“If I take one step toward Him, He will take a million toward Me.”
– Pastor Larry Stockstill on God the Father
It’s been three years since I have seen my father. Three years on the nose, actually. The last time I saw him was Father’s Day 2012. I went to see him again today – on Father’s Day. A lot has changed since I saw him last, and a lot is the same. Visiting my dad on Father’s Day caused me to reflect on my own fatherhood and the type of dad I am thriving to be and will thrive to be in the future. Having a distant father is not an easy thing for a child to deal with and being far from my girls (about as far as you can get actually) already makes my palms sweaty thinking about it. I was able to Skype my girls on Father’s Day. It was the first time they saw me in about a week; a week that seemed like a year. This next year will seem like an eternity at times, I’m sure.
But despite my mistakes, despite the pain I have caused and my dark sinful nature; despite all these things – I am still Dad. Granted I am not a perfect dad, and now I am not a dad that can be there for them on a daily basis. I won’t be able to help teach them how to read. I won’t be able to teach them how to ride a bike. I won’t be able to take them on a hike and pack a picnic lunch. All of the things I used to be able to do (and took for granted), I will no longer be able to do. What I can do, and what I will commit the rest of my life doing is one thing. This thing is my only guarantee – maybe in my whole life at the moment. My one thing that I will do to be the dad that I know I have to be is to love them – plain and simple. I will love them with everything that is within me. I will love them and they will love me. It will never be perfect; it will be unconventional at times and even a strain at times. But it will happen. In many ways my relationship with them is contingent on a successful recovery. It’s safe to say that I have a strong sense of urgency in this department.
The Godly “A’s” of parenting
It’s safe to say that one of the biggest Christian clichés is something to the effect of, “God is our ultimate Father” or “He is the best dad we could hope for.” The truth is that our Heavenly Father is the perfect model of what a good dad does for his children. He loves us unconditionally and would do anything for us – even die for us. Every dad (and mom) should look at their relationship with God as a how-to-guide on parenting. God’s relationship to His children is summed up like this:
- God gives us Attention
- God maintains Authority
- God holds us Accountable
- God shows us Affection
- God Affirms us
These five “A’s” will be my guide going forward. This is how I need to love. This is what a Godly father looks like.
I will give proper attention to my girls. This means when I am with them, I pay attention TO THEM. To many times I have not done this and I deeply regret it now. So many times I was in the same room but absent at the same time. From now on, I will maximize the quality time, the precious seconds I have with those precious little ones. This also means I participate in their lives. This doesn’t mean only participate in things that I find interesting. This means participate in any and all things that THEY find interesting.
As their father, I have a unique position of authority and I must embrace this role. This means disciplining in love and recognizing teachable moments when they come. This means giving boundaries and consequences. This means holding them accountable. This means allowing for pain because just as God allows pain to develop character, so must I.
I will never hold back affection and affirmation to my girls. I will run to meet them. I will hug them and squeeze them until they tell me to stop. I will tell them they are beautiful and that they are good. I will dance with them. I will brush their hair. I will take them shopping and tell them the dress they like is pretty. As their dad, it is my job to love them in this way.
Its a job that I fully intend on doing for the rest of my life.