“But Daddy, you said we would play soccer when you got home from work!”
Trouble is, when I said that, I didn’t know about the unplanned meeting that got me home 20 minutes later than usual. Plus I just didn’t feel like running around at the moment.
Ever happened to you? This is a crucial moment of decision for a dad. And the implications of our choice here might be bigger than we think.
How important is it for a child’s parents to be true to their word? Enormously important, when you consider that in the eyes of a small child, a parent stands in the place of God. We equip our children to understand how dependable, how trustworthy, how consistent God is by how well we exhibit those qualities.
Fathers in particular must give this serious thought as we lead our families.
Imagine the man who wants to take his family on a trip and announces it. The whole family is excited. But as the date of departure nears, obstacles arise—unexpected costs, unforeseen snags. Other things take precedence. The trip doesn’t seem as important. The father cancels the trip.
Commenting on this hypothetical situation in Man of Steel and Velvet, Aubrey Andelin writes, “The lack of follow-through on the part of the father can have a disheartening effect on the family. Not only is there a loss of enriching experiences that could just as well have been had, but the family suffers a certain lack of security, especially if it happens often. They will come to distrust their father’s word. When new plans are presented, there will be doubt concerning the outcome. The family willlack faith that the plans will materialize, and disillusionment will set in” (emphasis added).
The author concludes, “Considering these doubts, it appears it would be best to follow through even if it may not be quite as prudent as originally thought.”
Obviously, we are human, and unsurpassable obstructions can arise; it is certainly wise to state plans as probabilities rather than absolute promises (James 4:13-15). Nevertheless, the basic point stands. How much does our dependability as fathers and mothers influence our children’s faith? The correlation is probably stronger than we would like to admit.
Wouldn’t it be harder for a person to learn to trust God’s Word, if his or her dad never kept his word?
And wouldn’t it be easier to simply believe God, if Dad was always trustworthy?
In some vital ways, dependability is a defining characteristic of godly fatherhood.
The very foundation of our faith is God’s dependability. When our heavenly Father makes a promise, it’s as good as done. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). We can count on Him to fulfill His every word. We can depend on Him to follow through every time.
James 1:17 says that with our Father, “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Revised Standard Version).
“I am God, and there is none like me,” He assures us: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
“For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29; rsv).
We fathers, we parents, must strive to teach our children this quality of God by living it. When we say we’ll do something, they should be able to count on us to follow through.
It’s tough sometimes. It takes sacrifice (though not nearly as much as God has made for us). But remember the goal: Matthew 5:48. I call it the father’s motto: “[Become] ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Not only does our success here build a foundation for our children’s faith in God, it gives them a model to emulate. I’ve talked with my children about the importance of keeping your word. If I expect them to follow through with the things they say they will do, I have to make sure I’m setting the example.
One last thought about my promise to play soccer after getting home from work.
I recently attended the wedding of the daughter of one of my good friends. When he spoke at the reception, he brought me to tears as he reminisced about how, just yesterday, this radiant woman in white was his sweet little “pumpkin,” running to greet him when he got home from work.
I still have three of those pumpkins in my house. But, as my friend told me when we spoke afterward, just blink and they’re grown and gone.
“When my kids were growing up,” he said, “I always made sure I made time for them right when I came home from work. Every day, my son would greet me with a ball in his hand. ‘Dad—can we play?’ A lot of times I wouldn’t feel like it. But my wife reminded me, ‘You’d better take the opportunity while you’ve got it.’ So I always did. Even if it was for five minutes, I never told him no.”
Great advice. I know at least three children who deserve to be able to count on their dad like that.