By Pastor Matt Hein

“Dad, we watered all the plants and pulled all the weeds.” As I heard my seven-year-old son’s simple words, something struck me. My children were taking care of our yard back in Wisconsin because they knew how important it was to me to take care of it. They had watched me serving our family and neighborhood by keeping our property maintained and looking nice.

Before leaving to begin ministry in Ann Arbor, I had asked them to take care of the yard, but I wasn’t there directing them to water the plants and pull the weeds, nor had Jennifer reminded them. It may have been something as simple as caring for our yard but their act of service revealed a deeper reality that made me stop and take notice. 

My children were doing what they had seen me doing. What was important to me had become important to them.

“Dad, we watered all the plants and pulled all the weeds.”

Reflecting on that simple exchange of words with my son reminded me of a phrase that often gets quoted at Father’s Day, an exchange recorded in the Bible between Joshua (a significant Old Testament leader), and the people of God that Joshua was called to lead and serve.

At the end of his life Joshua gathered the people of Israel and said, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Joshua knew well that Israel had seen him serving the LORD and as a result (from a human perspective) they had served the LORD, too. He also knew that once he was gone the people would face a choice and fathers would play a crucial role in whether their families would follow the LORD who had called them from slavery in Egypt to freedom and life.

Whether in the days of Joshua or in 2014, it is likely that the things that are important to me, those things that my children see me doing and the places where they see me serving, will be the things my children find to be important. They will likely serve what and who they see me serving.

They will likely serve what and who they see me serving.

That reality is, frankly, unsettling. It forces me to stop and evaluate. What gets my first and best attention? Do I love my wife in words and actions that bring her blessing? Where do I invest my time and energy? Do my children see me making choices that align with what I say I love and value?

Do my family, those closest to me, my neighbor, my co-workers, etc. see me serving the LORD as I serve them? If I am honest, the answers to these questions reveal my failure to serve my God and the people around me. No matter how good I get at serving the LORD by loving and serving others, I will always drop the ball somewhere. When my family experiences that, I know it challenges their service to the LORD.

But that drives me, as a father, to turn my eyes to my heavenly Father. Where I fail my family, God the Father is faithful to me. Where my words for my wife and children bring hurt, His words in Jesus speak love and forgiveness into my life. Where I serve the wrong priorities for my time, He makes me His greatest priority by sending His Son to die for my sin. Where my service fails, He picks me up and gives me His life, His strength, His courage, and His heart to begin again. I’m not saved by being perfect but rescued from my imperfection by my heavenly Father’s grace in Jesus.

Where I fail my family, God the Father is faithful to me.

“Dad, we watered all the plants and pulled all the weeds.” As I reflect on my seven-year-old son’s simple words, something strikes me. My children are serving how, what, and who they see me serving. They are serving me in response to their love for me. As a child of God I see my heavenly Father serving me through Jesus.

Experiencing that sacrificial love time and time again renews me to be a blessing that points my family and those around me to Jesus, even if it is as simple as taking care of my yard and including my children in that act of service. As a father, forgiven and renewed, I will keep striving to make Joshua’s words my own: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” And as my children see my service back this up, it is likely that these will become their words, too.

Challenge: As a father or a father-figure, what gets your top priority and best service? How do these lead your family or those you’re called to serve to follow the LORD?

Prayer: Father, take my life and let it be set apart for your glory, and for the blessing of the ones you have called me to serve. Forgive my failings through Jesus and renew me to lead those around me, through my words and actions, to follow and serve you. Amen.