The Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Group Blogging Project continues.
Chapter 8 – Teach her who God is – is brought to you by Juno Award winning recording engineer, photographer, and father of two girls Eugene Huo.
‘A parent’s main job is not to be a parent, but to be a person.’ The moment we understand this we realize that everything the Bible says about being a man or woman of God applies to being a parent.- Douglas Webster, SOULCRAFT
As I listened to the audiobook version of chapter 8 (thus allowing me to surf the web and check my twitter and facebook at the same time) I smiled at the irony of the title. “Show Her Who God Is”. As a seminary trained, serving in the church kind of guy, I thought, “Perfect. This should be easy. I know how to do that.” I have two girls, ages 5 and 6.83 years old. I recalled stunning theological discussions with my oldest when she was a 3 year old about “Where is God?” and “What happens when we die?” I thought about prayer time before bed, and making them go to Sunday school. I thought about all those little moments when I was able to squeeze in an object lesson about sharing, or about kindness. Mentally I gave myself an A+ for teaching my girls about God.
And then I heard the story of a daughter who was most deeply impacted by the memory of her father, sitting in his chair early in the morning, eyes closed in prayer, or reading his Bible. It was that image, she said, that led her to the faith that she now had as an adult. It was that image that changed her path. Just a simple, quiet act on her father’s part. No grand speeches or convincing arguments, just doing faith, sitting and praying and reading the Scripture. She watched him sit in his chair. He was real and so was his faith. That was all it took.
When I was 17 I was similarly impacted by a seemingly small action. I grew up attending church, but by that time I had given up on any kind of meaningful faith. I was adrift, having broken up a relationship with a girl, feeling completely empty and searching for something to fill the void. I happened to be having dinner with someone and as our food came, I picked up my fork and started to dig in. As I lifted the fork to my mouth I looked up and saw my friend* with her eyes closed, in prayer, giving thanks for her food. At that moment I was powerfully reminded of what I was looking for. That simple act of saying grace pushed me to seek out God again, and started my journey of faith that continues on now.
The title of this chapter is really shouldn’t be “Teach her about God” but “Show Her Who God Is”. I realized that showing is a lot different than teaching. Showing is different than talking, different than discussing or preaching, different than lecturing. Showing involves seeing something. Showing involves more than words. It involves being someone, doing something.
If we are to show our daughters who God is, then we need to be men of God. And don’t think that we have to have all the answers. A man of God is not someone who simply has answers, but is a person who earnestly seeks after God and desires to know Him. Meeker suggests that if you know nothing, but begin your faith journey at the same time as your daughter, she will be thrilled. And as you grow in your faith, she will grow in hers.
Meeker writes that as fathers we are often afraid to talk about spiritual matters. We don’t know what to say, and so we back out of saying anything at all. If you are in ministry, and a father, I feel the danger lies in thinking that we do have all the answers. Having all the right theology in the world doesn’t make up for what we fail to do, unfortunately. It doesn’t recover family time lost to committee meetings and message preparation. Work life balance is even more challenging as a minister, and we can easily send the message that our work is more important than our family. We can say that God is close and accessible, but if we are always busy and unapproachable, our daughters will wonder if God is like that too. If we are harsh or demanding with our daughters, or say things that are cruel or belittling, our daughters will wonder if God really is love. Our actions really do speak louder than words.
I have resolved never to preach at home. I will be and do, more than just talk. I will show my girls who God is, by the man I strive to be.
*Incidentally, this friend later became my girlfriend, and then she became my wife and the mother of our two girls. The moral of the story? Never be afraid to say grace, you never know where it might lead!