Mastering the Art of Fathering?
Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, Blink, David and Goliath) claims anyone can master a skill with 10,000 hours of practice. Technically, you or I could become parental experts with about 1.14 years of non-stop training. Using this logic, I ought to be a dad who has mastered his fathering skills nearly to the 15th level, because parenting is a privileged role that never comes to an end.
I’ve been a dad for 17 years now, and yet I feel it is considerably more necessary that I lean into the grace of God now than when Sydney (17) and David (nearly 13) weighed mere pounds that I could single-handedly carry about.
Over the years of attempting to write –– with clarity, passion, and transparency –– what I have witnessed Jesus doing around the world, I don’t recall ever having written about being a dad.
Several significant mile-markers are likely at the core of my desire to share dad-thoughts with you now:
1. Father’s Day is quickly approaching.
Father’s Day is extra-special for me because:
It marks the day David was born - 8 AM on the nose, June 19th, 2005 at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA. Back then I wore a fancy wrist-watch that my friends in the band, Anberlin, had given me. I never used the alarm function, but at 8 AM, right as David was crowning, my alarm rang wild. The Doctor looked up at me and joked, “What, you had this all timed out or something?” I didn’t, but apparently, my Father did.
June 17th will be the first Father’s Day without my own earthly father. My parents were married (what would have been 46 years this year) on Father’s Day, so there’s a double-whammy of sadness/grieving/heart-ache in our family because it’s still all so fresh (in case you hadn’t heard, my dad went to be with Jesus this past December).
In the event you needed a reminder to honor your father especially on this special upcoming day, here you go. You’re welcome!
2. Family transition is looming.
Sydney just graduated from twelve years of home-schooled education thanks to a seriously committed teacher-mom. Part of why I’ve got “father/parent” on the brain is that Beth, Sydney, and I are all stepping into territory otherwise unfamiliar to us. We’ve never had to help our eldest child figure out how to drive a car, where to go to school, what to study, who to become, etc. Thankfully, Sydney is leagues beyond where I was. I studied Psychology because nothing else on the list of majors looked even remotely achievable, and as a former drug-addict I had been encouraged by a high school counselor who had treated me with kindness.
Sydney has clarity and direction to pursue Creative Writing because reading, dreaming and writing have been passions long incubating and maturing within her.
Still, I’ve never doubted my parenting investment like I do now.
Have I done enough? Do my kids know their parents love them? Have we modeled Jesus to them in the best possible form? Should we be doing more? And, if so, what?
3. David’s shoes are bigger than mine. Literally.
He’s barely even hit 13, but David is exploding into manhood unlike I ever considered possible. One area that I’m not very good at, but have begun to grow into, is words of affirmation. Even though I love my son with all my heart, It comes so naturally for me to demean him or point out his short-comings. Pointing out where he is weak only confirms my weakness. To high-light those areas where he is growing, succeeding, and developing in, despite where he may have fumbled, is to affirm his real potential.
Recently we purchased mountain bikes and have begun a new tradition of Saturday morning rides followed by breakfast of David’s choosing (insert Dunkin Donuts or Chik-Fil-A breakfast burritos here). Twice now, David has fallen due to poor, muddy conditions. Both times he was tempted to walk his bike all the way back to our parked car. I challenged him, mud everywhere, to finish the ride. By the mercy of Jesus, he didn’t fight me on it and got back on his bike. On our way to breakfast, I made sure to honor him by reinforcing how proud I was that he finished the ride even though he felt wet, dirty and miserable. By the time we had ordered breakfast, a sweet collective memory had been formed.
4. Last, but not least, I recently discovered a prayer by Brennan Manning (by way of Beth) that has helped me so much in the temptation toward striving
Abba (Father), I am Yours.
You are my beloved.
Your desire is for me.
I have begun applying this short prayer throughout my day, not as a cure-all for my short-comings, but as a reminder of who and whose I am.
I’m the farthest thing from a perfect dad.
However, I am a dad who is learning to love more today than he did yesterday, and a dad who, by grace, will keep reminding Sydney and David that they are the most beautiful gifts I’ve been given. That they are dearly loved and that Jesus is more for them than they will ever be for themselves.
Please pray for Beth and I as we stumble into this new season of mothering/fathering-life.
And let us know how we can pray for you in this time and space.