The most popular post I’ve written has been A Disengaged Dad Confesses. Maybe dads felt they fit into the “Disengaged Dad” category. Or maybe people enjoyed seeing me write about my failures. Either way, the response led me to think more about this.
The problem with confession is that even though it is freeing and can be seen as a form of humility, it can often lead to little or no change. The response after a sermon has been many times, “Oh, that was really convicting!” This is good, however, God has called us not to merely confess, but to seek change as we are being transformed more into Christ-likeness by the Spirit (Rom 8:29, 2 Cor 3:18). So the next several posts are going to be thoughts about how to go from Disengaged Dad to Sacrificial Shepherd.
The title Sacrificial Shepherd is fitting for what men are called to do in the family context. Men are to be the spiritual leaders of the family in both the home and church (1 Tim 3:4-5). The only way a man is qualified to lead in the church is if he has proven faithfulness in the home. Men are also called to imitate Christ and be sacrificial (Phil 2:1-11, Eph 5:25) in the home. Thus Sacrificial Shepherd is what every Disengaged Dad strives toward by the grace of Christ.
Since Psalm 23 provides the picture of what an exemplary shepherd looks like, I will use Psalm 23 as the text to form my meditation of what a Sacrificial Shepherd looks like.
The first characteristic seen is the Sacrificial Shepherd is that he feeds the Father Hunger of his family.
I learned this phrase from Doug Wilson at Desiring God’s God, Ministry and Manhood conference. Each child has a Father Hunger. Dad’s, you know what this looks like. Your children want to please you and make you happy. They probably express a desire to be around you. Either way, they have been created with a Father Hunger. Now to be faithful Sacrificial Shepherds, the first thing we must do is point them to the Lord. We never want to create ourselves at the perfect Father; we never want to turn ourselves into idols. We need to disappoint our children at some level as they see our sins and failures. Surely we model as best as we can the love of God the Father, but we always need to point to Him as the One who they go to with everything. We want our children to be able to say with confidence “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
I’m excited there seems to be a renewed interest in parenting. I’m enthused that many dads want to learn how to be better dads. But the worst thing we can do for our children is form our identity as near perfect parents and create an atmosphere where they seek us and not the Lord. Surely we want our children to have a confidence in us and find unconditional love in us—but that can never replace the love they find in God.
The most humbling thing for me to think about as a father in this life is this: I will not be Elijah, Leah and Abbey’s dad for eternity. If they trust in Christ, then we will all be equal worshipers before the Lord, enjoying the love of our perfect Heavenly Father for eternity.