Yesterday, we (my family and I) were walking out of a shoe store and I spit in the grass. Immediately, Aaron (my youngest) spit in the grass, and then Ethan (my oldest) did exactly the same. Vanessa and I got a kick out of it, and I was reminded of an instance not too long ago…
About a month or so ago, Ethan came up to me after a Sunday morning service. He gave me a big hug, as he always does, then looked straight into my eyes and said, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be just like you.” My eyes immediately swelled with tears. Definitely not tears of pride… No, tears of fear. While I wrapped my arms around his thin little body and squeezed lovingly, I thought, “Son, if you only knew.” So many thoughts I wanted to convey. Half a lifetime worth of mistakes and regrets. I wanted to say, “Ethan, when you grow up I hope you are one-hundred times the man I am, or ever have been.”
I took some time that night before we prayed to tell him that I’m not perfect. I make mistakes all the time, and my goal is to be more like Jesus every day that I live. He knew that. How? – because I try very hard to relate that simple truth to him and Aaron as often as I can:
I apologize to them a lot. I think I put this in a blog a number of months ago, but it is absolutely worth repeating. Sometimes, I mess up and my children pay for it. To be specific, when I’m stressed or anxious about something, I often fly off the handle over the silliest things. More than once, I’ve been known to raise my voice in anger when stimulated by a petty offense. Shame on me. When it happens, I apologize to the boys. Face to face. And it’s not, “I’m sorry, but…” No, it’s just, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have raised my voice like that – there’s no excuse for it.” My boys need to know that I mess up, and it is my prayer that I’ll provide them with an example of owning up to their own mistakes and swallowing pride long enough to admit those mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
During our prayer times together, I confess sin. Teaching my children how to confess sin before God and walk in fellowship with Him is something I’m passionate about. If it was an angry outburst, I apologize to my kids, and then I confess that sin to God in prayer while they are listening. There are other sins that I don’t confess in front of my children, of course… but as a general rule of thumb, if I committed it in front of them, then I confess it in front of them. Likewise, when they commit sin against God, they are encouraged to confess it before Him as well. Not to bring guilt and shame – but instead, to REMOVE guilt and shame. After this prayerful confession, I remind them that God is always faithful and just to forgive our sins every time we confess (1 John 1:9). We can be assured that confession of sin results in restoration – every time.
I am anything but the perfect father. I don’t want my children to put me on a pedestal or have some lofty, unrealistic expectation or opinion of me. When they “grow up” (whatever that means – I’m still waiting to grow up myself), it is my prayer that they’ll be much more godly than I ever will be. Sure, they’ll have to make their own mistakes. But I plan on helping them learn from mine – and on teaching them that there is a forgiving God who is ready to restore. And He is only a confession away.
Grace and Peace,