What’s the most important thing you want to pass down to children? For most dads, the moment their wives break the life-changing news that a baby is on the way, they begin daydreaming about teaching their kid how to caste an open-face reel or how to throw the perfect spiral while being chased out of the pocket.
We all began dreaming of these moments even while our wives were still pregnant. And we thought of these moments because these moments matter. They’re important. They are the moments that bond us to our children. But they’re not the only ones, right? This isn’t all that matters, is it?
I still remember the morning I found out I was going to be a dad. My wife came bursting through our bedroom door early on a crisp, fall Saturday screaming, “I’m pregnant!” with her arms stretched out high in a victory pose. Although I had been dead asleep until she crashed through our door, the news woke me like nothing else could.
Because it was still early (and I’m a guy of nothing but the utmost class) we went to celebrate with breakfast at The Waffle House. On the way to our fine-dining experience, my mind raced with all the ways I would teach my soon-to-be son (we ended up having a girl) the finer points to the game of soccer. The whole day was spent in this manner, my thoughts drifting to all the wisdom and skill I would impart to my unborn child.
It wasn’t until much later that night, as we were trying to sleep—still full of excitement—we began to pray for our newly-formed family. I became painfully aware of something. Of all the things I had already pictured my kid growing up to do and become, a follower of Jesus had not been one of them.
That thought alone revealed how skewed my priorities had already become as a first-time father. It is a trap that is easy to fall into, one so focused on wanting success and the best for our kids from a worldly point of view, we tend to lose focus on what truly matters. Or at least I did. My perspective moved from the eternal to the temporary unexpectedly. And way too quickly.
Proverbs 22:6 informs us that if we, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” (ESV). So, this begs the question, what are we “training up” our kids to do?
Our personal priorities go a long way in shaping the priorities of our offspring. Who we are plays a major role in shaping who they become. Biblical fatherhood make sure our kids keep a healthy perspective of what’s truly important.
Who we are plays a major role
in shaping who they become.
So, take a second and think about all the words and actions you demonstrate in front of your kids. Are you pushing them toward the eternal or the temporary?
Let’s think about the time we spend with our kids as deposits and the different aspects of their lives (sports, school, relationships, family, God, band, scouts, karate and so on.) as accounts. Which accounts would we like our kids to think of as the most important? Are those the accounts we invest the most time in with our son or daughter?
Are you pushing them toward the eternal or the temporary?
If you’re reading this, chances are you would say you want to be a godly dad and you want God to be priority number one in the lives of your children. You have probably even told them something along those lines. And you have probably said it multiple times.
But are you demonstrating that truth?
Do your actions back up that belief? What you say matters. As a dad, your words carry significant weight to a child who looks at you like a super hero. But those words will never matter more than your actions.
While I was working as a youth pastor, I once had a concerned dad talk to me about trying to get his 13-year-old son to see the importance of church. As he struggled for ideas to open his son’s eyes to the importance of going to church, I asked a simple question, “How often do you guys go to church together?” He sheepishly looked away before confessing, “Not as much as I would like. We miss a lot of Wednesday nights because football practice runs late and it’s hard to be consistent on Sundays because of baseball tournaments.”
As he was talking, he began to see an unhealthy pattern he was reinforcing in the life of his son. His words may have told his son a commitment to church is important, but his actions showed it wasn’t quite as important as a commitment to his sports.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think sports are a bad thing. I love them. There are very few things on earth as much fun as being part of a team that competes against another. But as great as the game of baseball may be, it is still just a game. If we spend hours teaching our son how to throw a curve ball and practically no effort on showing him how to spend time in God’s Word, then we are missing the point of this fathering opportunity we’ve been given.
Could it be the reason us dads don’t know we’re winning in fatherhood is because we’re playing the wrong game? Rather than pointing our kids to Christ, we’re pointing them to worldly accomplishments? Often, when we do this, God mercifully convicts us and tells us we’ve gone out of bounds. Maybe this is the momentum shift you need to play the right game—and start winning.
Are we playing
the wrong game?
Here is just one of the many great things that come from training your child to prioritize following Jesus: having a strong relationship with Jesus benefits all other aspects of our lives. We all this intentionally discipling your child.
...a strong relationship with Jesus benefits all other aspects
of our lives.
For example, if we teach our child how to memorize scripture, she’ll have less trouble learning to memorize vocabulary words in school. Explaining to our son that his talents in football are a gift he can use to glorify God and playing the game to the best of his ability can be an act of worship (1 Corinthians 10:31) may just change the way he approaches the game.
Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of Matthew, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33, ESV). He was telling His disciples as long as they kept God their number-one priority, everything else would take care of itself. And what was true for them then is still true for us today.
A little later in that same chapter of Matthew, Jesus said having this sort of mindset would take away any need to worry. And He was right. When our main concern is Jesus (or in this case, making sure Jesus is our kids’ main priority) we begin to care less about stuff that doesn’t truly matter.
Therefore, if our kids honor God by doing their best at school and bring home C’s instead of A’s, then we worry about it less. If our kids do their best at tryouts but don’t make the team, we don’t really worry about it. You will be amazed at the amount of pressure that is lifted from the shoulders of our children when the whole family adopts this type of godly perspective.
Question > What would your kids say are the most important priorities in your life? Would their answers be the ones you hope they would?
Winning or losing as a dad? How can you tell?Many dads tell us they struggle with this issue. We wrote a Field Guide called Keeping Score: How to Tell Whether You're Winning or Losing as a Dad. This guide could be the momentum shift you need to play the right game—and start winning as a dad.
About the author > Eric Ballard
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