I have quite a few friends and family who have had or about to have children. This past week, my friend Josh Etter and his wife Kate just had a little girl. I thought that I would send write a few thoughts to Josh just to encourage him in this often daunting task of being a dad raising a daughter. I hope it is encouraging. It is pretty simple but here are a few pieces of advice from a guy whose girls are now grown up.
1. Get ready to be blessed. You will be more blessed, helped, and humbled by raising your child than you can imagine. The miracle of birth and watching your wife deliver your first child will certainly do all those things for you. No doubt, you feel blessed and encouraged by the grace of God right now as you hold this new life. Certainly, you are humbled by the enormous privilege and responsibility to care for this little soul and by the sacrifice your wife has already just made. Get ready. This is just the beginning. When the psalmist writes "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a reward," that sounds vague until you walk through the adventure of life. There will be a time when you will look back and realize that this little child was appointed by God to do you immense good. Your dependence on God, your delight in His goodness, your gratitude for the cross and God's fatherly forgiveness, your attentiveness to the Word and the Spirit of God, your consistency in prayer, your dying to self, your love for the sovereignty of God and the reign of the Saviour, (need I go on) will all have been fuelled by your love for your child and your honest ambition to be the husband and father, God has called you to be. Fathers have a crucial role to play in the lives of their children but it won't be long before your realize that by God's grace, they will do you more eternal good than you ever anticipated.
2. Don't take yourself so seriously. That may sound like a strange thing to say, especially at a time in our culture when there is a great need for serious parenting, and in particular, diligent and faithful fathering. I am not saying that as a Dad you don't need to give yourself fully to your calling to love and to lead. What I do mean is that you need to recognize that God is big enough for the road ahead. When Moses was in the midst of his journey leading the nation of Israel, he became overwhelmed by the task. Israel was a tough nation. Moses' fear, however, was not the dread of seeing how messed up Israel was. He was afraid of seeing his own inadequacies and failures. In fact, at one point, he pleads with the Lord that if the Lord has favour upon him, that He should kill Moses, so that Moses wouldn't have to look at his own "wretchedness" (Numbers 11:15). You are about to get a life long tour of your own inadequacies. Remember then that God did not put this child in your hands because He wanted you to show how competent you are. He put this child in your hands to show you how great His love and goodness are. Your goal is to point your child to Jesus. You don't have to be the hero of your child's story. One day, she may bring some handsome prince home and be all googly-eyed over a guy who has barely begun to learn the meaning of sacrifice. She will sing his praises and you will realize "He must increase and I must decrease." You will walk her down the aisle blubbering like a baby. I guarantee you will be praying one prayer loud and clear: "Father, help this young man marrying my little girl to do what he is not equipped to do - to love her with all the love of Jesus." Well, that is where you are right now: ill-equipped to do what you are called to do. If you as an earthly Father want good gifts for your children, how much more does your Father in heaven know how to give good gifts to His children? God has got this. God is more than sufficient. Show your child by your laughter, your smiles, your ability to get down on the ground and get silly with her, that your faith in God is bigger than your fear of self. The name of the Lord is a strong tower.
3. Don't underestimate the importance of singing. That little child that just entered into this realm is designed for many things but most of all - to worship. Her eyes are about to take in a great big world of wonders. Yes, she will see some hard and painful things. Yet, the overriding inclination of her soul will be to throw her hope upon something and to express her joys to the entire world. Enjoy pointing out to her the unending marvels of God's creation, of human ingenuity and creativity. Get your camera out and record the joy that fills her eyes when she learns to walk and she sinks her first three-pointer. Sit with her when in tears she describes the disappointment of love gone wrong and you can feel the thunderous echo of her ache in your own heart. And sing. Sing happily of the goodness of God whose love endures forever. Sing silly songs that you make up in the car because there is a peace and joy that flows from the firm undergirding of the certainty of God's sovereignty. Sing the Scriptures. Memorize the Word and sear them on the playlist of your heart and hers by putting them to song. Sing loud. Sing badly. Sing well. Sing often. Sing. Then, listen. Listen as she sings herself to sleep at the age of two. Listen as she sings in the back seat as you head off to see your folks. Listen as she sings beside you at Sunday worship. One day, listen as she sings to you of the hope of a Saviour at your hospital bed. There are lots of people offering songs to her to sing. Give her something of substance to sing, the only thing that will be enough for the depth of her heart's longings and for the long dark nights when morning seems so far off. Teach her "Jesus love me, this I know."
4. Walk slowly. You have got long legs. She doesn't. You have a busy schedule. There is a world that is demanding your attention from dawn to dusk. There is a culture that has set up markers of success and achievement. There is a wife, and a little girl who don't care what the world thinks. They need a Dad who isn't harried or hurried. If you can't accomplish all that you need to accomplish and still include your family, the list must change. Life is a sigh and while you can hardly imagine this baby driving a car, and heading to college, and moving to Tegucigalpa or Toronto, it will happen in a blink of an eye. One day, you will be chatting by Skype and committing her in prayer to the Lord as she follows His call upon her life. How do you make the most of the time that you have? Walk slowly. Be still and know that He is God. Gain the perspective that comes from rising early and waiting on the Lord. The peace that comes from your friendship with Christ Jesus will beckon your loved ones near to you. I have many models in my life of men who have wisely chosen to walk calmly in the spiritual disciplines. This means more to those that know them than any other thing. If you do this, by God's grace, you won't have to go looking for your kids. They will come looking for you. For God's children are drawn towards the green pastures and still waters of the peace of God. Some people's kids come home because they need money. Some people's kids come home because they fear responsibility. Some kids come home because they want to be reminded where the true Center of life is and home is centered around Jesus. Walk slowly and steadily with Jesus and over a life time, they will see the profound difference that He alone makes. Josh, you have the one and only thing that your little girl needs. You have Jesus. Enjoy Him and help her to do the same.