Fellow fathers, I want to share with you one of the most profound teachings God ever gave me. Although, I had work and other responsibilities outside of my family, I did not need to let them burden and distract me so much that I failed to warmly connect with my children and my wife. When I was at home with my family, I was often too focused on my work. I was distracted and inattentive, not as caring, helpful, and loving as I needed (and wanted) to be.
As I thought about Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6:4, I realized how much I needed to grow: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” I didn’t want to frustrate my wife and children. I didn’t want them to feel that I was so preoccupied and burdened with work that I didn’t have time or energy left over for them.
It helped me to remind myself, “Others can assist or even replace you in your work, but only you can be the father of your children!” I shared my desire to change with my wife, and she helped me to be more self-aware. If I ever became distracted during a family meal, she would lovingly whisper to me, “You are not here!” This helped me to change my heart and mind, and to devote myself to being close to my family during our times together.
Fathers, no matter what your job is, remember what your more important role is. No one else can be your wife’s husband; no one else can be your children’s father. Like me, you may need to ask your wife or friends to support you in making changes. Like me, you may need to surrender your work worries to God in prayer, knowing that He cares about your concerns and knows what you need.
My daughter Elizabeth recently wrote me a Father’s Day card. Her words meant the world to me, and confirmed the prayerful decisions from all those years ago:
“Thank you for always taking time for me. Thank you for keeping your priorities straight during our growing-up years when it must have been tempting to get lost in [work] life.”
I’m so grateful that God gave me the chance to change while my children were still at home. Brothers, our families are precious gifts from God. Let us love and engage with our families in spite of the responsibilities and burdens we carry. I pray you are able to enjoy your wife and children, engage with your whole heart, and reap the blessings of close family relationships for the rest of your days.