Growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the 1980s and 90s, I saw and experienced things many people can’t comprehend. To survive and protect myself and those around me, I developed a level of fearlessness. I would proudly say, “I’m from Detroit. I ain’t scared of nothin’!” And I believed it. I genuinely thought I was fearless until one day seventeen years ago.
When my wife gave birth to our first child, the smiling nurse cut the cord and gently placed our daughter in my shaking, clammy hands. I immediately sat down, overwhelmed in that moment. With all the emotions flooding me, I remember being struck with immediate, overcoming fear. This was my first time holding a baby. I was instantly a father, and I had no idea what to do.
Despite considering myself a strong, courageous man who trusts God, fear of fatherhood still bubbles up in my heart today. As a man who grew up without a present father, this fear often leads to feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. Sometimes I feel like I’m not enough and never will be enough as a father. And it’s true—I’m not enough. But my heavenly Father is enough for me and for my kids.
The gospel of Christ drives out fear in fatherhood and helps me pursue repentance, presence, and grace as a father.
A Repentant Father
Recently, I took my teenage son with me to the auto supply store. While driving, I grabbed my phone and began texting. “Dad, you really shouldn’t be texting and driving,” my son said, concerned. “My bad, son. You’re right. Please forgive me. That’s a bad habit that I must stop,” I replied. Men, when you inevitably fall short, do not blame-shift, rationalize, make excuses, drift into avoidance, or emotionally detach. Instead, confess your sins and shortcomings and see the gospel work in your family. Click To Tweet
My son’s momentary fathering of me reminded me of my need to be a repentant follower of Christ before my children. In 1 John 1:8–10, the apostle is clear about two things: confession is necessary and grace is available in Christ. Brothers, it’s crucial for our children to see us walking in repentance and confession of sin because it displays humility, our need for a Savior, the Spirit’s prompting, and the gospel’s transforming power.
Men, when you inevitably fall short, do not blame-shift, rationalize, make excuses, drift into avoidance, or emotionally detach. Instead, confess your sins and shortcomings and see the gospel work in your family. Repentant fathers are flawed and broken but beautifully reflect Christ and his transforming gospel.
A Present Father
I was at home with my very talkative, very energetic 4-year-old daughter one Sunday afternoon. My plans for a nap were foiled by my little force of nature. “Baby, daddy’s tired. It’s time for your nap,” I pleaded. After negotiations stalled, it hit me. She just wanted to be with me. Nothing else. She wasn’t asking for anything other than for me to be present with her.
In an age of constant distractions, packed schedules, and life at break-neck speed, our children need us to be present with them. Despite dozens of notifications and the demands of a young church, I realized I must be intentional about being fully engaged when I’m home—not just physically present while emotionally and mentally elsewhere. We must be fully present to shepherd and guide our children through the pitfalls and perils of growing up. In an age of constant distractions, packed schedules, and life at break-neck speed, our children need us to be present with them. Click To Tweet
I was once guilty of regularly allowing ministry to seep into my time at home, and this is still a temptation. But my kids know when I’m distracted. Brothers, establish rhythms of Sabbath rest, eat dinner with your family as often as possible, create memories, laugh, listen well, play games, be silly, take random drives, plan more downtime, and become closely acquainted with “do not disturb.”
A Gracious Father
Growing up is hard. But being a ministry kid presents unique challenges along with normal adolescent struggles. More often than not, the pastor’s family is under an unspoken microscope, facing distinct dynamics others do not experience. Years ago, one of our children was afraid of embarrassing me. They said, “Dad, I don’t want to make you look bad and hurt the church.” My child was feeling the unspoken weight of being a pastor’s kid.
Our children need an exceptional amount of grace and patience as they navigate life. I often have to recognize and repent of setting unfair expectations. Instead of viewing our children as charter members of our church-planting team, we need to extend to them the fatherly grace we have all received in the gospel. Repentant fathers are flawed and broken but beautifully reflect Christ and his transforming gospel. Click To Tweet
When fear rushes in, I run to the gospel for solace, safety, and security. When fear whispers to my heart and attempts to cast doubt about the future, the gospel silences it and reminds me who I am in Christ. When I feel like a failure as a father, the gospel reminds me that I’m a dearly beloved son of the Father.
By his grace, the good news of Christ reminds me that his Spirit has given me everything I need. God works in my weakness and inadequacy for his glory. Brothers, as you face the fear of fatherhood, rest in your heavenly Father’s unfailing faithfulness.