Fathering Well

The man who has coached me for the last 23 years is known for making simple, yet profound, statements. Let’s explore one of them. I can still hear Loren’s voice as he gently told me, “You’ll never father well until you have been fathered well.”

F

I became a Christian 29 years ago, at age 30.  I had already destroyed one marriage with my selfishness and  had no intentions of repeating that. I was raised in a home where my father wasn’t involved with my life.  I played varsity sports throughout high school and hoped to play tennis in college.  With all of the tournaments, travel, and practice involved, I can’t remember my dad ever watching me play.  My parents divorced in my senior year of high school, leaving my mom to raise five kids, the youngest less than a year old. At 18 years old, I regularly said I would never be like my dad.  To my dismay, by the time I was 25, I was just like him.  I had caught his version of manhood; not because I wanted to, but because his was the type I was exposed to.

Soon after accepting the salvation that Jesus offered, I began struggling with who I was as a father, husband, and man.  For years, I read the latest books on “Christian manhood”, attended seminars and conferences, and tried every step-by-step process I found.  I used to drink my morning coffee from a Promise Keeper’s mug with the “7 promises of a Promise Keeper” etched on the side.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, I worked through those promises and focused on incorporating them into my life.  I’d get one of them down and move on to the next, only to find myself slipping in one of the earlier promises all over again.  It was a constant process of two steps forward, one step back; or, in many cases, one step forward and two steps back.  After seven years of trying, I got so mad at God that I told Him I simply couldn’t make myself be the man he wanted me to be.   Interestingly, that confession was exactly what God wanted me to realize.  I was totally incapable of making myself into a godly man.

My earthly father had fallen short and provided me with a model of fatherhood that was anything but ideal.  Yet for the first time in my life, I was positioned to change, and was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.  But that road has been long. The changes have not come overnight.  It has been a process of learning who my heavenly Father is and how He really fathers me.  Only in the last five years have I realized how lovingly the Father cares for me as his son.

For years, my image of Father was of a stern taskmaster who stood ready to send lightning to my life whenever I slipped out of line.  I was convinced that he expected me to perform well, and when I did he blessed me; but when I fell short, he withheld his blessing.  I have also learned that we father our children the same way we believe God fathers us.  My children ended up with a father that expected them to perform well and was willing to apply a little lightning when they didn’t. I blessed them when they performed well and withheld my blessing when they fell short.

Over the last five years, I have learned that Father really is Abba (Daddy).  His love is unconditional and isn’t motivated by my performance.  As we have walked more closely, I have received a glimpse of his heart of compassion and grace for me and those he sends my way.  For years, I preached that there wasn’t anything you could do to make God love you more, or anything you could do to make him love you less.  Today, I know that is true not only for me, but for you, too. Learn who Abba really is and how he fathers his children with love and compassion. Stop trying to gain his favor by your performance and recognize how much he loves you regardless. As you learn how Abba fathers you, your own fathering will be transformed. Your children will respond dramatically and be drawn to the real God we serve.

Try it and watch what happens.

When An Iron Fist Turns Soft

 

When an Iron Fist Turns Soft

My six-year-old son follows me into the cool room; last bits of sunlight cascade onto the brown couch where we sit down. Looking down at my son I search for the right words to speak to him.

I quietly pray, “God, help me not lose my temper. Help me talk to him gracefully and not become angry.”

There is a fine line with my son when speaking to him.

Through many failures of my own, I have sharpened the tipping point. If I am too harsh and yell when he screws up, his heart shuts down towards me, rendering me useless in getting through to him.

I had just found out that he had done something quite harmful; sinful.

My wife called me at work to let me know what had happened, asking me to talk to him when I arrived home.

Anger, frustration and uncertainty clouded my mind through the remaining hours of the day. I was uncertain about how I should handle the situation.

Should there be discipline?

If I go soft on him, will he not take me seriously?

Doubts of my own ability to handle the situation creep in.

Sitting on the couch with my son, looking at him, his body language telling me he doesn’t want to be there. Fearfully he sits, quietly, intently waiting for me to explode.

Processing through my mind I realize (insert God telling me because I am utterly helpless in this area) that if I come down hard on him, yell or be insanely firm, he will throw walls up and I will lose his heart.

His heart.

Often I have bought into the lie that if I am soft on him, he will grow up to be wild and out of control. I have allowed my fears of my son not being an honorable, upright, truthful follower of Christ, to guide my fathering of him.

Fear.

I have been parenting most times out of fear.

Because of my fear, the very thing I am fearful that my son will become, I have parented out of. I end up fathering him dishonorably and untruthfully. Through being quick to anger, ruling his heart with an iron fist at times, and not extending much grace to him when needed, I am the one who is then repelling him to the very things that I fear most he’ll be.

I turn to my son sitting on the couch and by the grace of God, softs words come out towards him. I see him ease into me. Because I am being soft to him, he softens his own heart to me.

And we talk.

I listen.

And he hears me.

As time passes he inches close to me and embraces me.

Through the softness I had once feared would turn him from the Way, it has now steered him towards the Way.

I squeeze him tight.

I quietly thank God for His own graces with me and for this moment with my son. I thank Him for being soft with me, working with me patiently to see the errors of my ways so I can have restoration with my son.

 

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You can find Jesse writing about his attempts (failures) at being a good father, husband and follower of Jesus. The good news is, Jesus is the redeemer.  And that is what he clings to.  There is no amount of failing or screwing up that He can’t redeem.  He writes on his own blog here.

