Every dad leaves a legacy. The only question is what kind. The first step to leaving a positive legacy is to love your wife. For some readers that already has not worked out. That does not mean that you cannot leave a good legacy. There are many ways to redeem the father/child relationship. The second part of leaving a legacy that endures is to be an encouragement to your kids. Paul wrote this simple instruction to the church at Colossae.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
The Message translates this verse like this….
Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
I cannot remember hearing a lot of teaching on that verse over the years. It is really easy in this success mad culture to discourage your children. Nearly every dad wants his child to be successful. What is wrong with that desire? There is nothing wrong if we balance that desire with love and encouragement and awareness of your child’s unique design. Sometimes we forget the journey we have traveled in our own lives. Frank Clark said that “a father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.” Ouch.
I came into this whole Dad thing wanting a star athlete or a brilliant scholar. But I had forgotten one little detail. Where did I expect they would dig up those genes to be an All-American quarterback or Rhodes Scholar? I deepened my gene pool considerably when I married Joni but she can only contribute so much.
What I got were three guys ranging from average to very good athletic ability. Very bright but not genius. What God gave me was three godly men of integrity. Men that are kind and loving. I have been blessed more by their character and wisdom than I could have possibly have been blessed by awards and trophies.
When Scripture says that God is our Father, it is telling us that emotional needs can be met by Him. This is where our role as Christian dads becomes so important. There are no perfect earthly dads. But it is critical that we understand the impact that we have on our child’s relationship with God. Some may find it hard to get excited about the scriptural descriptions of God as a father because of the imperfect models of fatherhood they have experienced here on earth.
Some remember a father who was too wrapped up in his job, his buddies, and his hobbies to provide much support or affirmation. He might have been one of those men who believed that their only job was to bring home a paycheck, while Mom was responsible for everything else. Others might recall a dad that was demanding, cold, and unapproachable. Children can tend to transpose their father experience when they think of God as Father. Harold S. Hubert said that “children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.” That is grace. That helps a child to understand how they can receive God’s love.
I have talked to many men my age who are still desperate for the approval of their fathers. And I know that is true for women as well. Jim Valvano, the now deceased coach, said “My father gave me the greatest gift that anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
In the last post I noted that I had asked my sons to critique my performance as a dad…both good and bad. Here is one comment from eldest son Matt.
The biggest lesson you taught me was to believe in my ability to accomplish things I never thought possible. From the kid who got C’s in 8th grade math to going to graduate school at a great university. I could never have accomplished this without parents, and a father, that believed in me.
Don’t EXPECT your children to be perfect. Don’t expect them to meet all of your expectations. Don’t expect them to fulfill all of your goals for them…to be what you want them to be. Be grateful for the unique way God designed your kids. Too many fathers try to live out their own lives through their children. Every child is different. They are not a clone of you (Thank God!).
My son Scott wrote about something that he wished I had done differently.
I wish that you would have made more of an effort to understand me and my personality at an earlier age. I think Mom did a good job at this, but that might have just been because I opened up to her more.
This is a great example of how husbands and wives are a team. Joni told me that I needed to spend more time with Scott. She sensed what I did not. She told me that I gravitated to his brother who was more like me. She made me mad, hurt my feelings and made me feel like a bad dad. And thank God she did that. I became intentional about coaching Scott’s teams and being with him. It still took a few years for us to really understand one another but I believe Joni’s loving intervention saved our relationship. Today our relationship is awesome. Who knows what would have happened if my bride had not challenged me about that shortcoming in my relating to Scott.
Father’s Day might be a great time to give a gift back to your children. The gift of affirmation. Perhaps the gift of forgiveness.
Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called “The Capital of the World”. Hemingway told the story of a father and his teenage son. The son had sinned against his father and in his shame he ran away from home. The father searched all over Spain for him, but still he could not find the boy. Finally, in the city of Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed an ad in the daily newspaper. The ad read:
“PACO MEET AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA.”
The father prayed that maybe the boy would see the ad and maybe – just maybe – he would come to the Hotel Montana.
And on Tuesday at noon, the father in Ernest Hemingway’s story arrived at the Hotel Montana and he could not believe his eyes. A squadron of police officers had been called out to keep order among the eight hundred young boys named “Paco” who had come to meet their father in front of the Hotel Montana. Eight hundred boys named Paco read the ad in the newspaper and hoped it was for them. Eight hundred “Pacos” came to receive the forgiveness they so desperately needed.
All children want the approval of their fathers. I am not talking about the ridiculous and disingenuous “you are the best at everything” drivel that some parents spew. Eventually the child will figure out that you are not being authentic. I am talking about affirming what is true about their unique design.
Affirmations like “you are kind.”
“You are creative.”
“You are honest.”
But mainly your child needs to hear this. “You are enough. I love you for who you are.”
If you have not done so, I encourage you to give the gift of approval this Father’s Day. Give your children the gift of believing in them. Step 2 to leaving a positive legacy as a dad is simple. Encourage your children. Affirm them with grace and honesty. You will be amazed at the power of that simple act.