It's a Big World. What's a Father to Do?

Little boy pushing up with his arms outstretched under the side of a large metal wire globe

Gone are the days when I was regularly seen with an infant in my arms. I remember before my firstborn turned 1, my church invited all the dads to the stage on Father’s Day. We were asked to share what we like most about being a dad. I wasn’t very sappy back then, so when I got the mic, I declared, “What I like most…is not having to give birth!”

Before my son was born, many asked, “Are you ready to be a father?” Ready to be a father? Everybody say it with me: “No!”

We’re probably never ready. We can read parenting books, articles and new discoveries on child development; and we can memorize pertinent Bible verses. But I say ‘never’ because fatherhood is much more than we might expect. Even with profound fatherly role models, I think we naturally overlook some things, even key things, as we gear up for fatherhood.

You see, at some point we realize:

A father may be Superman to his young kids,
but Superman exists only as long as his child’s imagination will embrace him.

I’m a father of three boys. There was a time in each of their lives when I could do no wrong and they truly wanted to be like me. But I’m not Superman anymore. Of course, I never was.

3 boys sitting on a log fence with a meadow and mountain in the background
So what’s a father to do? It’s hard to fit the job description. We have empty loops in our tool belts. We can’t conjure the muscles to fill the entire six pack.


we make mistakes
we jump to conclusions
we forget important events
we feel like throwing in the towel

It's normal to miss the mark, but we will see our shortcomings take shape in our children if we don't improve. Maybe we need to shore up some of these issues that come naturally for us men:

cheating or lying
being easily frustrated and angered
devaluing women or human life in general
feeling better than others and putting them down
looking outside of family and God for approval and acceptance
seeking comfort in substances or ungodliness instead of God’s loving arms

But brothers, we can't do this by relying on the world's advice or even ourselves. Change begins with freedom through Jesus and steps of growth through the Holy Spirit. (See 2 Corinthians 3:14-18.)


My boys are each at different stages of life:  grade school, college, and just entering the workforce. I am proud of each of them. They are all on track to live with God and for God. But this is not because of me. No, truthfully, it is despite me.

Father standing next to his 2 sons in hockey gear with 1 baby son in his armsDon’t get me wrong. I spent time with my kids. I took them to some of their team practices, and even coached some seasons. I attended nearly all of their major events. I’ve been on probably 90% of their class field trips. And I was home almost every evening. I was in their lives.

But I dropped the ball, too. To be honest, I hardly even noticed.

I didn’t lead them very often in Bible study; I didn’t spend enough time talking with them about real life, including spiritual life; and I didn’t pray enough with them. I haven’t been the best at “training up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).


But I did a few things intentionally and I think these things, along with God’s mercy and love, made a difference for my boys. They seem to know that life with God is the best life we can have…hands down.

Here are some things I committed (imperfectly) to God as a father. Your list may look different, so read these as examples:

  • My relationship with God was the priority relationship. My wife was 2nd, and the boys came 3rd. But I also partnered with my wife and didn’t speak contrary to her with my boys.
  • I didn’t allow my boys or their situations to change the way my wife and I ran our household, even with their eat-wake-sleep cycles as infants. From birth through high school, they were welcome members of our family, but not in charge.
  • My wife and I never stopped serving God, even when our boys were newborns. So, our kids never knew a time when we were not serving Him in some significant way.
  • We didn’t allow other activities to take the place of Sunday worship, or Sunday School/Community. On those rare occasions when we missed church, I led my family in Bible-based discussions.
  • I regularly explained how God is involved in our lives, demonstrating this truth to my boys as events transpired in their individual journeys.

While I wasn’t perfect at these, I was pretty consistent. I also spent a one-on-one weekend with them to discuss marriage, purity, and the birds and bees, from a biblical standpoint.

Did I do my best? Honestly, no. I was lazy, selfish, inexperienced, arrogant, and foolish. I still am, just maybe a little less. But I was committed to being the kind of father who honored God and who practiced what he preached.

Remember this from the 10 Commandments? It still applies today.

…I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,
punishing the children for the sin of the parents
to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
but showing love to a thousand generations
of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:5-6

So, let’s commit to fathering in a way that honors God. We are possibly the most influential people in our children’s lives, so we need to be purposeful.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.

Psalms 127:4

Warriors aim and fire each arrow only once, and they don’t take time to retrieve them. There are no do-overs for the growing years of our children – no golfer’s mulligans. We don’t get to take back our offenses or remove any negative experiences we piled onto our kids. Like a warrior, we shoot our arrows once – one transition into adulthood. Let’s give them the best possible trajectory to hit the mark God wants for them. It's the most important thing we will do for them.

…physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:8

We're learning as we go, but we are not defeated. We are victorious when we lean into God while we raise our children. God’s mercy will reign.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Psalm 86:5

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  1. Stephen, what a honest and encouraging post! It is easy to look at other Christian parents and feel like we never did or could measure up. Thank you for sharing all you did well to guide your children in their Christian faith. You are right, in the end it is the Lord who moves our children's hearts. We must be intentional to do all we can and to keep trying. But God is bigger than our shortcomings. Thank God! God bless you!

    1. Thank you, Melissa, for this comment. We parents follow as we think the Holy Spirit leads, sometimes getting it right and sometimes not really. What a gracious God we serve. With our own children we can call Him our Father whom we will someday see face to face.

  2. What a phenomenal blog post, Stephen. I shared this on my Facebook profile because I feel that this is the most encouraging post for fathers today. You are real, and you write honestly. All fathers will be encouraged by your words, both new and old. God bless you, brother!

    1. Thank you, Melinda, and I hope Tim and the other fathers in your extended family had blessed Father's Days. My hope in this post is that fathers and men will rise about discouragement and shortcomings and commit their fatherhood and leadership to the Lord and rely on His help. He is the best hope for the generations that follow us.


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