On Father’s Day, I set out to make resolutions to become a better dad. My initial thoughts turned to spending more time with my kids, and having more fun and memorable experiences with them. I want to be that creative dad. I want my kids to know that I love them. Maybe I should praise my children more, or take them out for some one on one time. Maybe I needed to read more books about parenting. Maybe seminars or classes on being a father. Maybe surfing more dad-blogs for ideas on how I can improve my fatherhood skills. All of these thoughts were focused on putting my children first. And that’s not what was going to make me a better dad.
I’ve been thinking about how I need to be more patient and compassionate for a while now. Last week, this simple phrase out of Exodus 21, “for I am compassionate” struck me, and started a train of thought that just kept on going. It jumped out at me for three reasons. First, the context of the passage was more about justice and punishment, not about God’s compassion. So the structure of the passage itself made this a contrasting statement that stood out. Second, this characteristic of God was in response to how people care for the fatherless. More and more adoption has been on my mind. So when I read about the people who God is paying special attention to (widows, fatherless, and the poor) I latched onto what it was saying. Third, I realized this character flaw of mine was not restricted to only my relationship with my children. This resolution went to the very core of who I was. If I am to be a better father, that meant being like the heavenly Father. My personal character shapes every relationship I have. So I recognized that instead of my children coming first, my relationship with God, my own character development, must be the number one priority of my life. Who I am determines what kind of husband, brother, son, employee, deacon, and DAD I would be. So did that mean that my children must come second? Read on.
In order to be a successful parent, I must first be a successful spouse. After all, it is my example as a husband that Ella will be watching to see how she should expect guys to treat her as she gets older and considers who to marry. And Pax will be learning from my example what being a “leader” in the home looks like from my relationship with Erica. He will become more like me than I could ever imagine, and that is just part of the reason why being a good husband should be my number two priority. A solid marriage is crucial to being a great dad. And a strong relationship with God is the key to having a solid marriage.
Last but not least, come the kids. If I am who I need to be (patient, kind, compassionate, honest, pure, trustworthy, etc. ) and I focus on being a great husband to Erica, then I will be able to be the kind of dad I want to be. A dad who is a godly example. A dad who responds well in crisis and trials. A dad who my kids can respect and love. I will still need to spend more time with them, and think of fun and creative memories to make with them, but if I only did these things, and I am not imitating God in my life, I will ultimately be a failure. If I spend time with my kids, but my marriage ends up in shambles because I didn’t work at my marriage as hard as I worked at my relationship with my kids, I would be a failure.
Now, realistically, you can see that this order of priorities is not necessarily do A first, once you have that down then do B, wait ten years and move onto C. Rather I must be focused on all three at the same time. But putting this kind of order to it helps me keep my perspective in check. That’s the journey I’ve been on for the past week. I have more resolutions, some are more personal, and perhaps others I will share in later posts. But this is one of the major ones.
What order do you think it should be?