I will never forget the moment my daughter, Ana, who was 5 years old at the time, spoke these words to me. I was surprised and convicted. Not because of what she said, but because of what it said about me. She was innocently letting me know that sometimes when she runs to me, I am not completely engaged like a loving father should be. There is a difference between being present and being completely present. My daughter was the tool God used that day to remind me of this truth.
If my half-hearted devotion doesn't work in my relationship with the Lord, then why would I think it would be enough for my precious family? I know we dads are pulled in a lot of different directions. We all feel the pressures of providing the things we perceive our families need. But there is something far more important to our wives, sons and daughters than stuff -- it's us. They desperately need us. Not a part of us, but all of us.
We are the dads! No one can fulfill our calling in our children's lives but us. We are irreplaceable. We are the spiritual leaders of our households. It's time to turn off the computers and TVs, step away from distractions, and focus on what is most important.
The good news is, God never calls us to do something He doesn't give us the strength and wisdom to accomplish (Philippians 4:13). He is with us and equips us for success.
Our children are built to need attention during their developmental years. If we don't take the time to give it to them, they'll find others who will. This fact scares me a little, especially as it concerns my daughters. I want to model for them what a committed Christian man looks like, so that when they are looking for a husband, they'll have no trouble identifying the right one.
I also want to be the man my wife and kids count on for affection, godly wisdom and life-direction. I want to be able to say to them, as Paul said to the early church, "Follow me as I follow Christ."
It seems like an impossible task, right? But don't forget, "...with God, all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). With God. Get it? It's a partnership He initiated. You and God are on this most important task together. We know He is faithful, because that's His nature, but what about us? Are we "in it to win it" when it comes to parenting? I know your answer is yes, so let me encourage you with this truth: your best gift to your children is your whole-heartedness.
God says to us in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart." Every time I read those words, I hear my children saying them to me. You see, my family needs from me what God needs from me. All healthy relationships require whole-hearted commitment. What we lack as fathers can be overcome by devotion.
Make the decision to seek after your children with your whole heart. Give them (and your wife) the best of who you are. Ask God to point out how you have made them feel less important than yourself or your other obligations. If our kids know they are our priority and our treasure, we will have the opportunity to influence them for the rest of our lives.
Here are a few tips from someone who had to learn this lesson the hard way. The next time your son or daughter approaches you to talk:
-- First, stop whatever you are doing, turn and face them.
-- Second, look them in the eyes and focus on what they are saying.
-- Third, repeat what they just told you. Start your response with, "I think I understand what you're saying is …," then repeat it back. This will let them know you are listening and you care.
-- Finally, as you respond or reply, touch them. Take their hand in yours, pat them on the back, hug them, or put your arms around them. This non-verbal communication will say more than any words you could utter.
Let your kids know when they are lonely, discouraged or need to talk, you're the place to come. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and affectionate to one another...." You can show your children better than anyone else what Godly affection looks and feels like.
Nothing sounds sweeter to me than the voice of one of my children. Know that God feels that way about your voice. He is eager to listen to you and hear from you. Speak to the Lord and ask Him to be the difference in the lives of your children and to let you be a part of it.
And when your son or daughter decides to let you close to their heart and tell you something really important to them, be sure and stop whatever else you are doing and "listen with your eyes"!
God bless you, dads, as you love your families the way that your Heavenly Father loves you -- with your whole heart.
Russ Lee is a member of the Christian music group NewSong. He and his wife, Mary, have three children and are active members of New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
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