It takes hold in stages.
At least, it is starting to for me.
You don’t Become Dad overnight.
Well, you do, technically.
But only in name.
I’m ten years in and only starting to wake up to The Calling.
Trying to figure out how to get a house, and then keep a house from falling apart;
and then to pay for said house;
how to make something of yourself professionally; ideally in a profession that doesn’t make you want to jump off a bridge;
ideally where you’re good enough at it that they want to keep you around;
while keeping things up with your wife;
and making sure your kids stay fed, clothed and alive, and, and, and …
there’s definitely enough to worry about that comes with the job of being Dad that you shouldn’t feel too guilty about being distracted from the actual heart of the matter for a good while. But, eventually, ideally sooner than later, I do think it’s worth waking up to.
What does it mean to be “Dad”?
If the lights are going on because it’s the first time you’ve asked yourself the question and you’re thinking “Oh damn, I didn’t know the assignment,” Don’t worry.
Most dads don’t.
It’s not something we’ve been taught to pay attention to.
Most just assume it’s innate: something that happens once we have a kid. We automatically transform into a father.
I’ve been reading a bunch of books lately - books a lot of dads love - Rich Dad Poor Dad, Atomic Habits, Sovereignty; all great reads. All have made me a better person. A better father. I’d recommend them.
There are dad-hacks, home-improvement tips, health programs and finance books. There is a lot of growth needed to become the man we want in our hearts to be. But the doing, and the learning, and the practice will only get you so far. Big houses, strong bodies, and large bank accounts does not a man make.
There’s a pivotal point, in the becoming dad project. A make-or-break. A critical task along your critical path. And it’s probably not what you think.
In the Gospels, there’s this scene. Basically, Jesus spends thirty years being a regular guy. He lives a quiet life where He hangs out with his adopted father and learns carpentry and is pretty much a nobody. Then He meets John the Baptist (the guy who has a thing for wild-locusts and long-beards) who takes Him to the river to baptize Him. When he does, the heavens open up and a voice is heard that says:
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
That does it.
From there Jesus sort of “wakes up”. That’s the beginning of his story as “Christ” where He starts healing people, preaching, and casting out demons.
Before this voice was heard, He was just some guy that lived with his parents for way too long.
Dads, we need to hear that voice.
“You are my beloved son, with you I am well-pleased.”.
If you haven’t heard those words from your dad repeated in a million ways, through trips to the park, and late-night snuggles, and piggyback rides, and wrestles, and TIME SPENT teaching skills, camping, hunting, or whatever it is that gives you the message that, yes:
You’re worth it
I want to spend time with you,
You’ve got what it takes,
You are my beloved son, with you, I am well pleased.
then you’ve probably got your work cut out for you. It’s a lot harder to be one if you didn’t have one.
If you haven’t heard that voice from your dad, it’s likely because he hadn’t heard it from his. And the story will continue until someone “wakes up” and breaks the chain. Your Neanderthal biology and your relationship with your own father will continue to run the show.
A lot of becoming dad is about undoing and unlearning. Healing. About getting out of our way enough to hear that voice say,
“I love you. You got this.”
I have come to believe that being the man of the house means loving your crew into who they are. Affirming is the number one job of the Father.
But we need to hear it first. To look ourselves in the mirror every morning and know in our boots that we’re loved requires a lot of undoing, healing, forgiving … we need to become free from everyone and everything that has ever made us doubt that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”.
To get there requires a lot of TIME SPENT:
- With ourselves allowing the hurts to surface and heal.
- In relationships with men who can convey that message to us.
- And with He whose love for us surpasses all knowledge and understanding.
If the Church wasn’t so funked up we’d realize that’s what Christianity is actually for: Trying to get us to wake up to the fact that we’re loved.
To have each new dad know in their bones that they are loved by the Father. From there, loving like the Father flows easily, naturally. And that, me thinks, is precisely the assignment.