To most Americans, today is Father’s Day. I’m not sure what the origin is other than another day for Hallmark to make a few bucks, the clothing industry to unload some hideous neckwear, and for us to have a cookout. Honestly I see the most value in the last one, but that is another story.
We hear a lot on the news today about how kids need to have the presence of a father in their lives. That male presence is supposed to be the defining thing between a well-adjusted kid and a complete degenerate. I’m not sure if having a male figure in the house makes a better kid anymore than having a Chevy in the driveway is going to make me be able to drive like Earnhardt. There is more to the picture, in my humble opinion, than just being a father.
You see, I didn’t have a “father”. I had a male presence in my life, and he did “father” me, but he was not a “father”. (Sorry kids, go ask your parents to explain that last sentence to you.) I had something better than a “father.” I had a Dad. I had a man’s man who was not just punching the time card and going through the motions that would allow him to meet some minimum criteria of “fatherhood.” I had a guy that put in the long hours at work and then came home to put in more hours with his family. That’s not a “father”. That’s a Dad.
I don’t think you need to be a father to be a Dad. I have met some great men who never had kids of their own, but they either through adoption, re-marriage, or even deep mentorship have taken up the role of Dad in the lives of kids and made a huge difference in their lives by committing themselves to those kids through unconditional love and care. Those men aren’t fathers. They are Dads!
You may have noticed that I am not a big fan of the word “father”. It’s not because of a problem in my childhood. I have just watched that word used over the last twenty years or so in a context that almost makes me see it as the weakest, most minimal standard of parenting. Men father children and leave. Men father children and don’t grow up. Men father children, but just ignore them. I sad that “men” do these things, but again, a better word might just be “males.”
In the 2nd chapter of Judges, there is an account of how the people of Israel conducted themselves after taking the Promised Land. It says that after Joshua and all of the men of Joshua’s generation died, the people of Israel forgot about God. Judges 2:10 even goes so far as to say that the generation that came up not only did not know God (have a relationship with Him), but they didn’t even know about the things He had done for them! According to the account, this happened in a generation!
The men that entered the Promised Land to conquer it were the children of those who had refused to enter it. These people had been forced to walk the desert for 40 years watching their adults die before they had an opportunity to go into the land and take it for themselves. During that time they saw God do miracles in the wilderness and even more as they took the land. How did their kids not know the things God did for them? How did they not know?
My opinion is that there were a lot of male figures that just didn’t put focus on that kind of thing. They might have been too busy talking about their conquests, busy putting together new homes, building cities, or ordering around servants. Who really knows? I think it is safe to say that they didn’t put a high priority on things that matter long-term.
I celebrate Dad’s Day instead of Father’s Day. To me, it is more about the relationship between a Dad and his children than a biological certification of progeny. Dad’s Day is a time to really focus on praising the Dads that give their kids the things that really matter. I want to think about the things that I need to accomplish to make sure that I am leaving my kids in better shape than I am. I want to be a Relentless Dad that will not end up with kids that are going to forget the important work of God in our lives.
Here are a few things thatI have been trying to focus on. Feel free to steal them and use them for yourself. It’s all free information!
1. Be in the moment – It really doesn’t matter if it is a good moment or a bad moment, as long as you are in the moment with your kids. In the moment is where life happens. In the moment is where failures are evident and grace can be delivered. In the moment is the place where you praise God for the great things He has done for you, and where you lean on Him for strength when things are hard. Your kids need to see and hear both of them. They need to see that God is in EVERY moment, not just the fun moments.
2. Be intentional – Proper parenting doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a willingness to get intentional in the lives of your kids. A real Dad has an agenda for the development of his kids. He looks for opportunities to advance that agenda through the daily ebb and flow of life. He will be relentless in that pursuit.
3. Be real – If you are going to be an effective Dad, you need to be willing to show who you really are. Share your failures, your embarassments, and your pains just as you would show you victories and strengths. Kids can spot a fake a mile away, and it is really hard to get them to believe you when they pick up on that. When you are real, you give them hope! They can see that their failures are no longer a reason to stop trying.
Please don’t consider this a comprehensive list. There’s more to being a Dad than this. Consider this a place to start! Relentless living as a Dad has got to start somewhere!
To all you Dads out there, Happy Dad’s Day! You’re doing a great job! To you fathers…well… enjoy the recognition.