One of the great privileges of my life has been being a father. My three children are the pride of my life. They have overcome my bad parenting and are exceeding my expectations in their personal and professional lives. Beyond that, my son and son-in-law are now parenting my grandchildren—and doing a fabulous job. They are model fathers, doing a far better job than me, and extending our family’s commitments and values to the next generation through their children. Fatherhood and Father’s Day are important in our family.
Perhaps the best thing about being a father, although sometimes one of the more painful aspects, was how my children shaped my character. My children tried my patience, helped me adjust my values, challenged my opinions on important issues, and showed me the ugliest parts of myself which demanded change. That part of being a father was not always fun, for me or my children, but in the long run was the most fulfilling part because it led to significant personal and spiritual growth.
Children learn much from their fathers. We hope they learn to feel secure, make good decisions, stand up for what’s right, and care for others in their family and community. We know fathers have a profound impact on children—in these ways and countless others. But we often overlook the reciprocity in the relationship. Fathers also learn a lot from their children and the process of parenting them.
If you are a father, your child or children probably have different qualities, quirks, or behaviors you find annoying, frustrating, or disappointing. You have a choice to make about responding to these realities. You can blame your child, justify your feelings, and take your anger out on the people around you (including your sons or daughters). Or, you can reflect on the circumstances and ask God to grow you through the situation. When you do this, you allow fathering to be part of God’s life curriculum. Your relationship with your sons or daughters becomes a vehicle for experiencing God’s grace, not a source of friction to be endured.
God shaped me through my children. I am a better man for being a father. The intensity of fatherhood is a crucible for change. The smelting-heat of relational friction melts away impurities and imperfections. While it can be painful, it is for the best. God allows us to be fathers, not just for what we can do for our children, but for how he can use our children to change us. He is our Father, trying to remake us into the image of his Son—and he uses our children in the process. Let that be the ultimate purpose and joy we celebrate as the centerpiece of Father’s Day this year.