Parenthood is not easy. Don’t get me wrong, it has immense joys, but it’s also hard work. My wife seems to take it in her stride. Not me. There are times when I play with my 4 children, but also times when I lose my temper. Getting it right seems so difficult.
My eldest, Lilly, is 9 years old. She loves her school and friends. She’s a good kid who is growing up and learning responsibility.
I remember the day she was born. I expected to have the perfect baby girl, just like every first-time dad. I’d prayed about it. I knew God was going to show up. Her birth would be just right. Quick and painless. Instead of a beautiful birth, my wife needed an emergency, Caesarian. And my precious daughter was born with a soft palate cleft. Basically, there was a hole in the roof of the mouth making feeding difficult.
The nurse told me I needed to get used to the term ‘birth defect.’ (She wanted the best for me as a parent and gave great care, even though her words felt insensitive.) Her words broke my heart.
I felt like God had simply abandoned me and ignored all of my prayers. Where was God? Why had he done this? Why hadn’t he turned up?
Driving home from the hospital one evening I sensed God’s presence with me. I heard his silent whisper say ‘I have not abandoned you.’
I had my questions ‘Then what are you up to? Didn’t you hear my prayers?’
The response I received was another question. Why does God seem to answer our questions by asking his own? Think about Adam and Eve in the garden – where are you? Who told you, you were naked? Or Jesus with his disciples. Who do you say I am?
Well, I sensed God answer my questions with one of his own. ‘What is her name?’
We chose the name Lillian Ruth before she was born. We chose Ruth because of the Bible character. She was a foreigner in Israel. She was a widow without children. In her time and culture, she was disadvantaged in every way. But not in God’s eyes. He looked after her and provided for her. She was special to him. Our daughter was special to him. Her name had become a promise of God’s care and provision.
God didn’t bang me over the head with a 2×4. His question took me from a place of failing to trust him to trust again. This is the gospel in action. This is grace.
Lilly’s passionate and spirited. She’s learning to show people more respect at the moment. Believe me, there are times when it is far easier to send her to room then let her stay.
Three of the kids were playing outside the other day. They left their toys there. When I told them they needed to go bring their things in, 1 of the boys went and brought him and his brother’s toys in. Lilly wasn’t happy.
‘It isn’t fair! Why should I have to go do it when Teddy had his things brought in for him!’
I had a choice, I could get angry or ask a question. I asked, ‘Do we celebrate when Jesus blesses other people?’
She looked at me suspiciously, ‘Yes.’
‘Well, how has Jesus blessed your brothers?’
‘He died for them and helped them know God and came back to life for them.’
‘That’s right. Jesus blesses us because he takes all the wrong things we do, our bad attitudes and times we don’t trust God. He takes them to the cross so that he can be part of our life every day. He did this because we couldn’t. Do you think Jo has shown Teddy a little bit of what Jesus is like?
Lilly thought for a bit then said, ‘Yes, because he went and got the toys. Teddy doesn’t need to because they’re already gone.’
‘So, Jo blessed Teddy by showing him what Jesus is like. Are you going to celebrate or complain?’
‘Celebrate.’ She later told my wife how hard she was trying to change her attitude then.
I wish I looked to the gospel more often in my parenting. This was a beautiful moment where God was able to work in the midst of our everyday life. My default mode leads to frustration. It’s just easier to be frustrated with my kids than to do the hard work of the gospel.
But I want to be the dad God has called me to be. This means speaking the gospel into their life but I can’t do it alone. First I need to be changed by the gospel. I don’t mean that I need to be saved again. Instead, I need God’s Spirit to keep working in me. I need him to be constantly renewing me because there are times when I struggle to believe all of God’s goodness and I need him to bring me back.
I need this as a dad, don’t you?
I am a pastor, blogger and speaker. I help ordinary people connect with an extraordinary God, so they can follow Jesus in their everyday life.