I fret a lot about fatherhood. I struggle to delight in being a father. Before ever becoming a dad, I told my newlywed wife that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a father… but if I was going to have kids, it couldn’t be just one. The reason for not wanting to have kids? Responsibility: I knew that my kids would be my responsibility. I like to avoid responsibility. I like being lazy. Also, I knew what a terror I had been to my parents. I had always heard of kids as payback for how you treated your parents. So then what about the “you can’t just have one” thing? It wasn’t just the advertising for Lays chips. I justified it by saying that siblings help socialize. But, really, I think I didn’t want to have to be the one always being sought for attention. I wanted to be able to say go play with your brother (or sister).

There was also the fear that I wouldn’t know what to do as a father. I actually fear that I am inadequate about a lot of things, but with kids, being inadequate would mean that I was screwing up another person’s life. I tasted leadership as a camp counselor at 15 or 16 and I remember popping one of my kids with a “rat tail”. I thought that I was just messing around, but that kid got a whelp on his skin. I feared that this was a sign that I would be an abusive father. And I feared that I was working from was a rough example: I remember times as a kid when things were stressful that I was not sure how to stay out of trouble. And how would I follow that example. We kids were shown in the Proverbs where it said “spare the rod and spoil the child,” but I was also aware that a modern family wasn’t supposed to spank a child. I would need new tools to do anything differently.

Then came the time, of the pregnancy “scare.” We weren’t going to have a baby, but suddenly my wife and I were hit with baby fever. I say “we” but I wasn’t sold on it, heck I still have my questions. Anyway eventually the stork hit our family. During the first pregnancy, I remember being scared about “what am I going to do.” And then I found out that our baby was going to be a girl, Oh boy, was that scary. I actually was in denial a good while after being told that she was a girl… until a repeat ultrasound or something. How could I raise a girl, with my history. I mean really does God know what he’s doing?

That is the question right there. God does know what he is doing. Trust in God helped me come to terms with this a lot quicker. I figured that, in a way God, was demonstrating that he would entrust me with a daughter first. This was a form of grace that I still have to come to terms with. I don’t “deserve” to have a daughter but that was the blessing he gave me first. That little girl has tenderized my heart in so many ways that I suppose there will be several blogs about it later. But realizing that God chose to give me a daughter, meant that I would need to give into his will in so many ways. I have to trust God for the strength to learn proper discipline… and Lord knows that is a work in progress. Having a daughter first meant that now it would be doubly important for me to respect the fair sex (for my wife and for my daughter).

Oh but fatherhood did not stop with just child number one there are 2 boys in the picture now as well. In some ways I thought that this would be easier than, having a girl, but I am realizing that I set up the standards in the way I act for them just as much as for my daughter. But I actually know how my male brain works, and I am scared now that I do not know how to curb the deviance that the Y chromosome brings into the mix. I fear that I will screw these boys up because of all the mistakes I made as a kid and haven’t figured out what went wrong. I guess that is where I still have to rely on the same grace I so easily realized with my daughter. God is trusting me to rear these wee beasties into gents. I must trust Him and his spirit in the same way.

So have I overcome my fear of fatherhood, and desire to be free of responsibility? No I haven’t. quite frequently I wonder what have I done and what am I doing. And I sometimes think that maybe I should let someone else do this because I am just getting it so wrong. Best I can tell, this is a lie that the accuser wants to bring in attempt to defeat what God has put in place. I am not going to win some national Father of the year prize, but these are the gifts I have been given. These are my opportunities to receive from God growth. These are my opportunities to share Gods goodness. For all the responsibility I fear, I appreciate that God has bigger plans for me. Plans to challenge me, plans to grow me, and hopefully plans to show that, despite my best efforts, my kids are well cared for.

Intimacy and Name Calling

A friend was telling, the other day, about a job prospect, and he was anxious about making the move.  Taking it would mean that he would be closer to a woman who had flirted with him years ago.  The interaction shamed him to the point that he mentioned it a few times over various conversations.  So what’s the big deal about a woman flirting with a man?  Well he’s married, and his consternation was about if he should discuss it with his wife.  I am very opinionated, but I do try not to tell grown men what to do with such personal questions.  I asked all the “wise” questions I could think of and hoped that he would make the right decision on his own, but encouraged that he should talk to his counselor if he still needed expert advice.

The next day, the conversation wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was playing Monday morning quarter back: coming up with all the smart things that I should have said.  One thing that came to mind was “Why are you reluctant to share something that bothers you so much with the human you love the most?”

That was deep, but I couldn’t leave it at that, so I played out his response.  I was sure it would be something about being ashamed and not wanting to unnecessarily burden his wife.  So it was time for my comeback in this mental dialogue “The real problem is you want to hold on to the excitement of the thing that is shaming you. You can’t confess or deal with all that guilt because you want to hold on to the guilty pleasure.”  I had finally struck the death blow in this conversation we would never have… And then I thought to myself, “Dude! why am I stressing out about some other guy’s problem?”

That’s when I realized the real reason for this mental battle: I was putting up my arguments not his.  Some lustful thoughts had passed through my mind and really shamed me that weekend… the kind that only a jerk would have.  I rationalized my thoughts saying “I was tired,” and “I had been sick,” or “I wasn’t thinking clearly.”  But still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share these two passing thoughts with my wife … even though they were a bother from the time they popped up.  So, while I was pointing one finger at my buddy, all the other fingers on my hand of accusation pointed back at me saying “I can’t lose the shame because I want to hold onto the thrill.”

So then, what did I really want?  To keep that thrill and keep swimming in shame?  He and I both would express in a later conversation how these thoughts made us feel like a pervert or a jerk.  The longer we held onto those thoughts without confession, to God and trusted loved ones, the more we would shame ourselves into believing those names. The more we believed those names, the easier it would be to give into the lies that they are, and the cycle would not stop.

In years past, I would try to numb the shame by hiding in a closet full of even more lustful thoughts.  But there is an encouragement in the first part of James 5:16 (ESV) saying “… confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…”  This time, God would show grace to me in this process of confession.

Redemption replaced the anxiety as I hesitantly shared with my wife.  She gave me a taste of Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as in God Christ forgave you.”)  The thoughts that once held me in shame could no longer drag me through the mud.  From what I understand, my buddy had a similar experience with his wife.  This means we let go of the ugly names that we were clinging to.  Instead, we embrace the names Jesus gives to any who believe in him as “Loved and redeemed Children.”  This experience of repentance and grace opened up the opportunity to live freely and glorify Him.*  May the spirit continue to help us live into that freedom.

*sentence influenced by the “Learning to Waltz” episode of Undone/Redone