The investment of a dad’s life into his children is a great sacrifice, and it produces great joy.
“Are you going to feed that bread to the ducks?” It was such a bizarre question that I just stared at the man. We were at the nearby Quick Mart. My kids had joined me on an adventure that gorgeous Sunday afternoon. It was Super Bowl Sunday, but instead of watching the Dallas Cowboy-less game, we were headed to a local pond to feed the ducks.
At first I marveled at how the convenience store operator read my mind. If so, I wondered what else I might have been thinking for which I needed to apologize. Then it occurred to me that he was merely a very observant convenience store operator. All of his other Super Bowl Sunday patrons were buying beer and snacks. My flock of five swarmed the tiny store in search of bread. The operator explained his bread was stale, hence the duck question. We figured ducks cannot read expiration dates so we bought a few bags and made a mental note not to buy OUR bread at the Quick Mart.
Arriving at the pond, we hit the shore like D-Day, and my kids began lobbing Mrs. Baird’s grenades into the water. A few ducks quickly became hundreds of ducks, and a squadron of gulls joined the party. I hoped the gulls could catch the bread in the air, so I flung my pieces at them, leading my feathered receivers just like Tony Romo (who should have been playing in the Super Bowl) would have. For some reason, the gulls would not catch the bread in the air. I am sure it was their poor receiving skills and not my lousy passing arm.
Most of the ducks crowded the shoreline, snapping up the bread as it plopped near them. Yet some ducks had swum off in the distance, no longer interested in what I had to offer. It struck me that, as a dad, this symbolized the relationship I have with my kids. Like Jesus said, I want to give good gifts to my children, so that when I am around, they will want to waddle up and receive what I have to give them. Sadly, I know dads whose kids have “swum off” a distance, no longer interested in what their dads have for them.
If you have read this far, I will assume you are a dad who also wants to influence your children and keep your relationship close. We do not want to control our children’s lives. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, as He holds that place in our children’s hearts. Yet we do want to have a strong relationship of godly influence with our kids as they mature. So how do we see this vision fulfilled?
Well, I imagine there are a hundred good answers to that question, and one of them is found in Nehemiah 12:43: “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”
The investment of a dad’s life into his children is a great sacrifice, and it produces great joy. Following are examples of how the Lord has led me to sacrifice and to invest my life into my children.
Those of you who have read my previous articles may recall how I struggled with “being there” at my sons’ karate class. I attended their classes, but my laptop PC and E-mail captured my brain and I was not really paying attention to my boys’ progress. Well, the Lord and a few of the black belts made me an offer I could not refuse. So I am the new white belt beginner, standing next to kids forty years younger than I am who can still touch their toes. My arms ache when I hold a position for more than two minutes, and my hips make these funny popping noises when I kick. But I am there, I am engaged, and my boys take great delight in instructing me and take even greater delight in pummeling me.
We are reading through the Bible together this year as a family. As Dad, I set the pace and follow-up with the others. I did not think I had another thirty minutes in my day, but the Lord has rewarded this sacrifice and has blessed my time. I am in Leviticus as I write this. Please pray for me!
My daughters have a musical calling, so I invest my time and my treasure in their lessons, practice, and coaching. It is a struggle to find the balance between encouraging them and pushing them too hard.
Sunday afternoons no longer include golf for me, neither playing nor watching. Now it is building AWANA pinewood race cars, going for walks, and feeding ducks.
This week, we are auditioning as a family for a community theatre play. If we are cast, I will not sleep much for the next two months, but we are building some forever family memories.
With this investment and sacrifice, I have been blessed, and my children and I have rejoiced. This joy is not a result of my being a perfect father. I am an imperfect father. Yet as I have restored my heart to my children, He has turned their hearts toward me (see Malachi 4:6). My teenage daughters seek me out just to talk for no particular reason, and they would rather feed ducks than be on time to a youth group party. The kids are asking hard Bible questions and stretching me. Story (10) trusted my influence and won the first-place trophy at a karate competition that he did not even want to enter. It is also a delight to watch my girls experience the joy of fulfilling their calling.
Many years ago, a wise friend of mine told me, “Sacrifice produces joy.” I thought he was nuts. Now, I am.
Maybe some of you dads have a story of how a sacrifice for your kids produced joy. If so, I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at ImperfectFather@Gmail.com.