Growing up was hard for me. My parents were both alcoholics and I never knew which version of them I would see when I got home from school each day. My two older sisters, Gail and Melinda, have been God’s great mercy for me. We all had to deal with the trauma of our alcoholic parents growing up, but they have always protected me and loved me throughout our lives.
Since I’ve been an adult, I have chosen to forget a lot of my childhood and release that dysfunction. My biological father was mostly absent in my life until my parents finally divorced when I was 12. After that, I only saw him once. I learned later that he died alone, in a hospital with no one around. My mom’s addiction intensified during my teens and I learned to internalize her problems and cover for her in public. I never talked about it with anyone.
By age 16, I was reckless and out of control. I had no direction. I was not aware of it at the time, but God’s hand was always at work behind the scenes in my life. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling”. Psalm 146:9 tells us, “The Lord watches over the sojourners and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but frustrates the ways of the wicked”.
My sister, Gail, met and married a man named Hugo in the late 70’s. Hugo was a great, Godly man. From the moment that Gail introduced us, I began to look up to Hugo. He was a pilot, he manufactured hunting and fishing equipment, but most importantly, he was a spiritual man of God. Shortly after Gail and Hugo got married, they asked me to move in with them. This event was one of God’s greatest gifts to me.
God’s perfect plan
Hugo adopted me and became my earthly father figure. He led me to accept Jesus as my Lord and savior and he taught me to love him. Hugo’s influence came to me during crucial years of development, proving that God’s timing was working for me. I needed instruction and discipline and Hugo was the one person I could get that tough love from. Hugo was not perfect, but he was consistent.
We trust God’s timing and there is nothing out of his wise control, including the exact time and place for a person to live. The Lord called Hugo home when he was killed in a plane crash in 1987. But one year before that I married my wife Beth, who has one of God’s best provisions and sources of grace in my life. Three things that came out of my experience were 1) I learned that I needed God, 2) I had an example of what I did not want to become, and 3) I understood that God never makes mistakes. It was no mistake that God gave me my parents.
God also gave me four amazing children. I did not have an example for what a father should be, but God gave me understanding for how to raise my children. The Lord was gracious to bring people into my life that helped teach me to be a father, including Beth’s father.
I can be a little intense, but Beth’s dad is relaxed and gentle. He has given me some excellent advice for the children. He taught me to take time with my kids and to be present in their lives. He taught me my kids won’t always be young.
Loving our children
As fathers, we need to learn to love our children in a way that will help them understand God’s unique purpose for their lives. Here are a few applications:
- Never parent out of anger or fear. Don’t make your kids feel like an embarrassment.
- Love your child’s mother. Show your kids she is a shining jewel in your life.
- Embrace your child’s uniqueness and love how God made them.
- Never let your own internal feelings to spill over onto the children. I am often hard on myself. That doesn’t mean I need to bring that criticism to my kids.
- Never take your children for granted.
- Create boundaries of peace within your home. Things can be messy when dealing with kids, but take time to prepare so everyday tasks don’t feel urgent.
- Gather as a family to prepare your children for new experiences. Allow your kids to ask questions about life and help them build understanding and set expectations.
- Listen to understand rather than to solve. Your kids don’t need you to fix all of their problems. They sometimes just need you to hear them.
- Apologize quickly. It is okay to show your children that you are not perfect.
- Don’t over-schedule your child’s activities. It can encroach on your family time.
- Be consistent in your united front with your spouse.
- Appreciate the beauty of going to church as a family. There is no feeling like looking down the pew at your family and seeing what only God can do.
- Depend on God for guidance. He is our Heavenly Father. He sets the best example for parenting with grace.
Fathers, your spouse and your kids want you to be a spiritual leader in your home. Be confident in this role and don’t allow doubt to make you hesitate. Understand the Lord has purposeful meaning for your life, your spouse’s life, and your children’s life. Everything you do as a father is for His honor, His glory, and your ultimate good.