Twice a week I take my boys to a parents’ day out program where they spend a few hours doing two and three-year-old stuff. Crafts. Playground. Potty time. Nap.
Usually, Tiffani picks them up. But, on rare occasions, she’s busy and the responsibility falls on me. Most days are rather uneventful. They show me their crafts, tell me what they did at school, and we take it to the house. Pretty bland stuff.
Three weeks ago was one of those rare occasions. Tiffani was busy, so I headed to pick up the boys. This day, however, was far from uneventful. Noah excitedly says he has something to show me. Just another craft, right?
Instead, here’s what Noah gave me.
Talk about a kick in the pants. The words on that paper stayed with me the rest of the day. And the days that followed. Just think about that statement. Not passively. Really think. Man, it’s weighty. The weight presses on every aspect of my life. My heart. My mind. Everything.
You see, people are impacted by three things (in this order): 1.) The character of a person, 2.) The actions of a person, 3.) The words of a person. Talk is garbage without actions, and actions flow from character.
American culture is saturated with people who love to talk. But few people model lives reflective of their words.
And here’s where Noah’s craft comes full-circle. Don’t miss this.
Footsteps are visible evidence of presence and movement. They are action. Words don’t create footsteps. I wish this were true. I wish the picture said, “I am following your words.” But it didn’t. Footsteps are a sign of action. And footsteps are what children follow. Not words.
Your children won’t follow your words. They will follow your actions.
You can’t do one thing and say another. Well, you can. But it’s a waste of time. Your children will see passed the facade of words and follow your actions anyway.
So, I started thinking. What footsteps am I leaving for my children? What footsteps are you leaving for yours? This isn’t a small question. It’s huge. It stretches beyond the realm of time into eternity.
This post is for my children. Here are 11 footsteps I want you to follow. Again, the following footsteps aren’t ideas I hope my children learn. They are principles I hope my children see.
Here we go.
1.) Hate will not win.
As long as Satan rules this world, hatred will be present. But I want my children to see that I wouldn’t accept hatred. Not in my heart. Not in how I talk or respond to the world. Not in how the world responds to me.
Many days it seems like hatred is winning, maybe even that hatred has won. Hatred dominates the storylines. I mean, really. The most viral storylines are the ones involving hatred. Hatred is, dare I say, contagious.
But, make no mistake, hate won’t win. As Christians, God gives us a mission. A mission to push back against hatred and violence with love and mercy. A mission to engage darkness with light. And the mission is fueled by love, not hate.
I want my children to see this.
2.) Jesus is the most important person in your home.
When my children look back, I want them to see that Jesus ultimately made the decisions in our home. I don’t want them to look back and say, “Dad gave up everything for us.” I want them to say, “Dad gave up everything for Jesus.”
Ultimately, my boys aren’t the center of our home. My wife is not the center of our home. I am not the center of our home. Jesus is. And I hope every decision, from where they attend school to whether they play baseball on a traveling team, reflects this reality.
3.) Following God’s mission for your life is more important than keeping the “flock close to the nest.”
This one is hard. Really hard. I want my children to fulfill God’s mission for their lives. And, not only do I want to stay out of God’s way, I want to encourage them to pursue God’s calling. Wherever that calling takes them.
I don’t want my children to look back and say, “I really had a passion for foreign missions. But my dad didn’t want me to move away from him.”
Jesus, please don’t ever let that be said about me.
I will spend eternity with my children. While they are on earth, God has work for them to do. As a father, my job is to affirm their work. Whatever it is. Wherever it takes them.
4.) Parents should be “FOR” their children.
What does it mean to be “for” someone? You empower them. You sacrifice for them. You hope to see them do greater things than you. And you encourage them, even when they make decisions you don’t like. Especially when this happens.
I want my children to know that I challenged them to be the best men and women they could be. I want them to know I saw their gifts and created an environment for them to use their gifts.
And in doing this I pray my children will see that my flawed attempt to be “for” them is overshadowed by God’s perfect desire to be “for” us.
5.) Don’t settle for the status quo. Break some rules.
I don’t want my legacy to be that Frank always said the right things and kept people happy. I want my children to see I took a stand for injustice and oppression. I took a stand against the idols of comfort, complacency, and mediocrity. I want them to see that I spoke with boldness and lived with courage.
To be honest, I want my children to see that I broke some rules. Not because I am an outlaw. Not because I like to break rules for the sake of being rebellious.
But because some rules are meant to be broken. Some rules shackle you and force you to worship false idols like the ones mentioned above. When given a choice between keeping the peace or pointing others towards a deeper understanding of God, I choose the latter. Everytime.
The greatest leaders in the world have a scandalous nature about their lives. They aren’t law breakers. But they’re rule breakers. They’re ferociously committed to knowing God, and they won’t allow anything, including rules, to stand in their way.
6.) Love people. Never give up on them.
