I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 4.
I became a dad long before I had kids of my own. As a children’s and youth pastor, I dove right in to the lives of the kids of our church. My wife and I would respond “Sure we do! Lots of them!” when people asked if we had any kids and while they were not our biological kids, they were, in some small way, our kids. These kids occupied our prayers and ate at our table. We worried about them. We engaged in thousands of conversations. We exchanged wisdom with them and poured the Word of God into them. We did life together and something interesting happened. These spiritual kids of ours never once called us by the title of “leader” or “volunteer.” That’s one of the greatest things about children and youth – their very make up always desires or invokes an encounter that is far beyond a title.
While our home was usually filled with kids, the day came when we brought home our firstborn from the hospital. The moment I was called “Dad” for the first time by our girl actually happened when we were on our church stage dedicating her in front of our church family. Right in the middle of the ceremony, she yelled “Da Da” as she yanked on my necktie. My heart melted and in the seriousness of that moment, I was reminded of the high calling of what it means to be a dad. It was enough to bring joy to my eyes and yet a little bit of fear to my heart. Will I be good enough? Will I make the right decisions? Will I model Christ to my children? Will I be what they need me to be? I was asking myself so many questions about things that have required so much faith. As I looked out at the crowd on that dedication Sunday, I was reminded that I’m not alone. The body of Christ was there and is there now. We have since been blessed with another precious little girl. I am constantly reminded that God will orchestrate all the moments of impact in their lives to shape and mold them into the image of His Son.
As I take some time to reflect upon this Father’s Day, I have been thinking a lot about those powerful unexpected dads in my life. When I look back on my years as a child and teenager, I have come to realize that I had a cadre of men enlisted by God to help shape and mold me. The list includes pastors, mentors, coaches, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, police officers, bull riders, engineers, businessmen, musicians, artists, academics, professors, teachers, employers, and the list goes on. Each of them has left a powerful mark on me and have become a part of my faith journey. Each of them played a part in shaping me as a man and father in the most unexpected but completely planned ways, orchestrated by God. Each of them stepped into the messy masterpiece that I am and accepted the challenge to never leave me the same. I am grateful for and to all of these unexpected dads in my life.
As we celebrate Father’s Day this coming weekend, might you take some time to reach out and thank one or two of the unexpected dads in your own life? After you have done that, would you seriously consider the opportunity to take up the high calling of being an unexpected dad in the life of a child? Instead of neckties, gadgets or gizmos acquired this weekend, could you receive something far better? One of the greatest needs of children today is the daily presence and impact of a father. They won’t call you “leader.” They won’t call you “volunteer.” They will call you by name. They will want you to tell them your story. They will look for a seat at the table in your life. Their hungry eyes will look at the holy wisdom they are starving for and that you have acquired throughout life’s great journey. They will bring their messy mosaic, all of it, and extend an invitation to you to help shape their next piece.