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I was a total jerk the morning my wife found out she was pregnant with our first child. Like many, it took some time to conceive, so I knew we were coming up on the test time. The jerk part, well, I rushed her out into the frigid Chicago winter (after warming the car), so we could get to the train as fast as possible. In my defense, she was just taking too long. Perhaps she was contemplating motherhood or dreaming of a way to tell a husband they were expecting who was not a jerk to her. Instead, the moment was stolen by a man who still struggles to get out of his own way.
After dropping her at the Metra station, I returned home to prepare for the day, only for it to dawn on me. I remembered why she was taking so long. I found the test hidden in the back of the sink cabinet. After seeing that tiny positive mark, I showered and ran out to get a card, tiny socks, and apology chocolate.
In the months afterward, I prepared for fatherhood by skimming the pregnancy books. But I spent more of my time reading and thinking about what the journey for my son would look like. What does it take to make a journey into manhood? How do you craft a boy who is both strong and kind? Finally, I settled on a word for him. Something of a reminder that permeates our house, gentle. A word that implies strength and power used kindly.
Yet, the start of that research journey (Enneagram 5 here) began far less satisfying than most. The books on fatherhood are lacking, putting it gently. The books on stay-at-home fathers are even rarer and usually worse written. Because they are taking care of children, there isn’t time to pause and reflect on what it means to be a father to a 5-year-old when your 2-year-old is peeing down the stairs; thank God they are wooden and not carpeted.
As a person of faith, I thought it would be easy to find stories of strong men from the Big Answer Book, known as the Bible. Well, if you want to learn to be a good father. I can recommend many other role models than almost any man in the Bible. But unfortunately, the Fathers of the Faith are terrible fathers to their biological children.
Don’t believe me? Think about it. Who does a good job? Abraham – well, he went for sacrificing his second son after disowning the first. Eli and Samuel were such bad fathers the Israelites sought taxation. As an American, that’s a rough state to be in; we rebelled over taxes. David – the man after God’s own heart – had a war with Absalom. Name a child of the prophets that is not Hosea’s kid. Paul presents himself to be one of the best fathers in scripture, and he had zero biological children. Joseph, father of Jesus, we don’t get a lot, and I relate to the portrayal found in the movie The Star. Joseph also forgot Jesus in the Temple… just saying it happens… even to the parents of Christ… yeah, I am just gonna let that hang there…
Almost every father portrayal we get from the Bible is awful. Hosea has one of the only family structures we get beyond the Patriarchs, which yeesh. And that whole Gomer situation with the kids… not exactly the family you want over for the Passover feast because God might not pass over that family.
So I consumed content, blogs, books, podcasts, and everything else. Finally, I came to a conclusion. There is a reason all the fatherhood content is so surface level. The surface reading of the Bible and its bad dads are baked into our society. It has been my study since the conception of my first child to read, think, and understand what my faith and several others have to offer us. We have to think and go deeper into parenthood and ourselves to figure this out.
And look, I get it. You are busy and raise your kids. Or, you work a solid ten hours a day. You are exhausted, and it’s not like you hate or want to hold back your family. You want the best for them. You want your best for them. Because that’s what makes us whole. Family makes us whole. Not work, try as we might. Not success or power or money or stuff or experiences… it’s family.
It’s my job to get you to your family. To give you tips, tricks, thoughts, and imagination to get to your family. It’s my job to get you to stop reading this and be present in your best version with your family. So how do we get there? Faith. I know you should’ve seen that coming but read on.
Not my faith or some other religion. Sure, you can add those tools to your parenting. But your faith. The faith you already hold inside you. The thing you already live out and believe. That’s what Faithful Fatherhood is all about. Bringing out the best parts of what you already believe and do to engage with your family makes you whole.
So, read when you run out of faith. Ask questions when you need to find your way. The goal is not to believe what I believe. Believe what you believe, the best parts. Not the crummy questionable bits; work past those. Because those Bad Dads of the Bible (killer band name) give us something to look into past the surface. They show us the brokenness we all hold in our fatherhood, and they show us how to get past it. It just isn’t too late for us. Our stories are still being written.
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