Fatherhood is a stewardship. The Lord gives us the blessing of children, but also the responsibility for them: to teach them to love him and his world.
My children are under my care, and my job is to cultivate Christ-like character in them and to help them see the world clearly and learn to investigate it with curiosity—it’s such beautiful world, “charged with the grandeur of God.” It’s easy to become distracted by everything else, so I need to be constantly reminded that nothing I will ever do will be more eternally important than raising my children to love the Lord their God with all their heart and all their soul and all their strength (Deuteronomy 6). And, of course, the surest way for me to do that is to draw near to the Lord myself; I can’t teach what I’m not first receiving.
It says in the scriptures that “we love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This means that any true love I have for my children will be a sharing in the love I receive from God “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Too many times we earthly fathers try to love out of a sense of emotion or duty, and though emotion and duty are good things, they will not be enough to sustain me as a father over time. To depend as a father on emotion or duty alone would be like trying to exhale and then exhale again, without ever breathing in fresh air. It’s when I am receiving and abiding in the love of God that I am able to share that love with my children. I love my children, because God first loved me.
For me to know what a father is like, I need to look to my Heavenly Father, and there I see a God who so loves the world that he sacrifices for it. This means that fatherhood requires sacrifice: I learn to give my life to the Lord and to die to myself, and then the Lord can use me to love my children in the way they most need. And, in the beautiful mystery of the gospel, it’s in the giving of my life that I gain it back, in ways that exceed what I can ask or imagine. In this way, therefore, fatherhood becomes exceedingly joyful: I think I am serving my kids, but in the serving I find myself blessed beyond measure.
Fatherhood is a stewardship, and I’m accountable. But the Lord who blesses us with children is a good God, and he will also bless us with the love we need to be fathers. God wants us to succeed as fathers and wants to say to us “Well done, good and faithful servant.”