What does it take to be a leader? How would we score if we were rated in our leading abilities? More importantly, what will the results of our leadership be in five, ten, or twenty years?
Mary, our seven-year-old daughter, wanted to know if she and Jesse could go with the other three children to their appointment this afternoon. Unfortunately, the car we were taking would not have had enough seatbelts for all five of the children. I had planned on taking the smaller vehicle and was hesitant to change plans.
It is so easy for me to lock in on my own agenda and preferences. I would like to automatically choose to put others first. It amazes me that I can struggle with that, but it is true. I have to make it a conscious decision. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). Vainglory means self-conceit. We are not to do anything based on the (false) assumption of our importance. In other words, we are not to put our interests first.
That can be a difficult thing when Dad is the one who is able to make the final decision. It is easy to think that means we can make the decision that is best for us. However, the best decision is the Lord’s decision.
I find I need to run each situation past the Lord and ask Him to tell me what I should do. As I took this decision to the Lord, He quickly impressed on me that my choosing the vehicle that would exclude my little ones was ridiculous. I love my time with them, and here I was willing to pass it up because I wanted to take the smaller car. It was hard to believe I was about to make such a silly decision.
We love our home, but one thing it lacks is storage for items like bicycles. With seven bicycles, that poses a real problem! Part of the solution is that I have three bicycles hanging upside down in the garage. That works out okay most of the time, but when the children want to ride those bikes, I have to pull the car out of the garage so we can get the bikes down. That probably doesn’t sound like a huge problem, but selfishly, there are times when it is very inconvenient; I may be working, in the middle of a project, or on the telephone. It is pretty easy to justify not taking the time to pull out the car to get down the bicycles when I’m in the middle of something “important.”
The other morning I was doing my beginning-workday routine of clearing out e-mail and doing other desk-related chores when one of the children asked me to go through his birthday list with him. I wasn’t officially on the “clock” yet, but I had to deal with those other things so I could begin “work.” To make matters worse, the previous evening I had told this child that I was available to go through his list with him, but he had something else going then that he wanted to complete. So now it was convenient for him but not for me. I was beginning to feel irritated about it because I was forced to make a decision: was he more important than what I was doing? I’m not saying we drop everything every time, just because our children want something, but are we willing to if the Lord directs?
This verse should ring loud and clear in our minds: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). As we evaluate the decisions that are brought to us each day, are we thinking of our children’s best interests? Are we zealous not to provoke them to wrath or cause them to be discouraged (Colossians 3:21)?
I expect we may have forgotten what it is like to have to go to someone else for a decision when we want to do something. I know it has been a few years for me. If every time I wanted to do something all I heard was “no,” I would get pretty frustrated. That is the difficulty of being a real leader: knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
On the other side of this discussion can be a tendency to say “yes” just because it is what the child wants. However, it might be against the direction the Lord is leading the family. Dads will justify the “yes” as only a small compromise or not a battle worth fighting. Don’t fall for that trap. If the Lord has directed in an area, it is a battle that must be fought and won! There can be no compromise.
How sad when we hear dads justify wrong decisions that they knew they shouldn’t have made, but the child “really wanted to.” The truth is, Dad said “yes” when he should have said “no.” But so often the dads are afraid of losing their children’s hearts if they say “no.”
We don’t lose our children’s hearts when we do the right thing. We lose their hearts when we do the wrong things for many years. Keeping our children’s hearts means purposing to say “yes” every time I can, even if it costs me something. It may be an inconvenience or an outright difficulty for me. If it is an opportunity to show them I love them, I value them, and want their best, then I am committed to saying “YES!”
As I shared, this does not come naturally for me because I’m selfish. However, the Lord Jesus has been working on me in this area, and I’m so grateful He has. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). It is hard to even use that verse here. I know nothing of taking up my cross daily. The minor inconveniences I face cannot even be compared to taking up my cross. Yet, if that is the case, why do I struggle?
May we be committed to being “yes” men. May we purpose that we will do everything we can to say “yes” to our children, because we know that there are many “no’s” that must be served if we are to be faithful and trusted fathers. There will be numerous things that our children want to do that will not be good for them. If we have proven our love through the years, they will continue to trust us with their hearts.