An Uphill Journey:
Let me start by saying that this is not about the shortcomings of my father, rather it is the path in which I found God leading me to understanding what it means to become a graceful father. I was born into a Christ professing Hmong family; being one of six. Growing up among my siblings was not easy but we managed. Many times, in those days, hearing the word “sorry” was rare. If we ran into trouble, we were disciplined; rightly so, but then there were occasions where everyone was punished for one person’s disobedience. Life moved along, but what happened was the buildup and accumulation of anger and frustration.
Nevertheless, I grew up, married, had children of my own and found myself using the same tactics and methodologies of discipline. Father/son trips were great yet there were times where it ended with chaos and a quiet ride home. There were moments where I tried to show grace and ended up apologizing but even then, it felt as though I lacked the understanding as to why these moments kept reoccurring.
Because I Am Your Father:
There was always a line to end any and all disagreements. If at once, I felt as though my children were no longer listening or I needed to end the conversation, I simply ended it with, “because I am your father.” No questions asked and surely, no further explanation needed. I repeated exactly the same words my own father. Respect for elders—especially our own parents—meant that there were no questions asked. They were always right.
Yet, Romans 3:23 teaches “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is not a perfect person nor a perfect parent (in this case a father). How then must we respond when we are faced with disagreements with our children? As fathers, we have the right to raise and teach our children yet on one hand, it seems cloudy because of conflicting worldviews. In light of the Gospel, we find two foundational components in guiding our parenting: (1) self-denial and (2) the power of grace.
Dying to the Self. Often times, I would think, “if we just stopped doing this, then this would no longer happen.” “If we were to get rid of these outings or moments and avoid it altogether, then there would be less disagreements.” “I can do what I want and my children can do as they please.” Convincing myself that I could be able to work it out just led back full circle; it was to ensure my own happiness and avoid the vicious cycle of having to apologize to my children.
Luke 9:23 says, “...If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To carry the cross of suffering daily and deny the self is one of the most rewarding things in life. Our apologies to our children teach them that we are able to die to our own pride and self-righteousness.
Through Grace. An observation made in life was this: to admit wrong or apologize is showing weakness and vulnerability. Many times, my own children confronted me with truths about my own shortcomings as a father. They would respond in frustration and anger not because they were wrong but it was how I responded or communicated that set the pace for the rest of the conversation.
Those moments of disagreements taught me that, we too as fathers fall short. We actually make mistakes. If we continue on to what Paul says in Romans 3:24, here is what we would find, “… justified by his GRACE (emphasis mine) as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We find a different person at work. The conflicting worldviews is this; we walked in “darkness” and until the moment of new birth, did we finally understand that it was not by our own self-help methods but by GRACE that we should father our children.
Not Just a Word but a Lifestyle:
Albert Mohler says, “a reputation for inconsistency betrays a lack of conviction, and a lack of conviction is the nullification of leadership.”
The way we, as fathers, lead and respond to our children matters in that our reactions and tone, time and time again, teach our children whether or not we are serious about leading them. Graceful fathering is not weakness nor is it a pass for passive parenting. No, graceful fathering is learning how to admit that as a father we also have blind spots and weaknesses, there is another at work in us, and our shortcomings have already been settled upon the cross of Christ.
Kx. Nchaiv Vaaj Yaaj (BS, Crown College) is a husband to Shannon and a father of two boys and two girls. He is currently serving as the Senior Pastor at Alliance Bible Church in Coon Rapids, MN. He is passionate about the preaching of the Word, disciple-making, and seeing the glory of God resound in all facets of life.