Hello, my name is Eric… and I’m a father… Fatherhood is war. There are three common wounds that we fathers struggle with in the battles: failure (our poor performance), fear (lack of confidence to lead), and faithlessness (lack of intentionality). Trouble is, each of these wounds can kill our effectiveness. In this replay of my webinar, we will look at how to overcome each of these wounds and win the war.
It is 11:59 PM. You’re exhausted. But the conversation with your teenager (or spouse) has now drug on for 48 harried minutes. Despite your generous investment of time and attention, it is clear that the issue on the table is about as clear as a London fog.
We know that these conversations are an inevitable part of life in a fallen world. It is easy to grow weary of them and tune out or avoid them altogether. But they can be part of good relationship development. We learn a lot about others and most especially—ourselves—through them.
Wouldn’t it be nice to figure out a way to burn through the fog? Refocusing our attention on the cause of the issue or conflict (whichever) that lies beneath these conversations can help reduce the duration and frequency of these conversations so that they are more redemptive. Here’s how.
To begin, there is no formula. I apologize if you thought I was going to give you one! (Faith is not a formula but it doesn’t stop us from hedonistically searching for formulas, does it?) What I’m going to share with you is something more fundamental that cannot be replaced with a mere on-demand formula although it can also be helpful in the moment.
Desires Drive Life
The issues of our lives—that cause conflicts and those squirrely conversations!—are the passions, or desires that are idolatrous and rule our hearts. Luke 6:55 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
“Evil treasure” can also be described as deceitful desire or evil desires as we see in Ephesians 4:22 and Colossians 3:5 (respectively). “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.” “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry.”
Desires Can Become Demands
Most desires are not inherently sinful but become idolatrous when they depend on something or someone other than God for fulfillment. For example, a desire for the delicious taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream is not a bad thing in itself. But what happens if you go to the store and they are out—or worse, they don’t have green mint chocolate chip but only the white kind? Do you get angry about it? Getting angry is a sign that the desire has indeed become idolatrous. Another example could be a desire for a secure future. You have diligently saved and invested wisely. But there’s a market correction and your portfolio loses 40% of its value. How do you respond? Ultimately, our response reveals where our trust really is. If it is really in the portfolio then fear and anxiety will overcome us. If however it is really looking to God, then amid the conflicting emotions will emerge obedient rest in God despite the loss.
The issues of life are fundamentally desire-driven. This represents a challenge for us, especially as parents. Are we merely training our children to “do what is right?” Or, are we getting to the real heart of the issue which is the often stealthy desires that have driven those actions? Actions are merely the flower, the desires are the root. Based on how we parent, would our kids say that doing the right thing is more important than doing it for the right reason?
If desires are the problem, then what are doing about them? First, desires are always directing us. They never rest. Perhaps putting it that way is enlightening? If desires are always at work, then it is appropriate to discuss them at any time. We rarely evaluate ourselves or discuss desires with others this intently. The second thing we can do then is to get into the habit of discussing desires.
Talk More About Desires
One day a few weeks ago, I took one of my teenage sons on some errands. Actually, now that I think about it, it was—his—errand! Anyway, he was talking quite passionately about a particular interest of his. (If my van were electric, I could have plugged him into the engine and saved a lot of gas.) At the end of what was at least an 8-minute monolog, I simply said, “WOW. You have strong desires!” Then we had a good discussion about desires. Nothing my son said that day was sinful. He did nothing wrong. But in the moment, the opportunity presented itself simply to draw attention to this fact.
It is good that—especially in normal, non-confrontational conversation—that we talk about our desires so that we can begin to be more attentive to their presence, identify them, and connect them to our behavior more readily. In normal and stressed conversations asking the question, “Why?” is a great tool that allows you to cut through the fog and reach the desire level.
Dealing With Actions on the Desire Level Provides Hope
Talking about desires prepares us to be able to deal more effectively with those issues especially when they come up at midnight and you are not in the mood for a 48 minute game of mental hopscotch. This is not hard to understand. However, the things that are simple to understand can sometimes be the hardest to do because they require intentionality and usually more of our time. But we must remember that our investiture pays off because this is what God has said is our core problem. Addressing the core problem as God defines it gives us tremendous hope that better days are ahead and confidence that we, in all of our weakness, can be God’s instruments in each other’s lives!
Over the last few months, I have waxed misty-eyed nostalgic about my “little girl” as cherished moments fly through my mind to the sappy chorus of Memories sung by Barbara Streisand. Wow. Did I do enough? Did I accomplish everything I should have accomplished? Perhaps I missed too many moments?
Most moments are just that, moments. Often unscripted. Pure. Vapor. In a day of endless distraction with Lilliputian matters that add little positive value to our lives we would do well to more carpe diem, or to “seize more of the day”. Following are four ways to do that:
- Ask God to give you a heart for your children. The prophet Malachi wrote that the coming of the Lord would be heralded by the hearts of fathers being turned to their children. Fathers tend to be more easily disposed to work, not relationships. Asking God to give us hearts for our children is a prayer he loves to answer.
- Have a weekly planning time where you review what is happening in your family. As part of this time, start a journal where you write a sentence or two about what you notice going on in the life of each child. This forces you to think about each person at least once per week in a way that will alert you if you are in fact needing to make more relational opportunities.
- Be intentional about making time with your children. Since we actually do 90% of what we write down in our calendars, schedule a time in your week to spend time with a child.
