In 2013, I found out I was becoming a father. I sought much advice, received more than I asked for, and eventually took most of it with a grain of salt. However, the wisdom that stuck with me the deepest was a short conversation I had with my aunt Lynda. Lynda had been helping me out a lot during this chapter of my life. I trusted her deeply. In this convo, I did not ask for advice, and she technically didn’t give me any. Instead, I told her something I didn’t feel safe to admit to anyone else, “I can’t believe I’m becoming a father. I don’t feel like I’ve grown up enough to be one.” Without hesitation, she responded peacefully, “You grow up with them.” This blew my mind! And after hearing it, I decided I was ready enough to be a father. All other wisdom was bonus material.
The depth of that conversation with Lynda was more profound than perhaps either of us even knew at the time. I think back on it a lot. There are two hidden gems in particular here:
- God likes to answer our little requests with big truths
- We are made perfect through experiences
How often have you prayed for something very specific, but later prayed more earnestly, venting your core fears to Him. THEN you feel Him answer with a big truth about who He is. So often when we’re asking for things like “Dear Lord, please help my child do well in school today, or at least not get in trouble,” we’re giving God a multiple-choice question, or a ranked Christmas list.
But the real reason for the prayer is that we love our child, and fear for their wellbeing. God’s answer is often in response to the honest prayer, which would be, “Dear Lord, I love my children and am afraid for their health and growth. Please bless them with health and growth…that is if I can trust you.” To which God’s answer would be, “I am the God that breathed the stars into existence, knitted your child together in their mother’s womb, and delivered the faithful through countless enemies. I see you and I love you, and I love your child. Can you trust that?”
And just like my talk with Lynda, I get so much more out of bringing my deepest feelings and fears to God than when I ask for little things. And the answer is often wisdom that renders the fear conquerable through trust.
Fatherhood is like so many things where you cannot be fully ready for it until you’re doing it. It is like exercise. You can study perfect form and take all the supplements. But you’ll never be ready for the gym until you’re in it. We are designed to improve only when we try, reach our limit, and push a little beyond it, over and over. This is true for our spiritual growth as well.
In fact, this was even true for Christ. It says in Hebrews 5:8-9, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” This scripture is one of several portions of the book of Hebrews that explains how Jesus is the perfect High Priest between us and God the Father. It is important to note that these verses are not saying that Jesus was imperfect, as in flawed, but rather made complete in his Priesthood through the lesson of enduring suffering. He was fully God, but also fully man. It was Jesus the man that learned temptation and pain and endured them without sinning. This was a perfection that could only be realized through the exercise of suffering. His spirit and his flesh were perfectly united in their understanding of the darkness of sin and the power of atonement.
God will also likely call us many times to learn things or become greater versions of ourselves inescapably through experience. It is often a necessary ingredient to sanctification. In fact, He also answers many prayers with experiences. Like, when I prayed many times, “God, help me to be a good father to my sons.” Part of His answer to that prayer was by having them born and making them difficult sleepers. I quickly learned how to be a good father for them when they were in my arms. I got great at rocking them, and, although they tested my patience very much, this taught me how to be more patient. Let us not be so quick to question God when he answers our prayers with difficult experiences. It just might be exactly what we were asking for.
God has a great sense of irony, does He not? It has been said in scripture that the last shall be first. The dead shall live. The rich shall be poor. In giving you receive. God brought a nation out of an aging, barren Sarai, and He brought salvation to mankind through a promised king from a lineage of kings, but in the form of a meek carpenter.
Furthermore, as we’ve learned here, our specific requests can be best answered with seemingly unrelated, broad truths. He can also call us to become prepared for something by simply having the endeavor begin. And I know this, he often blesses a boy with a child, and it is through that child that a man is born. I am blessed to help raise my sons because they are helping raise me to new life.
This approaching Father’s Day, let’s not just celebrate the role that dads play, but the men they get to become.
Here’s to growing up one day!