I find being a dad exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. My kids are under 10, and they still look up to me. My son, in particular, watches me closely. A few years ago, he thought I was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom! That’s some pedestal! Recently, I spoke to a friend who’s a dad-to-be about fatherhood, and our conversations brought back some memories. I remembered feeling wholly inadequate and unprepared after all the excitement around becoming a dad subsided. Ten years on, I’ve discovered that parenting is one of those responsibilities you learn on the job because every child is unique. Even more crucial was the understanding that I don’t know enough to be the best dad possible, yet the destinies of my children will be heavily influenced by how I raise them.
That second epiphany was one of the main reasons I started studying my Bible more intentionally. Solomon urges us to prioritise the pursuit of wisdom above all else because it’s the principal thing [Proverbs 4:7], and Proverbs 8 explains why. I believe wisdom is indispensable in general, and more so when raising children, because if you’re going to raise a child as God intends [Proverbs 22:6], you must be familiar with God’s ways. Moreover, a parent is a steward. The child belongs to God, and each parent will give account to Him of how they raise the child entrusted to them. Consequently, I must be intentional about how I bring up my kids because I’ll give an account to God one day [2 Corinthians 5:10].
One unequivocal command given specifically to dads is to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. The Greek word for discipline in that verse suggests the training and education of children to take care of their bodies while cultivating their minds and morals and helping them grow spiritually. The Greek word for instruction implies exhortation and admonition. It’s noteworthy that God doesn’t permit parents to raise their children as they wish. He dictates how we discipline and instruct our kids through the counsel of His word [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]. Our duty as parents is to seek that counsel out, the ancient path, and walk in it when we find it [Jeremiah 6:16]. Doing so commits God to His promise in Proverbs 22:6, and His integrity will secure the destinies of our kids.
I didn’t realise the responsibilities of fatherhood from God’s perspective when I became a dad. I probably would have run a mile in the opposite direction if I did! I had a conversation with a colleague recently, and he told me he didn’t want kids because he was too self-centred to be a parent. I would have been appalled by such a statement in the past, but now I applaud the honesty. Parenting is a sacrificial, lifelong commitment. No one should embark on that journey without due consideration. Something else that strikes me about fatherhood is the difference in points of emphasis between what society expects of a father and what God expects of a father. In many cultures, the focus is on dads being providers, and that’s important and biblical [1 Timothy 5:8]. However, over and above providing for their families, God has tasked fathers with raising their kids too.
In many societies, raising children is left almost entirely to mothers, and fathers are mostly absent. What’s unfortunate is that many fathers would love to be more involved but can’t because of commitments outside the home, especially their jobs. Some may even consider their absence a sacrifice for the family. But sadly, if that means relinquishing the responsibility of raising their children, then such a sacrifice isn’t in alignment with God’s word. I don’t write that flippantly. I’ve been there and know first-hand the price of realigning with God’s will in this area. Nevertheless, if out of obedience to God, you prioritise the responsibility of raising your kids over chasing accolades, wealth, etc., I guarantee that God will honour that sacrifice [Matthew 6:31-32].
Another demand of parenting is continuous growth through mental transformation, especially in the understanding of the ordinances, patterns, and principles of God [Hebrews 5:12-14]. Firstly, a transformed mind is better at discerning God’s will, which is vital for raising kids [Romans 12:2], but it also prevents us from passing on our mistakes and limitations to our kids. Additionally, we must be ready to model the Christian walk to our children because they will do as we do, not as we say. So, our kids need to see us cultivate good habits and take care of our bodies so that they can follow suit. They need to see our hunger for knowledge as we adhere to our principles and live with integrity. I heard someone say that the proof of passion is pursuit. So, if we tell our kids that God is first in our lives, our zealousness for God and His kingdom should be evident.
One last thought. In the book of Job, we see a man God called upright and blameless, providing a spiritual covering for his children through his sacrifices. One of the benefits of Job’s walk with God was a protective divine hedge around him and his family, exempting them from the clutches of the adversary [Job 1:5-10]. Fathers can, and should, provide a spiritual covering for their kids and act as their spiritual watchmen [Ezekiel 3:17]. Our ability to do so will depend on our relationship with God and our kids, and both relationships require time, commitment, and sacrifice. My prayer for every father reading this is that we will pay the price to get our priorities right and avoid the consequences that will surely come if we don’t.