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Yes, I grew up to be a minister. This is not any real shock to those that know the amount of pastors in my extended family. It’s like a family business I suppose, although not as fiscally lucrative as “So and So & Sons.”
When I was just 23 at my first church my Dad showed up at my house with a picture frame. I didn’t recall seeing it before. It was a framed drawing I made when I was very young in response to a teacher’s question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My crayon-clutching tiny hands had drawn a two-dimensional rendition of a church sanctuary, complete with colorful pews, church people, communion table, stage, cross and a pulpit. I was standing behind it with arms raised, speaking to my imagined future rainbow-colored congregation. At the top I had scrawled, “When I grow up I want to be a minister.”
Whenever I was asked that perpetual question, the answer was the same. Even though my Dad had never been the pastor of a local church in my lifetime, I felt a strong draw toward church ministry all my life. With this virtual certainty in his hands that his son would be a pastor, Dad still resisted the temptation to pressure me into it. Even when considering college, the choice was in my hands, and though he rationally explained the benefits of the ministerial program at the Christian school I ended up attending, he never mandated I go there and would always couch his statements with “If you go there, they have this and that, but it’s your decision completely.”
It is the joy and duty of a father to treasure his child’s potential. Being Dad on purpose is making a kid’s future the purpose of the present. There are several things that demonstrate to our kids that we are not only interested in what they will become, but that we already can see them becoming it as well…
Treasuring The Future of our Children:
- Being Proud vs. Being Derogatory. For most kids, the worst thing they experience growing up is being mocked or ridiculed. There is added pain when it comes from an adult, and multiplied pain when it comes from their parents. Making fun of our kids is the opposite of being proud of them. We must be proud of their future before it even becomes a reality, so that they can be proud of what they are in fact becoming, and then have the confidence to go the distance.
- Being Admiring vs. Being Apathetic. Many of us as fathers have fallen into the rut of apathy when it comes to what our children are becoming. We have tried everything, and nothing seems to work. The remedy for this is simply perspective. We need to take a long hard look at our kids and see what is admirable in them. They have been woven together with some unique values and some profound purposes. The greatest remedy to our apathetic fathering can be developing into fathers that admire our kids for even the most seemingly small qualities.
- Being Rational vs. Being Emotional. It is easy for us to connect to our kid’s future emotionally. This common reality is not in fact a problem, but rather, it is a strength. But when we begin to communicate with our kids about their future in strictly emotional ways, we don’t give them any of the wisdom our longer lives and fuller experiences have afforded us. We must learn to communicate rationally, even at times impartially, with our kids. They will not accept our random emotional comments about their future. They’ll just roll their eyes in embarrassment. But they long for our rational wisdom and discerning eye on their lives. If we give it to them in the right packaging, they’ll come back again and again for more.
- Being Helpful vs. Being Hurtful. There are countless ways for a father’s comments to hurt a kid, even with an unintended hurtful statement. Our thoughts on our children’s future must not make them feel pressured, stupid, or less than confident. We should convey to them their freedom, let them know they are competent enough to make the decisions, and instill in them the confidence it takes to make it in the world today—even when they are small children. Being even a small help for our kid’s future will make a big difference. Likewise, being even a small hurt in our kid’s past will haunt their future.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- How proud of your kids are you? How do you show it best?
- What do you admire about your kids? Do they know those things?
- In what ways are Dads more emotional than rational when it comes to the choices their kids make?
- What things do parents say to their kids that hurt more than we suspect?
- What wonderful dreams do you have for your kids?