When I grow up I want to be just like my dad.
Have you heard your children say these words? Perhaps you’ve said them yourself as a child.
As a father, what thoughts, feelings and emotions did you have when you heard your son or daughter say these words? It was probably some combination of pride, love, and feeling as if you were the most blessed person on the planet. And then it starts to hit you. Wait, don’t they know that I’m a person that is still trying to get on top of my own issues, that I have a long history of mistakes and failures, and am not even close to perfect fatherhood? How can I live up to those expectations? Maybe I’m not the right man for this job, my kids deserve better.
The reality is that you ARE the right man for the job. You have been uniquely appointed and chosen to be the man for the job. Your kids are hardwired to look up to you and to want to be like you, just like you were, whether or not your father, like you, was prepared for it, equipped for it, embraced it, or even if he walked away from it. We find precedence for this type of relationship established in eternity, revealed in the words of Jesus when he said over and over “I only do what I see the Father do, and I only say what I hear the Father say.”
We will never be the perfect father to our children, just as our father was not for us, and yet we have this mandate, set in place by the creative wisdom of God, to be a representation of the Father Heart of God. To me it is one of life’s great mysteries how God chooses us in our imperfection, to represent the fullness of who He is. But He does. He empowers imperfection to represent perfection, and in that sense, we are not alone, but rather He is working fatherhood through us.
How has the “father effect” played out in your own life? How has your experience with your own father impacted how you embrace your fatherhood role and the ways you interact with your children? Perhaps it will encourage you to know that when trying to be the best father we can be, quite often it’s the seemingly simple and everyday affections and interactions that can make the most significant impact. In John Finch’s documentary ‘The Father Effect’, best-selling author John Eldridge describes how the greatest need that a child has from their father is love and validation, delight and affirmation.
My wife was raised in a Hispanic household of seven children, and without a father. A few weeks ago, my wife’s beloved uncle tragically passed away and we attended his memorial. At the service, my wife’s brother went forward to share a recent story about this uncle, known as a strong husband and loving father. While driving the company truck past a gas station one afternoon, he saw whom he believed to be his uncle, there pumping gas, and quickly texted him to say hello and let him know he just passed by and had seen him. A return text right away read “Hey mijo, so great to hear from you, but that wasn’t me, your aunt and I are in Texas right now”. My brother-in-law shared the emotion he felt, as he pulled over and gathered himself. He said, “I have had a yearning desire for my whole life to be called “mijo” (a term of endearment that means “my son”). This simple expression of love and validation, delight and affirmation touched a deep-seated need in the life of my wife’s brother, even though he was far past childhood and had raised a family of his own.
The father effect is profound, including during your child’s complicated and yet still formative teenage years. Never stop pressing into the Father Heart of God, for you, your children, and those whom the Lord would lead you to be an expression of His love and validation, delight and affirmation.
**This blog was originally written for Positive Options where I serve as the Director of Fatherhood Initiatives and as a contributor to the “Talk with your Teen” blog site.