- Ask your spouse to alert you when they observe you “zone out”, miss a que, or make wrong choices. Speaking personally, I can be sitting right next to one of my children and never hear a word they say. Why? I’m thinking about something else. A problem at work. Or begrudging why the Washington Redskins are such a poorly run football franchise. Since we are often blind to some of our interpersonal failures, asking to be informed while sometimes difficult to hear, is really necessary if we are serious about doing better.
When we are on our death bed we will not wish that we had spent more time at the office. There is a lot of wisdom in this statement but it is still moralism. In fact, my four suggestions by themselves are moralism. They still don’t provide a motivation to want to set aside the facebook timeline or a game of golf and seize the moments with our kids. We are often motivated to do right things for the wrong reasons. This is convicting as a parent. It is much easier to do what we want to do.
I am reminded that the backdrop for Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is Deuteronomy 5:6, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Before we were parents, we were slaves. But God has redeemed us from that slavery by the blood of his own dear Son. Jesus has bought for us redemption which includes a new identity that is not dependent upon our performance as parents. It also means that our parenting has an eternal and God-glorifying mission to it. Remembering these things and more motivates us differently. It is the only power great enough to compel us to be more intentional when it is hard—and it is often harder than it is easier. Imagine actually wanting to seize moments?!
Maybe it’s a Saturday. You are busy doing any number of things all at once: entering receipts into Quicken, squeezing in a three and a half minute conversation with your wife, or trying to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen… and then it happens. Like a bolt of lightning screeching from a cumulonimbus cloud, one of your kids rushes in, “Dad! Will you please do something about (insert sibling’s name)?! I am SO SICK AND TIRED of how he doesn’t listen to me!”
It is in those encounters that as fathers we might close our eyes and ask, “WHY is this happening to me—again?!” At worst, we might think, “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to have children?!”
Those are revealing moments. Thankfully, our righteousness is not in our performance as fathers, but irrevocably in Jesus Christ. We can confess such thoughts and our angry, frustrated, or disinterested responses as sin and be forgiven. But wouldn’t it be better to simply have a good response in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better to quit viewing such events as pesky distractions and instead embrace them with a completely different perspective?
Consider the following quote: These guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of childrearing is not the child but the parent.
I do not endorse that statement as a philosophy for parenting. But there is a powerful string of truth in it that is insightful and even biblical. Romans 8:28-29 talks about how God uses “all things” in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. For fathers, this includes those situations where we struggle with our kids’ behavior. We should ask God to show us how he is using these situations to reveal how—we—need to change!
I confess that I am often wrapped up in my own issues to the extent that I sometimes don’t see that there are other people—even my own kids who are standing right in front of me—who need/want my help. In fact, I often see those moments as the burdensome requirements of parenting rather than providentially orchestrated opportunities for greater redemption in my own life.
If God is trying to show us something about ourselves, and we refuse to listen, we are kicking against the goads. Often, he uses our spouses and children as his sanctifying tool. We can conquer these tests by asking God, “Ok. What are you teaching ME here?” When we know we’re struggling with our own attitude, asking this question helps position us not only to minister to our children, but to do so in a way that allows us to see God’s redemptive intention for us as well.
When the lightning strikes and we remember that God intends to refine us, too, it humbles and comforts us and then compels us to minister in a truly redemptive way. This provides an entirely different perspective on the otherwise frustrating situations we often encounter with our kids.
Do not underestimate the power of regular time in God’s word as a family. I write because I am particularly burdened that God’s Word is easily set aside in our homes.
Yes. Life is busy—almost—to the point of being out of control. Yes. “Thanks” to I-phones and social media, attention spans are like that of gnats on espresso. It is getting harder to hold the attention of our children long enough to make it through even a light discussion on a few Bible verses. You might rationalize that you are doing a poor job. Perhaps for these and other reasons it is easy to let go of this powerful means of grace: the proclamation of God’s Word in our homes.
Here are five reasons to strive to continue gathering the family around God’s Word.
- God’s Word is our only source of Truth. Social order continues to disintegrate as man hedonistically and foolishly seeks truth everywhere but the one place it can be found: God. Let us agree with John in his gospel in 17:17: “Your word is truth” and seek truth there.
- Because God’s Word is truth, it speaks authoritatively in our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This is a timeless promise that should joyfully compel us to seek what God has said about how we should think, speak and make decisions each day for his glory.
- God’s word makes our way clear in this world of darkness. The spiritually blind stumble over themselves in their darkness. Psalm 119:105 reminds us that “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
- God’s Word is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Scripture really is, God’s Word. Because it is powerful, we can be assured that it will accomplish God’s purpose (also see Isa. 55:11).
- Because God’s Word is all of these things (and much, much more) we can have peace; assurance; and confidence when everyone else is crippled with anxiety, fear, and depression.
As a husband and father, I know that my performance is not nearly enough to ensure that my wife and children walk with Jesus. It brings me real peace and joy to know that although I am deeply flawed as a messenger of God’s truth, God’s truth is inherently powerful. This is highly motivating to me as I seek to read, discuss, and apply God’s Word with my family.
Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3, “In the end times people will not be able to endure sound doctrine.” Let us hold fast the word of God in our families so that we will stand strong… not only for our families, but just as importantly, so that we can offer the Truth to those still walking in darkness that they might know the know the hope that is within us.