Twitter: @jessemhoover

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessehooverwrites

About

From The Fairway To The Freeway

We knew it was a gamble that we’d make it to South Bend, but we didn’t plan on breaking down right in the middle of the toll booth.

My family and I were on a 4600-mile loop through the upper Midwest and into central Canada, and when you take a trip like that with seven children, a box trailer, and an 11-year-old van, you expect to have some unscheduled adventures. This time, it was a failing alternator on a cold and blustery Saturday four days into our trip. As bothersome as a toll plaza breakdown may be, what made it worse was that we had just replaced that alternator two days before, in a truck stop parking lot in North Carolina.  We were about to meet our third and fourth tow truck operators within a week.

Occasionally I have to remind myself of a simple rule from the golf course– You play the ball where it lies.  On the course, it means that even when the ball has gone where you wish it hadn’t, the game goes on. You can complain and make excuses and point fingers all day, but eventually you either continue the game or give it up.  It’s better if all your drives are straight, long, and true, but sooner or later you’ll have to recover from a sand trap or some other hazard. Figuring out how to recover is part of the game.

From the Fairway to the Freeway

I find I have to apply this rule to my daily life on a regular basis. Being an engineer by training, I tend to analyze things to death, and sometimes I can get distracted trying to find the explanation (or fix the blame) for a problem. Granted, if a problem keeps repeating in your family, you do need to get to the bottom of it. If the family car always seems to have an empty gas tank after a certain teen borrows it, that’s a cause-and-effect problem which needs a remedy!

But more often, the important thing for the moment is not who’s at fault or even what went wrong, but rather, how we get past the immediate problem and keep moving forward. Sitting on display in an Indiana toll booth, I had to make some decisions. Maybe we made a mistake when we installed the first alternator; maybe there was a manufacturing defect in the new part; maybe something else entirely was at fault. The important point there on the outskirts of South Bend, though, was getting the van and trailer out of the traffic lane, and then repairing the alternator. And that’s what we did.

Later, we might look over what happened and whether it was something that could have been prevented then, or possibly some way to avoid it in the future.  At the point of the crisis, though, it’s time to play the ball where it lies. We dads need to keep that in mind ourselves, and we need to demonstrate it to our sons.

I’m New Here: Exploring Seasons of Fatherhood

Hi.

I’m new here.

In many ways, I bear all the marks of father with young children- sleep deprivation, considerably more childish vernacular, and a primary-colored house.

Add to that a dazed, “what-am-I-doing-and-how-did-I-get-here” look, and you get the complete picture of a dad still learning the ropes and figuring out how this all works.

And if my guess is correct, you look the same way. Perhaps you’ve been at this a while longer than I have. Maybe your kids are grown and out of the house. Or maybe you have teenagers running rampant with all their hormones in tow. But I think, in one way, we’re all on the same playing field: our kids are continually growing; they never stay in the same phase for long; and as a result, we’re on a constant, steep learning curve.

So in that sense, we are always new dads. Constantly reprising our roles, our responsibilities, and our responses to our kids as they continue to change and develop.  What worked before is ineffectual now; what we understood about raising babies changed when the babies became toddlers, and then preschoolers, and on and on. We never arrive; when our kids enter a new stage of childhood, so we enter a new stage of fatherhood. Beginnings, over and over again, so that we are always new to this  act of parenting.

HelloFatherhoodSeason11513

I’m not sure about you, but that intimidates me on a few levels. First, I have to keep up with my kids; I have to keep learning and relearning my boys and their minds, so that I know how to connect with them and shepherd their hearts toward God. Second, I have to make each season count, because it only lasts for so long. Each stage gives a brief window of opportunity to impact our kids, where they are, in ways that we may not be able to do again.

How am I supposed to have the wisdom, the know-how, to lead my sons through each stage of life, when I can barely keep up with the rate at which they’re changing? How do I maintain the mental and spiritual alacrity to find the precious teachable moments, to be present in the opportunities for spending real quality time with my sons? How do I keep abreast of their ever-changing needs and ever-growing independence?

I may not be a parenting authority, but I do know this:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV)

I meet the challenges of parenthood in the community of men that God has put around me. I’ve never parented a toddler before now, but some of you have. You’ve never had to deal with middle-school angst before, but your neighbor’s seen it twice.

We are not alone in the journey of fatherhood. And in the Body of Christ, we have the resources of a spiritual fraternity- wisdom and experience garnered by others through years of trial and error, success and heartache, triumph and defeat.

Paul exhorts us in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Fatherhood is weighty. We bear a great deal on our shoulders for the provision and upbringing of our families. We need each other, men; we need each others’ input, advice, encouragement, and sometimes even rebuke. And we need to know that there is grace for when we fail, and new mercy from God for each new day.

Our success as fathers depends on our willingness to learn- from God, from our children, from our wives, from other fathers in the trenches beside us. And not only will we fortify ourselves and our parenting, but we will pass on an example for our sons to follow- an example that assures them that they need not go it alone; an example that demonstrates the richness and blessing available to us if we will humble ourselves enough to admit this:

I need help.

I cannot do this alone, by my strength alone, by my wisdom alone.

I lean on God, and I lean on my brothers in Christ to strengthen and encourage me to raise up sons who love and follow the Lord.

What about you? Do you have a mentor or support network of other dads standing with you in the parenting journey?