It is hard for me to describe the joy that I feel in being a father to my 2 boys. Sometimes when I’m walking through a store, Joseph is on my shoulders or in the shopping cart and I can hear him singing to himself. I can see that he is happy and carefree and that brings such joy to my heart. When he is playing, he often calls out to me, “Papa!” I love hearing that sound. When Jacob is playing or moving around the house, he will look up at me with the sweetest smile. When I get home from work, he quickly comes to greet me at the door. I treasure these moments. Fatherhood is indeed a big responsibility, but also a great joy.
Fatherhood can also be exhausting. Our boys are ages 1 and almost 3. Almost every night I lie down in bed exhausted. It’s nearly impossible for me to veg out on the couch because they are constantly demanding attention. Having Papa at home means it is time to have fun! I’ve had my moments of frustration and anger, nights where I’m up when I’d much rather be dreaming. But even in these times of tiredness, I cannot escape the sense of pride and joy I feel in being a father.
God has generously and unselfishly given us the awesome privilege of participating with Him in the creative process. He gives us seed to sow that brings forth life from the mother’s womb. He makes us a source of life, provision and protection for our children and we are much like God to them. It is our responsibility to represent God to them. He gives us the opportunity to teach them and train them to grow up and become mature adults. I am sobered in the knowledge of the impact I can have on their lives for good or for bad, but I’m also aware of the grace God has given me which covers my mistakes.
Recently while sitting at a restaurant, I saw a young man eating with his wife and infant. I had an urge to walk over to him and encourage him, and perhaps I missed an opportunity to be a blessing. What struck me is that this young man bears a responsibility and burden that the single and unencumbered man does not bear. I was single until age 34, so I know what it is like to live the single life. Though singleness has a different set of challenges, the single person is primarily only responsible for self. The married man has the responsibility of providing for his family, leading his family, meeting the needs of his wife, and raising his children. I have great admiration for the man with the courage and initiative to do his best to be his best in these areas.
While fatherhood has its responsibilities, the joys outweigh the burdens. However, the joys will only outweigh the burdens when we take up our cross every day (see Luke 9:23-25). In other words, fatherhood requires a certain dying to self. I can no longer think of myself above my children. In everything I do I have to take them into account.
Jesus said that when we take up our cross, when we lose our lives for his sake, we gain real life (see also Matthew 16:24-26). The man who will not take responsibility for his children will not know the joys of being a father. The absentee dad misses out on the time that could bring him joy, thinking that his selfish pursuits will somehow be more satisfying. But true and lasting satisfaction only comes through righteousness. There cannot be real joy unless there is real responsibility. Much like work, we reap the rewards of what we invest in.
Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” God is the creator of pleasure. He is the author joy. What are some of the ways you enjoy fatherhood?
Soon enough my boys will experience the pain of life. They will one day know how cruel people in this world can be. I hope the only pain I bring into their lives is the temporary pain of discipline that will produce in them a harvest of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:11). We tolerate temporary pain because we know it will bring future joy. As the Proverb says, “A wise son brings joy to his father” (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20; see also Proverbs 23:24). But when discipline is over, I want them to know that they can return to my arms as a safe place where they will be loved and blessed. Knowing they feel safe with me brings me joy.
Without neglecting the responsibilities, we need to prioritize joy. Fatherhood ought to be fun. When I was a boy, my dad played baseball with me in our front yard. We had a burn barrel we used as a backstop. He pitched to me and I hit the ball into a small field across the street. I’m grateful for the time my dad spent with me and the fun I had growing up. It is my hope that I will be able to do the same with my boys – hiking and camping, traveling, playing sports, etc.
For now I read to them, play with them, hoist them up on my shoulders, swim with them, hug and kiss them, let them climb on me, and we go for walks in the wooded park not far from our home. I think that the little things I do with them matter and instill in them that I am present and involved in their lives. In return, I reap the joys of being a father.
Even better, Leslie and I enjoy them together and our family feels complete. They bring us joy in their child-like innocence. They bring us joy in their laughter and wonder. And they bring us joy in their tender affection. Being a Papa makes me happy!