“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” – Jesus, John 10:10
Seven years ago I experienced the joy of becoming a father to our son Elijah and this blessing upon my wife and me only increased as we now have three additional children – Ellie, Kai and Aida. Over these past seven years I have learned much from fatherhood about two things in particular: 1) myself as a follower of Jesus, husband and father; and 2) that of God the Father.
As it relates to me. I remember my first year of marriage to Shelly. Though we had a wonderful introduction to this new life together, it took but a few weeks for me to realize how incredibly self-absorbed I had been up to this point in my life. The first 24 years of my existence were primarily about one person – ERIC BASYE – and marriage shattered this reality as I was now called to love and care for another, namely, my wife. And as a husband and spiritual leader of my home I was to walk in the footsteps of Jesus to die to self, humbly serve as I sought to “love God and my neighbor,” or in this case, my wife.
While this was a great lesson, and much needed I am sure, becoming a father only enhanced my ability to see how incredibly selfish I truly am as a man! I am confident that anyone who has experienced the joy of parenthood can identify with this reality. To learn to compromise and do life with your spouse – God willing a friend and like-minded person whom you thoroughly enjoy – is one thing, but to learn to do life and take care of a helpless infant that is 100% dependent upon the care you provide, this quickly puts to death the freedom of selfish living (but not to say this doesn’t still happen; it’s called abandonment). Your sleep is now interrupted every couple of hours as your child needs to eat, they need a diaper change, they need comforted and held. It doesn’t matter the situation or how tired you are, so as to not be neglectful anything of the “self” is quickly put on the backburner for the sake of your child. I will confess that I have spent many mornings confessing my sin of selfishness unto the Lord, praying for His mercy and asking that His grace will cover for my shortcomings as a father unto my children. Not only so, but many conversations have been had with my children as I have asked for their forgiveness for being short, too quickly frustrated and responding out of anger. To say the least, being a father has been the greatest catalyst I can think of in demanding my humility and dependence upon the Lord. Quite naturally, my becoming a father has greatly enhanced my understanding of God the Father.
Perhaps more than any other time in my life God has used this past year to further illustrate to me His role as God the Father in my life. As I fall short of being the father I am called to be, my eyes have also been opened to see the sinfulness, disobedience and foolishness that comes with being a child. There are seasons where it seems that Shelly and I discipline our children not just once, but multiple times throughout the day. Though we have sought to teach and instruct them, still there are many seasons when they choose to outright disobey and walk in defiance of what they know is right. It is in these moments that I better understand God the Father as I see myself as one of our children – calloused, obstinate and slow to learn! Yet, despite myself, God is the patient Father, disciplining those whom He loves, cultivating us into a right relationship with Him. It is this reality of God the Father – His grace and compassion – that has become most alive to me this past year.
A few months back I was thinking about my children as they grow and become older. The days are not too far ahead of us where our children’s potential to disobey goes beyond them writing with crayon on the bedroom wall to making bad choices with their friends, potentially landing them in some illegal activity or the like. Having a grasp of human sinfulness, I expect that our children will fail and make mistakes (and how I pray for the Lord to restrain them from doing too much damage to their lives by the choices they make). And with this comes the reality that our children will slip and fall and that they will not always heed our instruction. So it is in thinking about these things that questions begin to flood my mind – How will I respond when my child makes an epic mistake in their life? Will I be angry? Will they hurt me by these bad choices? Will they negatively affect my image and our family name, or better yet my name and reputation?
As I was thinking about these questions, my thoughts were then drawn to those times in my life when I, as God’s child, act out in disobedience and live in a way contrary to what I know is right. I have always heard and understood that when we sin, we hurt God. I am sure I am not the only one who has thought or heard this. But on this particular morning, as this thought crossed my mind, I was quickly rebuked for such thinking. It was almost as if the Lord said to me, “Who are you to think that you can inflict pain on Me? Do you really believe that your tenacious disobedience can hurt Me, the Creator and God of all things?” Wow, all the more this came as a sobering thought to me. And then it was as though the dawn came, bringing forth light and understanding. Was God hurt by my disobedience? I don’t believe so, for it is true – to think that we, mere mortals, can inflict pain upon the God Almighty is to elevate ourselves to a status of God. But this is not to say that the Lord does not react to our sinfulness. Rather, for the child of God (the one who has been called to Christ and walks in faith), in that moment of sinfulness a choice is made to choose death and the way of flesh over the way of the abundant life found in Christ. For the first time in my life I came to understand that God the Father was not a punitive God, waiting for us to slip and fall so that He might cast judgment upon us, but rather, that His heart aches for his children when they fail to walk in the path of life! It is His love and grace that motivates our obedience to Him, not His wrath.
My thoughts wandered back to my role as father of my children. Being realistic of their failures and struggles to come, what disturbs me most is not that they will fail and make mistakes, scarring their reputation as well as my own, but rather, that in those moments they turn from the Giver of Life, Christ, to the flesh, which will only result in pain, guilt, shame, brokenness and emptiness. Oh, how that makes my heart ache in anguish! If I could do anything to spare my children of this emptiness, I would, for I myself have been down that path, seeking life where it does not exist. It is for these reasons that I am intentional about teaching my children the ways of the Lord, being honest about my struggles and past failures, for I wish to impose on them a deep understanding that true LIFE only exists in the person of Jesus.
The Father’s love for us is so grand that He sent His one and only Son to walk in obedience, even to the point of death, in order that He would suffer for our wrong doing that we may have forgiveness, redemption, adoption and life in and through the person of Jesus Christ! How good is our Father! How loving and kind, gracious and compassionate. Looking down the road, I pray that by God’s grace I may be all the more reminded of this kind of love, the love of the one true Father, who desires life and pleasure to the fullest for His children. I have been liberated to walk in this newness as His child, all the more motivated to cling to the Lord in faithfulness because I know that what He calls me to is not a life of begrudgingly following rules, but rather, He has called me in love to a life of fullness, resulting in my pleasure and His glory. And may it be by this example, this demonstration of love, that I (and fathers everywhere) may seek to love our children in a similar fashion as we call them from death to the way of life.
“So choose LIFE in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him” – Deuteronomy 30:19-20