Last night I was driving home and my four-year-old son was the only person in the car with me. As we chatted about various biblical things my son said, “Dad, when I get in trouble I pray to God for forgiveness, just like you say in your sermons.” Now I am smiling, because I know the heart of that young boy and have no doubt that what he is saying is the truth.
However, his next words brought tears to my eyes. He said: “But Dad, you always do good, so you don’t have to do that anymore, do you?” If only he knew. We spent the next few minutes talking about the fact that, even though Dad wants to do right and tries to do right, there are still times where he does things wrong and has to ask both God and others for forgiveness. We talked about the fact that nobody is perfect (except God, he reminded me) and we all have times where we need to ask for forgiveness.
My son’s words had a very deep impact with me last night, one that I am sure will last for a long time to come. For, you see, he will soon enough come to realize that Dad is not perfect; he makes mistakes, reacts incorrectly, has lapses in judgment, and at times falls flat on his face in failure. Nevertheless, I pray that he always sees me trying to do good.
One of the greatest things that should give us pause in our decision-making is asking ourselves the question, “What if my children saw/heard me doing this?” What would I be teaching them and what would they see in me? Part of my responsibility as a father is to bring my children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). However, that requires my willingness to do far more than just tell them what they should do; I must show them the right path by the life that I lead. They have to see their father striving to do good, as well as see him take responsibility for his mistakes and be willing to repent when he does wrong.
Parents, never forget to whom your young children look as a standard of righteousness. Realize that, even though the time will come where they will understand your flaws and shortcomings, in those early years, in their young minds, you are the greatest servant God has ever had. Use that time of influence to teach them, talk to them seriously about God, his Word, and the responsibilities that come with it. Most important of all: let them see you live it. You will never do so perfectly and that is okay. Let them see you try your best, take responsibility for your worst, and in your successes and failures let them see you give God the glory of your praise and service.
Finally, as a daily prayer, let us say: “Father, help me to be the parent my children think I am, the spouse my other half needs me to be, and the child that you want me to be.”