My dad is a big man. He is 6’6″ (yes, he is the same height as Michael Jordan). He is also 250 pounds. If you know me, you know that I am only 5’8″ and about 160 pounds. I am almost a foot shorter and almost a hundred pounds lighter. My dad was like many fathers of his generation, he was not always home, he yelled instead of talked, and many times, he failed. He failed as a man, a husband, and a father. There are many thing he could have done better.
This is the point where many writers, pastors, authors, etc. would come to tell you about how God is a perfect father who can succeed where many of our earthly fathers have failed. This is true. He is a perfect Father and many of our earthly fathers have failed. We should look to God to fulfill the failures of our dads in our childhood. I have heard many of these sermons in my life. Most times they cause an outbreak of tears among young men who have realized they were giving dear ol’ dad way too much credit, or that they have been looking up to a sub-par role model their entire lives.
Often, these sermons or books end with a young man shaking his fist at the heavens while boldly promising they will NEVER be like their old man. They will not be absentee, they will spend time with their kids, they will be gentle, loving, and caring, unlike their fathers before them. They promise to do what has never been done before; they will be the perfect dad. I have heard these promises time and time again in prayer and bible studies. I have read them in books and on blogs. But herein lies the problem: these are prideful statements said out of a broken heart and a wounded spirit. They are lofty promises driven by pride and pain which cannot be obtained.
Let me share with you the truth(s) that I have learned since being a dad; I am just as much of a failure as my dad. No matter how hard I have tried, or how much I have learned, or how much I have promised I would never do, I still fail. I have snapped at my kids, I have treated them unfairly. I get upset when they do not do the things I want them too, or when they do the things they should not do. I do not spend nearly as much time with them as I should. Many times I do not teach them when they have done something wrong. Instead I move quickly to discipline or punishment. I am not always like God as a Father. I am a sinner who still cannot measure up to the idealism of what a father should be. I do not look anything like the picture of a father I painted in my head.
One thing I have seen in myself is I don’t try to be more like my heavenly Father. I am simply trying to be better than my earthly father. Instead of trying to be more like my creator, I am trying to simply prove that I have obtained some sort of level or degree my dad never reached, one he never even knew about. I am trying to prove to myself that I can be a better dad because at some points in my life my dad did not do as I wanted; I was unable to become his god. I did not always get my way and I was pissed about it. I think if we are honest, men, many of us are like this. It is not that our fathers were so awful, it is that they did not bow to our beck and call. They did not do all the things we wanted them to do. Our pride was exponentially wounded. While our dads were not perfect, we sons were not perfect either. We failed to heed their advice or to honor them because their wills and ideals did not agree with our own.
Instead of trying to measure up to our dads, as fathers, we should be seeking to honor God. This means we should understand our propensity to fail and be forgiven, just as our kids will fail, and should be forgiven. It’s time to stop trying to be the perfect dad, or the dad we never had, but instead strive to be fathers like our Father, and live in His grace, mercy, understanding, and wisdom.