Recently my wife and I welcomed our second child into the world. Weighing in at 6lbs, 10oz he is a beautiful bundle. We are yet again overwhelmed by God’s grace and generosity. Since having two boys our feet haven’t touched the ground – come to think of it, neither have our heads hit the pillow, either!
As we were preparing to leave the hospital that afternoon, I was doing the obligatory task of loading the car with all of our things. It is amazing how much stuff and how many bags one little newborn can accumulate. On what felt like my one hundredth trip to the parking garage I stood on the elevator with a handful of other people. Inevitably, small talk begins. For people who are standing in the elevator of a women’s hospital in the Labor & Delivery portion of the campus, there’s really only one subject, “So…did you have a boy or a girl?”
On this trip, someone very casually lobbed out a comment about either surviving the day or all the hard work that goes into delivering a child. I’m a little foggy on the exact quote as I was already so exhausted I barely remembered if I had eaten lunch yet that day. But what did broadside me and sticks with me to this moment is the comment one of the dads on the elevator gave in response. He said, “Yeah, well, I already did my part nine months ago!” A comment that, no doubt, was a simple joke; but has stuck with me as maybe the root of struggling marriages and struggling families.
No, new Dad, I disagree. Your “part”, the role you play in this new existence known as your family, is only just beginning. The Lord willing, the role you play is not only just beginning but will be a lifelong commitment which hopefully will create a legacy of love that will long outlive your time on earth. In a healthy family, Dad and Mom are equal but not the same. Equal because they are both to be honored and loved by their children. However, they are not the same because they both play unique, divinely appointed roles in the lives of their children.
Dads must mature past the point of seeing their role as only physical provision. It is true, God has equipped the man in the relationship to “bring to the table” only what a man can bring – the whole “9 months earlier joke.” But it doesn’t stop there. Dads must continue to satisfy the need his family has that only he can continue to satisfy. The difference between a good dad and a great one is the understanding that being a dad also means you live the role of emotional and spiritual provider as well. The whole family will look to dad when you are on cloud nine and especially when you as a family are struggling in the valley. Therefore, a dad’s role is to be the thermostat, not a thermometer.
A thermometer reads the temperature of the room. A thermostat sets the temperature in the room. If you’re a dad who lives hands-off and tries to live his own life in the space of but independent from his family, he will always only be a thermometer. If the family is upset and struggling, a thermometer-dad will respond with anger and hostility. However, if you are a dad who lives hands-on and fully engages his life and embraces his children and wife he will be a thermostat. Even when the family is upset and struggling, a thermostat-dad can change the temperature of the family by setting their sights on God and trusting Him. By providing love and wisdom, discipline and laughter. Whenever the family is experiencing a season of blessing and excitement it is the role of a thermostat-dad to position the family in a posture of humility and gratitude toward God.
The temptation will always be to believe the lie that our role as dad is to “provide” and stay out of the way…our job is done. But may we who are dads all commit to be being engaged with our children and embrace our families. May we see our role of dad as daily, on-going, never-ending. After all, fatherhood is arguably the greatest privilege a man can have – let’s dad until the day we die!