“Are you ready to be a papa?” I’ll remember that moment forever. When Bethel said those words, a mix of emotions rushed through me: fear, joy, responsibility, inadequacy. I don’t think I ever felt “ready,” and you probably feel the same way. Fatherhood is a task like no other because its goal is like no other: reflecting the character of our heavenly Father to our children and training them up in a relationship with Him. That’s why we need to think carefully about how we go about it.
There are three basic avenues by which we train up our children: instruction, example, and correction. Regarding instruction, God has taught us all that we need to walk in relationship with Him (Deut 6:1), and we’re charged with passing that instruction on to our children (Deut 6:2, 7). Your words matter, both in formal (family devotions) and informal (talking in the car) situations.
Even more important than verbal instruction is example. One of the key tenets of parenting is, “Monkey see, monkey do.” Jesus powerfully illustrated humility and servanthood when He knelt to wash His disciples’ dirty feet (John 13:4-5). Then He told His disciples (and us), “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet” (John 13:14). What example are you putting before your children?
The last avenue is correction. It’s not fun, but if you love your child, it can’t be neglected (Prov 13:24). The Father disciplines us because He loves us so much (Heb 12:6)! His discipline is never designed to punish, but to curb sin and restore relationship (Heb 12:10).
Just reading this might seem overwhelming! You might be frustrated, exhausted, and feel like a failure, but that’s why our heavenly Father sent His Son to pay for the failures of earthly fathers and sons. Put another way, the perfect Son died so that imperfect fathers might live. “It was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His children” (Isa 53:10 adapted). This is God’s unshakeable promise to His sons, out of which we’re able to love and lead our children.