Tonight I came close to being one of those colossal jerk dads who get mad at their child for not performing well on the soccer field (or whatever field you use to live vicariously through your child).
I dropped AJ off for his practice then drove quickly to Dick's Sporting goods to get him a pair of cleats that fit properly. Last week, before his first practice, he was complaining that his "school" shoes were too tight, so I got him cleats a size bigger than his school shoes. They were too big. I didn't notice until tonight when I tightened them up before practice and could feel a huge space between his big toe and the end of the shoe. The poor kid was tripping on himself. So I ran to Dick's to get him a pair that will fit before his game on Saturday.
When I returned to catch the last part of his practice, I noticed he wasn't hustling as much as I'd like to see him hustle. I had this little twinge of frustration with his half-hearted demeanor. I could tell the clod-hopper's he was wearing, thanks to me, were bothering him, but still, when you lose the ball- get it back for crying out loud! I played soccer my whole life up through college and have coached for many years since. I realize the potential to be a real jerk to my boys trying to make them in to the next Ronaldinho (if you don't know who he is, I pity you).
So, as I stood there thinking of how I would verbally scold him for his lack of effort and concentration, I was flooded with reminders of promises I have repeatedly made to not cause my son to shrink at my presence but rather welcome me with confidence and security. I have to tell you, it's tough and I don't always succeed.
I'm reminded of a precious passage in 1 John-
1 John 2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
Because of my standing in Christ and my personal relationship with Him (abiding in Him), I need not shrink away from God, but rather I can welcome being in His presence with confidence and security. I need not be sheepish, ashamed, or scared. God has not verbally mauled or abused me, instead, He gave His own Son for me. The more time I spend with Him, the more comfortable I get in His presence.
Right after college I was a volunteer youth leader at our church. There was a particular father and a son who I was close with. For several years the father didn’t spend much time with his son as he was always busy. The son got in to trouble at school and called me to help him. I immediately asked if he had told his father about his trouble. The son told me he was scared of his father. He was scared of his father because he hardly knew him. They spent no time together and therefore did not have a good relationship. It was sad how this son could not approach his father with confidence. I was able to talk with the father and tell him that I thought he needed to spend more time with his son. The father adjusted his schedule to spend more time with his son. Their relationship began to improve greatly.
My observation is this- the more time the father and the son spent together, the more they grew to know each other. For the son, he grew to understand his father’s love for him. He grew secure in his father’s acceptance of him and love for him. At one time, not really knowing his father well, he was terrified at confessing his faults and shortcomings to his father. Now, with a new connection having been established, he was open and transparent with his dad. In fact, he had fewer instances where reprimand was needed.
Bottom line-I can approach my Father in heaven with confidence because Jesus Christ has given me access to Him! Secondarily, and back to my son and me- I really believe his concept of God is heavily shaped by our relationship. If I make it a practice of shaming, scolding, and castigating him when he screws up, what will that do to his concept of His heavenly father?
But, what about all my mess-ups? I've thought allot about that since I'm no expert on fathering. I think my mess-ups (a.k.a SINS) against him and my other boys can be used by God to help them in their spiritual formation so long as I demonstrate honesty, confession, and repentance when I blow it. I've had to ask my boys to forgive me on several occasions. Here's the key as I see it- I can't just ask their forgiveness and go on repeating the cycle of sin- I have also asked them to help hold me accountable to not continue repeating these sins. It's a powerful thing when your 8 year old becomes an agent of sanctification in your life by holding you accountable to not sin! Of course, I also commit to doing the same for them.
Anyways, where was I? Oh yes- I came real close to a major mess up with my boy tonight. Instead, after a few pivotal moments when he came off the field, the Lord allowed me to calmly challenge him to work harder at the next practice, etc, etc on the ride home.
He probably won't be the next Ronaldihno, but he's a great boy who ought never shrink in my presence.