. He loves to make you laugh and he loves to laugh at the silly things you do. He notices the beauty in the world and delights in these things, even in his understated way. He is sincere and heartfelt about his appreciation for God and his blessings (including you and me!). His contentment isn’t dependent on his circumstances. He trusts in God, always, and rejoices in Him. That’s what joy looks like.
I’ve occasionally joked about your Dad, “If he were any more laid-back, he’d be asleep!” – and there’s a lot of truth to that. I know that you can think back to times when he has been ruffled or riled, but I know that you’ll agree with me that these occasions have been few and far between (even with a wife and four kids all yelling at him at once!). Daddy doesn’t get all caught up in gossip and he isn’t quick to react negatively. He is calm and non-judgemental. He relates well to others and is quick to deflect anger. You’ve seen him quietly yield parking spaces without fuss, and shrug off the rudeness of others. He is a man of peace. That’s what peace looks like.
You know your Daddy is a patient man because you’ve seen him extend grace to me when I’ve put little dings or scrapes onto the car. You’ve heard him gently remind you of a responsibility, and give you time to complete your tasks instead of rushing you through them. You can see how he cools our hot tempers with the balm of his soothing words and calm demeanor. Daddy has the patience to wait for the things he wants. He makes decisions wisely, taking the time to research all the options. He doesn’t speak rashly, but instead considers his words first; sometimes this makes me crazy, and (because I am less patient) I accuse him of being unresponsive – but in the end he offers his well-thought-out opinion in gentleness and love. That’s what patience looks like.
When you see Daddy helping others without expecting anything in return, that is kindness. When Daddy takes time away from the other things he needs to get done to spend time with you and teach you something – just because it’s something you’re interested in – that is kindness. You see Daddy’s kindness as he stops to talk with someone, even when he’s in a rush. Daddy’s really good at chatting with everyone – his gentle sense of humour and easy-going nature help with that; but he also takes the time to listen and respond to people, which is part of his kindness. Your Daddy looks to the needs of those around him and does what he can to meet those needs: he gives food and water to the homeless; he stops and gives directions when people are lost; he generously looks after us in many ways, without resentment. That’s what kindness looks like.
Your Daddy is a man of integrity. He doesn’t cheat on his taxes. He doesn’t come by anything dishonestly. To Daddy, doing the right thing is of utmost importance – even if it comes at great cost or inconvenience. In everything he does, he seeks to be a good representative of his faith and his family. He does what is good even when nobody’s watching, and even if people would try to dissuade him. He is a man who ‘seeks justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God’. That’s what goodness looks like.
Daddy is a loyal man. He is trustworthy; he is a man of his word. When things get tough – when we are difficult – Daddy is steadfast. He will stick by us and nurture us, just as he has always done. Your Daddy is faithful to me, he is faithful to you, and he is faithful to God. He doesn’t talk badly about his family or friends to others. He honours our relationship and the vows he made to me on our wedding day. That’s what faithfulness looks like.
You know how Daddy wraps you up in your towel like a big baby and carries you to your room after your bath? Even you, A, although you’re now so tall you’re all arms and legs and elbows, like a baby giraffe… He gives you a warm snuggle and pops you carefully down to get dressed for bed. That’s gentleness. You know how he never forces you to do anything – but instead encourages, urges you to be responsible, to do your assignments, to sit down and figure something out instead of giving up? He doesn’t rant and rage about it; he just quietly gives you the strength and support you need to succeed. That’s gentleness. Daddy’s hands are strong but kind – he uses them to help, not to hurt. That is what gentleness looks like. Daddy is humble; he doesn’t climb over others to reach his goals. He doesn’t champion himself and his qualities. He doesn’t think he’s ‘too good’ for hard work or dirty jobs or lowly endeavors. That’s what humility looks like.
We can all be guilty of serving ourselves before others; it’s always easy to put our own needs ahead of someone else’s. It’s easy to fly off the handle and easy to take the biggest piece and easy to satiate our own desires without deferring to the laws of goodness and propriety and respect. It’s definitely easier to just blurt out whatever we feel like saying instead of considering the other person’s feelings first. But your Daddy knows how to exercise self-control. Self-control means denying yourself for the greater good; it means putting the needs of others before your own needs. When you practise self-control, you expose the fallacy of instant gratification because you demonstrate how much sweeter life is when you wait, when you anticipate satisfaction, and when you exercise restraint in your consumption. When Daddy decides that he’s developed a little pot-belly (or puku, as he calls it), he denies himself the extra treats for a while until he’s his usual slim self. He does this so that he can stay strong and healthy for his family. Daddy also exercises self-control over the kinds of things he allows into his sight and mind. He avoids things that aren’t honouring to God or other people. That’s what self-control looks like.
My darlings, I’m not trying to sell you some idealized version of your Daddy. We live with him – so we know that he’s not perfect. He’s just a man, like any other man – but he does his best to walk in his Father’s shoes. It would be to your credit – and to your advantage – if you would seek to do the same.
Your loving Mamma
I wrote this postscript in my editor’s blurb for our church magazine, and it seems appropriate to note here as well:
For some, experiences with their own Dads and other human males has tainted their image of God’s fatherhood; but the Bible makes it clear that God embodies all the good characteristics of a generous and loving human father, without the weakness and sin:
“Jesus answered, `I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:6,9)
This Father’s Day, as we honour those men in our lives who have loved us, mentored us, and nurtured us, let us look as well to the perfect Father in heaven in whose strength and care we truly flourish.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone!
To West: Thank you for being a godly example for our sons. I know that I’m good at pointing out your faults (that’s part of a wife’s job, right??), but I hope that I also do you the justice of noticing and commending all the wonderful things you do and all the wonderful things you are.