I remember being the perfect father.
I could traverse the labyrinth of parenting with my skill and keen sense of direction. When I corrected my children to the right, taught them respect and honor, gave them a satisfactory foundation to be a contributing member of our family and society, my job was complete. They would rise up as young adults and thank me for the hard times of correction and discipline because it made them the mighty men and women that they would one day be.
And then my first child was born.
As long as I live I will never forget standing in front of the warming table in the birthing suite at Wilson Hospital. My daughter had just taken her first breaths and was trying out her eyes in the new and bright world. Nothing before that day prepared me for the immense weight of inadequacy that fused itself to me in that moment. It was not her preparation for the “real world” that I felt inadequate towards, nor her training in work ethic. It was something else that I had never considered beforehand. “Eighteen years,” I whispered under my breath, “to teach you about the God that gave you to me.” I stopped and watched her wrap her hand around my finger, “How am I supposed to do that?”
To this day I am not certain as to why it was that thought that permeated my thinking, it hadn’t been in my consideration even minutes before. But from that day on it has been a driving force behind many of my questions of how to raise this young girl.
Thinking I would just figure it out, I found myself overwhelmed again in the same manner as my second daughter took her first breaths. It occurred to me, as I looked at her, that I hadn’t answered the question I asked myself eighteen months ago at the same table.
“How does someone like me teach his daughters about God?”
As they began to grow up, I tried the best I could to push this question to the back of my thoughts and just get to raising them the way I set out to. When they were wrong I would correct them. When they were naughty I would discipline them. When they were messy I would make them clean up their own mess. When they were good I was neutral because that was just meeting expectations. In all of this, it was the way I handled discipline that first got to me.
Why was it that I was fine suspending Christian graces when it came to discipline?
Why was the fruit of the Spirit something that I resisted when it came to correcting my children? I argued it was out of love but I did not understand agape love. It certainly was not joyful or peaceful. Patience?! Far from it. Kindness.. Goodness… Faithfulness….. Gentleness…… Self-control? Blow after blow this passage crushed me to inadequacy once again. Where was my grace towards my daughters?
What were they learning about God?