I had an interesting experience at a church service recently. One of those moments when “a little child shall lead them.”
During the closing songs, as I had my hands up in the air, my younger daughter decided she wanted to be held, so she climbed up and I held her with my left arm. She then decided that one arm wasn’t good enough, so she turned and pulled my right arm down and put it around her.
I was touched by her gesture, but also a bit annoyed. I wanted to worship God just then. I wanted to “lift up holy hands” to the heavens. I wanted to demonstrate to everyone around me how spiritual I am (did I just say that out loud?).
Then God spoke in that still, small, inaudible voice He likes to use so often.
What He said was that He wanted me to hug my daughter tenderly, because that was how He wanted to be worshipped just then.
I think sometimes we fathers get so caught up in others’ expectations and performance metrics that we miss the chance to just tenderly hold our sons and daughters. We try so hard to have the right “talks” at the right time that we miss the chance to just listen. We strive to check all the right “provider” boxes and miss the chance to just be present with our kids.
Which is a pity, of course, since what our children really want over the long haul is for us to be tender. To listen and respond. To just be there and lovingly receive them as they are, so that they can later become all they’re meant to be.
To do those simple things is ultimately all anyone can ask of us as fathers.
And we all have what it takes to do those simple things for our kids. Let’s encourage one another in that.
Perhaps you’re reading this and you’re not a father, but you know a dad that’s struggling right now. Walk with him. Maybe you know a dad that’s grieving. Sit with him. Maybe you know an imprisoned dad, or an estranged dad, or an overwhelmed, emotionally absent dad. Write to them, and encourage them to write to their sons and daughters, because it’s never too late to love and heal with our words, no matter the pain of the past.
Maybe you know someone that’s never had a dad to speak of. Let them know you’re thinking about them this weekend, and, even more importantly, they have a Heavenly Father who is thinking about them.
It’s the little things that count
These might be seemingly small gestures, but I’m learning that, ironically, godly adulthood and parenting is often a series of baby steps and child-like faith. Because it’s through the small things that God heals and sanctifies us and, in the process, he heals and sanctifies those in our care, too.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as a two-armed hug. Even in church.