I will be honest, I am not great at this. It’s hard. People suck. They let you down. Even the most “upstanding” people have flaws that lead them to seek their own way at the expense of others.
Regardless, Jesus says loving people is the greatest commandment other than loving God. The greatest. When my children look back on my life, I don’t want them to say, “My dad was a great speaker. My dad was an amazing writer. My dad had a lot of Bible knowledge.”
I want them to look back at my life and say, “My dad loved people.” After all, what am I showing my children about God if I say that he is first but I don’t love people?
Love people is the second greatest commandment. Is it the second greatest priority in your life?Click to tweet
7.) Use your time and energy to build bridges, not walls.
American culture says you must choose a side. Are you here or there? Republican or Democrat? Against homosexuals or for them? Church of Christ or Baptist?
And because we must choose a side everyone on their respective side studies the principles of their side…with the goal of convincing the other side why they’re wrong. Eventually, the convincing turns to manipulation which leads to hatred which results in dehumanization.
When my children look back at my life, I hope they see that I refused to build walls. I hope they accept people from all walks of life, at least in part, because their dad was a bridge builder, not a wall builder.
The gospel, at its core, builds bridges. It’s a message of reconciliation. And, as hard as this might be, I want to model that message.
8.) Either give everything to God or get out of the game.
I know the effects of a father who wasn’t sold out for God. I love my dad. I am thankful for the lessons he taught me about hard work and finishing what you start. But my dad didn’t teach me how to live all out for God. He was more of a fan than a player. He showed up for the games on Sunday morning. He occasionally cheered for the team. But he wasn’t on the field. He wasn’t committed.
And my dad’s relationship with God influenced mine. I struggled for years with apathy, wearing Christian fan gear and cheering from the sidelines.
I pray my children see something different. Again, I will fail miserably at times, but my heart’s desire is for God. I love him with every ounce of my being. And I want my life to reflect it. Some people give God just enough of their lives to make them miserable. They try to make deals with God. But, true joy and peace, despite the message of American Christianity, comes through total surrender. I want my children to see their dad sold out for God.
9.) Never give up on the church.
Tiffani and I talked about this point yesterday. How do we prevent our children from becoming cynical towards the church? As a pastor in a culture increasingly antagonistic towards the church, that question is haunting.
Make no mistake. If my children leave the house as Christians, but have no desire for the church, I failed. In fact, the more I grow in intimacy with God, the more I believe that idea isn’t possible. A Christian who doesn’t love the church is hypocrisy.
So, how do I instill love for the church into my children? A few thoughts come to my head.
Don’t give up on the church. Focus on the positive aspects. Be honest with your children about the church’s struggles. Talk with them about the importance of the church in relation to Jesus. Place your children in an environment where their wonder and awe of God is captured at a young age.
Here’s what won’t work.
Moving from church to church every time something bad happens. Being passive about joining and doing life with a community of believers. Telling your children to sit down and be quiet during church because God respects little boys and girls who sit silently and behave.
The church is the bride of Christ. It’s a beautiful expression of the gospel. I want my children to see this.
10.) You can’t control what life throws at you. But you can control how you respond. Choose life, even when it’s hard and especially when it hurts.
Urban Meyer, head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, created a motto for his team this past year.
E (experience) + R (response) = O (outcome)
Meyer’s team won the National Championship with a third-string quarterback (that never happens in college football). They also dealt with the tragic death of a teammate in the middle of the season. How does a team respond to all this controversy and achieve greatness?
Meyer taught them one of the truest principles of life. No one can control the experiences life throws at them. But everyone can control their response. And the response to your experiences determines the outcome of your life.
I want my children to see that equation as a central principle in my life.
11.) Truth DOES exists. But you won’t find truth looking around. You find it looking up.
In a post-modern world, truth seems more elusive than the Lochness monster. And, as long as humans look horizontally for truth, it will continue to be my opinion versus yours. Everything goes. Everyone is free to believe what they want.
Here’s the thing about truth. It does exist. But truth is found by looking up, not around. And I want my children to know this. No matter what it cost me. Regardless of the pressure placed on me, as a man of God, by the court of public opinion, I will not waver from the truth.
I believe what the Bible says about God. I believe Jesus is the son of God. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the church as the bride of Christ and in her power to break the chains of darkness. I believe Jesus is coming back to restore all things, and I believe that truth changes how I live today.
And I won’t use my beliefs to condemn the world. God isn’t out to condemn the world. He wants the world to know him. He loves the world. He loves you. That’s truth. That’s a message worth spreading.
Maybe you resonate with some of these footprints. Whether you are a long ways from fatherhood or have been a dad for years, it’s never too early (or too late) to model the life you want your children to follow.
This post is weighty. Not because it’s a bunch of words. Children don’t follow words. It’s weighty because these footprints won’t form themselves. I must model them. I must act on them. So, it’s time for me to stop talking and start walking. Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.
It’s your turn. What footsteps do you want to leave your children? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!