King David was good at a lot of things. He was courageous warrior; he was a man after God’s own heart; he was the sweet psalmist of Israel; and he was a loyal friend. But although he fathered many children, he wasn’t always a good dad. Under his own roof one of his sons, Amnon, raped one of his daughters, Tamar. When this heinous sin was revealed to David, king David did exactly nothing. And when Absalom, Tamar’s brother, did do something about it—it was sheer, premeditated, revenge murder. But rather than bring justice to Absalom, David just let it go, and let Absalom return (he had run away for fear of consequences to his deed) to Jerusalem. And when Absalom mounted a full-fledged rebellion, David could still not bring himself to put a stop to it. The result of the inevitable battle was the death of Absalom.
Upon hearing about the death of his son, (2 Samuel 18:33) “The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!’” Words of deep, deep regret. But regret can’t rewind time and fix the missed opportunities, the missed corrections, the unspoken words, or the poor examples.
Regret is a common human experience; it has to be, since we’re so sinful. But there are few things that we will regret more than those of poor parenting. This article is for dads especially.
Fathering is easy, even pleasurable. Earning a living to support your family—well, you know you’d be going to work anyway, so, no extra sweat really. Right? But the parenting part—ah, there’s a horse of a different color! And for many dads it doesn’t come as naturally as mothering seems to come to moms. There’s discipline, example, teaching, mentoring, coaching, playing, helping, encouragement, love, and time. So many places to slip up. Have I got your attention?
For the next few posts I’d like to talk to Christian dads about some of these matters. And I’d like to start with example.
We’ve all seen and been moved by the scene of a toddler (or older) trying to walk in dad’s big shoes. Too bad the lesson doesn’t always stick with us. There are little ears and little eyes that are taking everything in. We’d like to hide some things from those little ears and eyes, but as they say in Jersey (aka, Joisey), “F’get about it!” All the language (good and bad), all the attitudes (good and bad), all the habits (good and—well, you get the point), all the priorities, all the traditions, all the husbanding and fathering things you do, your values, your integrity, your honor, and your discipleship to Jesus. How you deal with frustration, how you deal with anger, how you deal with family, how you deal with stress, how you cope, how you respond to personal attacks, and so much more—your kids are absorbing it all like little sponges—for replication and patterns for life. Even after they’ve gone to bed, they’re listening to what mom and dad are doing, saying, watching on TV, etc.
This is really hard, because it means that I have to behave myself, even in the privacy of my own home. I actually have to be the person that I want my children to become. So, I need to curb my tongue, check my attitudes, get rid of the bad habits, and be a person of integrity. I need to show the way.
One of the major reasons (though not the only reason) that the Son of God became a man is to give mankind an example of righteousness, of love, of compassion, of courage, and more. The Word became flesh and showed men what God looks like and what holy living is. Why? Because while words are good, examples are best.
Of course, living a sincere, 24-hour/day, 365 days a year is exactly what we need to be doing anyway, but maybe children are a gift from God to us, to remind us that He is also expecting full-life integrity, full-life discipleship, in every nook and cranny of our lives—that He’s also always listening, seeing, and even reading our hearts.
Dads, please take the time to take a long look at what your children see in you (good and bad), and make the changes—for your children and for the Lord.
And live a life without regret.