My husband and I are often amused when someone praises us for being good parents. They see that our two adult children and their families are strong Christian believers and are well-adjusted and accomplished, and it is clear that they are trying to figure out how in the world that happened. Obviously, they are surprised that we ended up being good parents and clueless that their shock is more than a little patronizing. Oh, well. Whatever!
Two psychologist friends we visited when our children were pre-teens expressed amazement that our daughter and son were "well-behaved and good-mannered" and that we had "such a good relationship with them." Then they added, "And, you aren’t even psychologists!"
At this Father’s Day, I want to highlight the factors that make my husband such a wonderful father and enable him to have such extraordinary influence in the lives of his children and grandchildren.
Let me stress at the outset that Gil is not a plaster saint, nor is he perfect. Early on, in fact, some people wondered about his potential as a father. Long before our own children were born, my husband’s sister, on seeing her brother’s disinterest in children, informed him, "Gilbert, you will HAVE to love your own kids!" Since he never "suffers fools gladly" and has little patience with incompetence or hypocrisy, my mother expected him to be short-tempered and too stern with our children; she frequently expresses amazement at what a wonderful dad and grandfather Gil turned out to be.
When our children were toddlers, we taught a high-school Sunday School class and were counselors for the teenage youth group at our church. One of our first classes entailed discussing the "abundant life" that Christ offers to Christians. We began by asking them to describe an abundant life. One after another, the teens talked about material things. It became clear that few of them had any understanding of the Christian life. That experience taught us that, as parents, we had to be intentional about teaching our children a Biblical worldview and instilling in them the principles that would enable them to become strong believers.
Since seven is the perfect number, I want to highlight seven things that Gil did right. He continues to do those things right! New fathers and potential fathers would do well to follow his example.
- My husband, the father of our children, is a Godly man of character and integrity. He leads a life of transparency that continues to be a steadfast example for our children. The Book of Kings in the Bible has more than a dozen examples of evil kings in Israel––men who did evil things "like their fathers before them." Unlike those kings, our children have always had a "Godly inheritance" in their father. He doesn’t "provoke them to wrath" and he leads them "in the paths of righteousness" through his insightful advice and concern for their spiritual well-being.
- Their father loves me, his wife, unconditionally. One of the most important things a father can do for his children is to love and respect his wife, their mother, and to model husbandly dedication and responsibility. Again, our marriage has confounded even some who have known us since before our marriage. One very close relative several years ago confessed that she didn’t think our marriage would last "because we argued all the time." That relative confused intense discussions of issues and ideas with "arguing."
My husband gives me the respect of enjoying talking with me. We talk intensely about anything and everything; he respects my opinion even when we vehemently disagree or hold diametrically opposite ideas. He doesn’t back down, but he doesn’t browbeat me into silence or into pseudo-agreement, either. Our children grew up hearing us talk about everything, though Gil is analytical and I’m intuitive; he is detail-oriented and I’m big picture; he is methodical and I’m creative, etc. But we have similar tastes, viewpoints and outlooks. We have the same goals in life and the same worldview about life. Our children have seen us work together as a team, respecting each other’s gifts and training.
- My children’s father, my husband, gives them unconditional love, too. He enjoys being with them and has made them a priority throughout their whole lives. Our kids know that God "delights" in them because their earthly father delights in them. Gil was Gil Jr.’s coach in Little League baseball and basketball; he spent hours spotting and encouraging Charmaine as she mastered the back handspring for her team’s cheerleading competitions. When our children faced difficulty or unfairness, he gave sympathy freely, but he taught them not to wallow in self-pity, instead to govern their emotions and move on to whatever open door God had for them next. Most importantly, he taught them that God was in control and that He loved them and wanted the best for them, too.
- He is totally reliable and absolutely trustworthy. When he says he will do something, he does it. His promises are true. He is a hands-on, involved and available dad. It is a wonderful gift when fathers can be trusted and when they give the gift of themselves to their children. The Book of James describes "good and perfect gifts" as coming from the Father. James refers to the Father as one who "does not change like shifting shadows." Earlier books of the New Testament refer to the Holy Spirit as the "promise of the Father." My children are incredibly blessed by having a dad who is a "rock" for them.
- He corrects them firmly, with consistency. The Bible constantly refers to God as "Father." My husband made it easy for our children to believe in God, their Heavenly Father, because their earthly father was consistent and approachable, firm and reasonable. Like the Heavenly Father, their earthly father instructs them with an "easy yoke" and "light burden." I remember once when Gil Jr. was in high school and his room was a disaster. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was to get in there and have everything straight in one hour. Gil Sr., who was working on something else at the time, called me over and told me that I should work alongside Gil Jr.; otherwise he would be overwhelmed by such a monumental challenge. I followed his suggestion and that sent an important message to our son that we were willing to work with him. At the same time, it provided an opportunity to teach him how to handle a big job by tackling specific aspects of the task one at a time.
- My husband has abundant wisdom, discernment and good judgment. The Scriptures warn parents against "provoking their children to wrath" (Ephesians 6:4). Fathers who make foolish statements, decisions and actions are not good examples for their children. One pastor estimates that only half of the children of Christian dads also become Christians; that’s how important a father’s influence is. That estimate points out, though, that other factors are equally important.
I remember hearing Dr. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, describe his father’s influence. He said that his dad was not a Christian, but he was a man of integrity and wisdom. Dr. Hendricks shocked me by saying, "If I had to choose between a Christian dad who wasn’t a man of integrity and a non-Christian father who was, I’d choose the non-Christian anytime." After seeing the results of the inconsistency, bad judgment and emotional distance of some Christian fathers, I can better understand Hendricks’ statement.
- My husband was intentional in teaching our children about God. The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy stresses the importance of teaching "when you sit at home,” “when you walk along the road," as well as "when you lie down and when you get up." Further, we are told to tie God’s principles to our hands and bind them to our foreheads. We are instructed to "write them on the doorframes of our houses" and "post them on the gates" into our yards. In other words, we are to utilize every means at our disposal to teach our children about God’s Word and His instruction about the Christian life. My husband was exceptional at finding opportunities to teach our children from real-life experiences; he was constantly communicating with them about his own struggles and his own experiences in walking with Christ. He invested himself wholeheartedly in their spiritual development.
Perhaps the defining moment of his fathering came when both our children were in college. My husband lost his job. Some of our friends advised us not to tell the kids. Gil decided that they would immediately sense that something was wrong, and it would be better for them to know exactly what the problem was rather than for them to imagine all the horrible other possibilities that "might" be wrong. We told them, and it was obvious that they felt trusted and affirmed as full-fledged family members. They learned that there are times when parents need support, too. We went through that experience together as a family, drawing closer to each other and going through that bad time just as we shared all the wonderful times –– together, open and transparent with each other.
They say that the most important decision anyone makes, next to choosing Christ, is their choice of a mate. I agree totally with that statement. I’ve been extraordinarily blessed with the man I fell in love with and married––among the best surprises is that he is such a great dad! But, of course, the qualities that make him such a good father are the same ones that make me love him and make him such a great husband, too.