Such is life as a father, bug bites and funny sayings, mixed emotions and hard work. In the last week my life has spun into overdrive a bit. Preaching at church, selling a house and moving, preparing for our upcoming fishing season, coupled with sick kids, spring breaks, a week break for our normal childcare person, etc. It has all felt a bit much. I confess that when things get hard, I get stressed and the lines in my forehead furrow a bit more. I carry my burdens with me.
If you were to ask me, “what do you value most? Or ,“What is your most important role?” I would be quick to respond that though I love pastoring and enjoy different hobbies and find meaning in leading organizations, my highest priority is my relationship with God. ‘Secondly though,’ I would quickly say, ‘is being a great husband and loving father.’ And yet my actions don’t always communicate this. I can often lose sight of my priorities and get caught up in the blazing whirlwind of life without rest and quiet time. In the last week of busyness, my morning times with God have been sacrificed at several times. And instead of starting my day with coffee, scripture, prayer and silence, I hop right into emails, calendar checking, and work. This is not sustainable. This is not healthy. We must refuel daily with Jesus if we are to have anything to offer the world. Jesus says, “for our mouth speaks from that which fills our heart.” (Luke 6:45) Unless we drink at the well of true life we will find ourselves empty.
For me, my failure to live from my priorities was displayed to me through my children.
Lesson #1) Several days ago was a particularly long day, coupled with a sick baby and lots of stressful news from the business up north. I was scurrying here and there and carrying the weight of the world upon my shoulders. My life was not marked with joy or meaning but instead was just full of rush, stress, anxiety. At the end of dinner I went to put our sick baby girl to bed and in my mind thought I would quickly lay her down so that I could return to more of my work that needed to be done. But a prompting from the holy spirit said, ‘stay here with your daughter- she needs you.’ So instead of rushing off, instead of ignoring her needs as I had done much of the day, I sat down in the rocking chair, sang her “Jesus Loves Me” and rocked her slowly to sleep. It took her almost 20 minutes to fall asleep and I confess, it took me almost that long to be fully present with her. I stroked her hair and cheek, kissed her forehead and ran my hands through her curly brown hair. I marveled at the miracle of her life, the way her little chest rose and fell with her inhaling and exhaling, and her perfectly soft skin. I took a moment to live with my priorities in mind.
Lesson #2) Secondly, I realize that sometimes I blow it as a father. This last week Kincaid and I were given free tickets to a Mariners game. He is at the ripe age of 5 when a game with his father is one of the highlights of life. We talked for days about what we would eat at the ballpark and what we would wear (“Papa I’ll wear my Mariners jersey so they’ll know we’re on their team” and about how much fun we would have. The day of the game came and I got out of my office late. Instead of rushing to the game and making the commitment to my son the priority, I continued to selfishly think of my own to-do lists. I went to pick him up and thought I would quickly run an errand for church. The quick errand ended up being 27 miles from where I picked him up….27 miles in the opposite direction from Safeco Field. “Its fine” I thought…I need to get this done. After the errand we turned around “Now is it time to go to the ballpark,” my son asked hopefully? Yes it is. Though the game was half over I thought it would be no big deal. Heading into the city though, we hit heavy traffic. Every route I tried to take to minimize the damage of my earlier decisions was a bad one. Traffic, congestion, construction, etc. By the time we got to Safeco and parked and entered the stadium I was still trying to salvage the date with my son. As we approached the main gate, the announcer’s voice came on “And that’s it folks…thanks for visiting Safeco Field. Have a great night.” We ran up the stairs as thousands of people exited the stadium. We didn’t see a single pitch thrown or batter swing. Well at least let’s get some cotton candy and play at the stadium playground!” I offered hopefully. We walked over to the concession stand as they were sliding down the metal cover. “Sorry honey! Game is over and so are concessions!”
We rushed out to the stadium playground. It was bolted shut. I kept trying to salvage the date and everything I tried was accentuating the mistakes I had already made. At this point I should have just sat down with him and said sorry and asked forgiveness. The worst part? He didn’t cry or yell or even have many questions. He was just so sad and disappointed and silently kept looking at the field with his Mariners hat and Mariners jersey on. I had let him down big time.
I confess: though I say my family is my #2 priority, second only to God, I sometimes forget to live with these priorities in mind.
Scripture tells us that God is like a loving Father who cares deeply about us. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see me, because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Jesus says a few verses later “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:18)
The promise is clear: If we love Jesus, He and His Father will make their abode with us. When we follow God we can trust that He will always look out for us and make us His priority and take care of us. Luckily His love is far greater than my failings as a father. His perfect love always prioritizes His relationship with us as His people.
Back at Safeco Field…Once the reality set in that we missed the game, couldn’t get a snack, couldn’t play on the playground, and that the game was over and the gates were shutting, I kneeled down low and took my son’s face into my hands. “I’m very sorry son. I made a mistake today by us coming down here so late. I won’t make this mistake again and I promise to make it up to you.”
“I forgive you Papa. Can I at least get a foam finger so that I can remember our date?”
And that is how we came to own a Mariners Foam Finger- a symbol that I need to continue to learn how to be a better father, one whose love is shaped and informed by my Heavenly Father’s love for me. And to live with my priorities in mind, making time for daily refueling with God and quality time with the humans I love the most.