In honor of my first born son’s 7th birthday today, I thought it would be good to write down the 7 most significant lessons I’ve learned during the past 7 years.
1. The early years are by far the hardest.
Most of the feelings of despair, inadequacy, and failure as a father happen during the first 3 years of your son’s life. I remember at a men’s small group Bible study when Drew was about 6 month’s old (and he was still keeping us up all night long), I actually said, “Guys, pray for me. I am thinking about throwing my kid out a window.” They all laughed. I said “I’m serious!”
2. Discipline can and should be an opportunity for grace.
The key to discipline is consistency, truth, and grace. There is no grander opportunity to teach your son about his depravity and the consequences of his depravity than during discipline. Most dads swing between the balance of being too harsh (I’ve been here many times) and too lenient (little to no boundaries). There is also (more importantly) no greater opportunity to show your kids the gospel of Jesus than during discipline. Your son needs to to know when they are wrong. More importantly, they need to know who has taken their wrongs to the cross and died for them all.
3. Lead out in repentance as often as you sin.
This was a game-changer in our home. In my spiritual blindness early on in my marriage and my son’s life, I was under the impression that I always needed to be right. And if I made a mistake, it was someone else’s fault, or, there was some justification for it. Nothing softens my son’s heart more than when I come to him and say “Daddy is sorry, Drew. Daddy needs Jesus just as much as you do. Daddy was wrong and he needs Jesus so that he can be forgiven and changed.” In my mind, nothing points my family to Jesus more in our home than when I own up to my sin and express my need for Jesus.
4. Don’t fit your son into the mold you think he needs to fit into.
I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t playing ball. So I thought that was the path Drew needed to be on. But Drew has always really been into things like cars and trucks, light sabers and swords, and superheroes and Lego’s. I had to come to grips with the fact that he may never even like sports and that is okay. Now, I must interject that all of a sudden, over the past 3 months, he has become a basketball fanatic. For a dad who played college basketball and who loves the sport to no end, this is grace upon grace for me haha. But seriously, let your kid have his own interests and make those interests your interests.
5. Tell your son every single day that your greatest desire for him is that he knows and loves Jesus.
I may go a day or two here and there, but this is one statement I am wearing out with my son(s). Drew is a great kid, who is super gifted, and super sweet. He is good at mostly everything he does. He is great looking (thanks to his mom). God opens doors for him. I can tell the grace of God is so much over his life. He will probably pretty much be able to go any direction he wants to in life. And what do I focus on? None of that stuff. I just bring it back to one statement. That’s it. If he knows and loves Jesus, everything else will work itself out, even if things end badly for him.
6. Pray for him and over him every single day.
My main prayer every night is that Drew would love Jesus with all of his heart, with all of his soul, with all of his mind, and with all of his strength. Why? Because Deut 6 tells me that I must teach my children how to do this very thing. The teaching begins with prayer. When I get to that portion in the prayer every night, because I’ve said it so many times, Drew and his little brother Asher pray it out loud with me and it makes me happy. Most of the time when I pray for my sons, I make sure my hands are on their heads or backs. This makes the moment that much more intimate.
7. Be his dad, not his best friend.
I want so badly for Drew to be my best friend as he gets older. If I’m going to be honest, sometimes I parent him as a friend rather than a son. He needs a dad, not another friend (he has plenty of those). God gave me him to be his dad first and foremost. What I’m learning is that we are becoming better friends as a result of me being hid dad first.
Happy Birthday Drew! I love you so much and am so blessed to be your daddy. You are a grace upon grace in my life.