By Pastor Matt Hein
I’m not a huge fan of Father’s Day gifts. Maybe it’s because receiving gifts is not one of the love languages that God hardwired into me. Perhaps it’s because I know many children of various ages who will give their father a gift this year but ache for a better relationship with him. It could be that I’m content with what God’s given me and can’t think of what else I might need. Maybe it’s because I know that gifts are coming on Father’s Day and the best gifts, for me, are the ones that are unexpected and out of the blue.
Over the years I’ve learned to graciously receive Father’s Day gifts from my family because they want to bless me. Still, with Father’s Day upon us again, I admit that I have not been thinking much about what I might receive from my family this year. But the other day, out of the blue, I received the best Father’s Day gift!
Over the years I’ve learned to graciously receive Father’s Day gifts from my family because they want to bless me.
Almost eight years ago God blessed me with the opportunity to be a father. When our oldest child was born and my wife and I began our journey as parents, we knew that we didn’t understand everything about being parents. God has a lot to say about families in the Bible and we wanted to take seriously our responsibility to parent our children to love God and love the people around them.
We have worked at it, watched a lot of amazing families along the way and learned from them, and received God’s grace through Jesus for all the times we have failed with our children and each other. I’ll admit, it is hard to be a father in a broken world but God’s grace allows me to keep leading my family.
Over the years we’ve received a lot of parenting wisdom from others. One piece of wisdom that sticks with me as a father comes from Solomon in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” In a broken world this wisdom doesn’t always hold true but more times than not it happens this way. And that leads me to one of the ways that, as a father, God has used me to lead my family.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Most nights, while my wife cares for our youngest, I lead our older three children to bed. It is not always the smoothest process but it always ends with prayer. We remember our baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we sing a song. We always spend time praying to God about our day.
I begin the prayer and then, somewhere in the middle of the prayer, I say each child’s name and they tell God what they are thankful for and ask Him for those things that are on their hearts. It is incredible to hear what our oldest two children tell God. They surprise me constantly with their thankfulness and often catch me off guard with the people and circumstances that they bring to God. We do this night after night and each time our two year old lays and listens in silence.
We do this night after night and each time our two year old lays and listens in silence.
For the past two weeks I’ve been apart from my family. They have been in Wisconsin wrapping up our life there while I began my new role as Minister of Discipleship here at St. Luke-Ann Arbor. As a dad it has been difficult to be separated from my wife and children. I want to be with my family, leading them to know God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness and receiving it from them. I want to be praying with my oldest three at bedtime but have had to be content praying for them from a distance.
The other night, my wife was leading our oldest three through prayer time. At the end of the prayer she noticed that our two-year-old had her hand waving in the air and she was mumbling something. At first she thought that our daughter was misbehaving or stalling settling in for the night. When she bent down to correct her, my wife heard the words being spoken and leaned in closer.
Our two-year-old was praying just like daddy had taught her, just like daddy had led her siblings to pray. It was a simple sentence, but the first time that she had verbalized her own thoughts to the God who created her, marked her with His name in baptism, and loves her. Having my children love Jesus and know He loves them and verbalize this is the best Father’s Day gift I could ever receive.
Our two-year-old was praying just like daddy had taught her, just like daddy had led her siblings to pray.
As Father’s Day approaches this year I look forward to being back together with my family, but this unplanned, out-of-the-blue, spontaneous gift is the best Father’s Day gift I could imagine.