I am a miserable golfer. As my girls say, I am the WOAT (worst of all time). The only reason you want me on your scramble team is that I can carry on a spirited conversation. Unfortunately, in most scrambles, you would have to use at least one of my shots. So, choose wisely, my friends.
There’s a really, really good reason I’m a bad golfer. I never play. Before I had kids, two other guys and I had a standing tee time every Saturday morning. My kids were born, and the tee time died. Now, I play one time a year, if I’m lucky. I never practice, I don’t take lessons, and I rarely swing a club. Therefore, I don’t expect to be a great golfer, or even a passable one.
Why is it that we have different expectations for being a father? Many of us think we can just be good dads by default. Some of us had great fathers ourselves, men who modeled for us godly leadership in our homes. If you did, you were remarkably blessed; but, that’s not the story for many, maybe most, of us. Unless you had that incredible role model, whether your own father, someone else’s, or a great teacher or coach, the chances of you actually being a great father by default, with no intentionality, is exceedingly slim. It would be like me stepping up to the number one tee box next weekend, and reeling off a 325 yard drive on my way to shooting a 73. It ain’t gonna happen.
But, you want to be a great dad, don’t you? Deep down, you want those lives most precious to you to end up as men or women who are passionate for Jesus, who do great things for God’s Kingdom, who live lives that truly matter? And, on some level, you realize that your ability to live a life that truly matters is wrapped up in how well you raise them to live the good life? Regardless of how the world lies to you, or tells you how the unimportant things are really important, you know in your gut that raising men and women who love Jesus and live lives according to His purpose is your most noble calling, right?
If you want to be a great dad, but you feel clueless, here’s the lead: so does everyone. They either feel clueless, or they’re trying to delude themselves into believing they’re strong and have it all under control. The first step- admit you are clueless and not in control, but that God is. And, that, guys, is the greatest news of all.
If you want to be a great Kingdom dad, do what great Kingdom dads do:
- Read your Book. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar. You don’t have to be a theologian. Just be consistent. Get the YouVersion app on your cell phone or iPad, download one of the Bible-in-a-Year read-through plans, and get after it. Trust me, you have 15 minutes a day. Not to be gross, but we’re guys- you’re in the bathroom once a day for that amount of time. There you go. Once you finish the once-a-year plan, pick another one and start over. Do it again and again. Before you start reading each day, ask the Holy Spirit to point something out, or highlight something for you that day. You will be amazed over time how God will use this simple act of obedience to transform your heart, your affections, and make you wise. It’s probably the most important of the spiritual disciplines, and it’s really no harder to start than that.
- Find a friend. If you know someone who you’ve identified as a really great dad, ask him to breakfast or lunch. Ask him his best piece of advice for being a dad, the most important lessons God has taught him about being a dad, and his biggest mistakes and what he’s learned from them. If he really is a great dad, he’ll be happy to share these things with you, and he’ll probably invite you into his life on a regular basis. It could actually be the start of a long mentoring relationship. That’s my story. He’ll be grateful to help, because chances are he became a great dad because he sought out someone he admired years before, the way you’re doing now.
- Join a team. Being a dad is not like golf, because it is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. You become better by rubbing elbows with other dads. Throughout this year, we’re going to have some regular dads’ breakfasts, to give you the opportunity to be around other dads who are trying to raise kids as an act of worship like you, so you can learn from them and allow them to learn from you (you have something to teach, through life experience or wisdom of your own; you just don’t realize it yet). There are tons of other men’s groups, Bible studies, BSF groups, and other opportunities through your church and other ministries around town. Rope up with other guys. Satan wants you to be a lone ranger, wants you culled out from the rest of the herd where he can prey on you and convince you you’re not good enough. Everybody needs a team.
There are lots of other things great dads do. I could make this blog a book. But, these three practices are really at the core of learning all those other things. If you do these well, everything else will follow.
Maybe one of these days I’ll dust off my clubs, practice, and become a better golfer. But, if I hadn’t spent these years honing my game as a father, using these simple core practices, now, that would have been the true tragedy.