“Daddy, watch.” I turn to see my son attempting a “Dude Perfect” trick shot—backwards, off the backboard, into the net. As it goes in, he lets out a scream—“Let’s go!”
“Daddy,” my youngest asks, “can we make a treasure hunt?”
“Daddy,” my oldest says, “can you come tuck me in?”
Children desire the attention and affection of their parents. God, the most magnificent artist this world has ever seen, intentionally crafted the family to include a father and a mother who would give this attention and affection to their children. Yet for many children around the world, the attention and affection of the father is missing because the fathers are missing.
Scripture specifically commands fathers, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Likewise, God instructs parents, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). This instruction is an all-the-time sort of instruction. Fathers play a crucial role in the development of their children, yet how can they play this role when they are missing?
Some fathers are missing because they have never played any role in their children’s lives at all. Perhaps they bought into the lie of casual sex and ran off as soon as they heard that their girlfriend was pregnant. Some fathers are missing because of divorce, creating a great barrier of time and space. Some fathers, although physically present in the home, spend little time with their children, leaving the task of parenting to the mother alone.
If you find yourself in one of these situations, there is time for change and reason for hope. You cannot change the past, you cannot control how others will respond, but you can change your own actions. As long as we have breath, there is still time to change.
Studies have demonstrated that when fathers are involved, children perform better academically, are less likely to engage in substance abuse, and are less likely to commit crime, to name only a few benefits. Among the many factors contributing to violence in our culture, the absence of fathers is surely one and deserves ongoing study.
Training children in the ways of the Lord requires a consistent time commitment and intentional actions. We must intentionally teach our children about God and His Word, but it won’t work to focus only on the big stuff while being absent for the small stuff. Such an approach greatly diminishes your ability to teach, and it demonstrates that other things are more important than your children.
Spend time with your children. Every child is different, so the way you spend time with them will be different. Play games, play outside, go camping. Take a walk, ride bikes, talk about computers. Have a tea party, make a treasure hunt, plant a flower. What matters is not so much the activity that you do together but the fact that you are together. Maybe you need to run to the home store or pick up some food. Take a child with you. What do your children want to do? Ask them.
There is no doubt that this is not always easy. Sometimes you need time to yourself. Sometimes you will have to work a little bit extra. Yet if we’re not careful, a little bit extra can turn into a lot extra. As the saying goes, no one ever said on his deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” We need to be intentional, and we need consistent checkups on how we’re spending our time.
Part of investing time in your children is protecting your ability to do so. This means protecting your marriage. Spend time with your wife and flee the things that can ruin a marriage. Flee pornography. Flee alcohol and drugs. Flee selfishness. Flee emotional attachments with other women. Once again, in recent weeks, a prominent minister has disclosed an inappropriate relationship. That could be you or me. It absolutely could. If you think that it couldn’t, you have an over-inflated view of self and a weak view of sin. We must affirm that it absolutely could be us and take intentional steps to make sure that it never is.
If you don’t have kids, did you just waste your time reading? I don’t think so. Kids imitate people. Kids are watching. Whether you know it or not, somebody is watching you and will imitate you in some way.
Why did my son shout out, “Let’s go!” after making his “Dude Perfect” trick shot? Because that’s what Tyler from “Dude Perfect” shouts when he makes a trick shot. Kids are watching.
Certainly more children are watching viral videos than are watching you, but somebody is watching. What’s more, there are plenty of children in the world who would love to have a male role model in their life to imitate. Why not be intentional about it?
Part of John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for Jesus involved turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers (see Malachi 4:6 and Luke 1:17). So, too, in our day, it is time for the hearts of the fathers to turn to their children. Lord, make it so.
 See https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr071.pdf. Accessed 4-9-2018.