I was twenty-three when I found out that I would soon be a father. A torrent of conflicting emotions washed over me; excitement to mean my son, the joy of being a daddy, insecurity about if I would be a good dad. I knew that I still had to figure out in a short amount of time how to raise my child. How could I help my son grow into a good man? Especially when I still felt and acted like a kid myself? Now I look back and realize that not too many men, no matter if they are fifteen and living with mom and dad, or thirty-five with a successful career can honestly say that they are prepared for a responsibility of such magnitude. I would literally be shaping my son’s personality, his opinions, his habits and his beliefs. How could I possibly show my son who to be when I hardly even knew who I was? Now that I have almost thirteen years of fatherhood under my belt with my oldest son and seven with my younger, I look back and wonder how well I performed my job. I don’t question who my two boys have grown into thus far. I know that both of them are amazing, kind, loving, intelligent, caring, and extraordinary kids who follow Christ. I have every confidence that these traits will only develop further as they mature into men. But I ask myself how much of that did they get from me? Did I increase their confidence, or have I caused them to doubt themselves? Did I teach them how to treat others with love and respect, or do they see my short-temper and think that is an acceptable way to behave? Am I been a beacon of Christ’s love, or do I focus too much on making them follow rules through discipline that at times is too harsh? Did I teach my sons self-confidence, even when I didn’t have the same confidence in myself?
I was twenty-five when Nanette and I got married, completely changing the dynamic of our relationship. Even though we were already committed to each other, now we had vowed to be as one for the rest of our lives. My role needed to shift as the head of the family. It was more important than ever that I be the example for my family to follow. I had no idea how to be a husband; I was still learning how to be a dad. I grew up with fantastic role models of what good dads and husbands looked like, as my parents and grandparents instilled in me a rock-solid respect for marriage and putting family first. But I was too wrapped up in myself to figure it out. Unfortunately, for many years I was content to let my wife to run our daily lives. It was easier. I had fewer decisions, no stress of handling finances, less frustration dealing with the kids. I essentially allowed myself to continue my childhood. My wife certainly spent more than enough time pleading with me to become the husband that she needed, but she eventually felt it was easier to just take the reins than to continue to fight. I needed help. I still need help. But I like to think that I’m making progress in the right direction.
For most of our time together, Nanette and I had two extremely different viewpoints on religion in general, and Christianity more specifically. I believed – and always will – that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that He created the heavens and the earth, and Jesus is His son who sacrificed himself on the cross for my sins, and was then resurrected three days later so that those who accept him are born anew into an eternal life with God. Nanette believed the God part, but was cool with Jesus simply being a pretty important dude who taught a great message. She most definitely did not believe that the Bible was inerrant; let alone the Word of God. We had many a “lively discussion” on this topic. Sadly, I was rather ignorant of many of the finer points of following Jesus, such as how to actually shape my life so that being a Christ follower was on display through my actions instead of mere words. Obviously Nanette felt no compulsion to alter her opinions or open her heart to Jesus. Why would she? I certainly wasn’t spreading His love with the way that I was living. Trying to lead my life, on my own terms, failed me miserably.
It wasn’t until about two years ago when Nanette and I separated that I began to turn towards God again in trying to keep my life from spiraling out of control. After a six-month separation, we both realized that we wanted to save our marriage. A few months after I moved back home, we decided to look for a church home, at Nanette’s suggestion, of all things. I jumped at the opportunity and the very next day we attended Heartland, and knew we were home. Over the next few months, the Holy Spirit started to stir within Nanette and she accepted Christ in her life. Nanette, both of our sons, and I got baptized that same summer. Since then, Nanette has made it abundantly clear that she needs for me to stand up and be the spiritual leader of this family, and I yearn to fulfill that role. I still find it difficult to abandon my childhood and force myself to shoulder the responsibility of leading my family in our relationship with Christ, but I know that they need feel comfortable leaning on me to help develop and deepen their relationships with Jesus. I realize that I can’t be that man by myself. I need help, and I know that I can rely on God for that help. So I ask Him to lead me, because I can’t do this alone.