“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
1 Timothy 5:8 (NIV)
As fathers, we tend to spend most of our day working. We do so in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for our loved ones. Of course, there are some exceptions. For example, some men work from home, while others are unable to work due to health. Still others find themselves stay-at-home dads while the mother works out of the home. However, in general, the father of a homeschooling family works outside of the home while the mother takes care of the home and educates their children.
Fathers can become complacent in this arrangement. They go to work for eight to ten hours a day and find that mother does a superb job of caring for the home and raising up godly children. That mothers do this is to be commended and celebrated. Indeed, , it is not my intention to undo or change this. Rather, it is, my intention to call fathers to a deeper awareness of the awesomeness of this task and to call attention to their part in it.
Children love their parents, this is not to be denied. Children learn from their parents, this too is not denied. Children learn more from their parents’ actions than they do their words, this is fearful.
I grew up in a home with a father who loved his wife and children. He worked very hard to provide for his family. In fact, as a truck driver, he was gone Monday morning through Saturday morning driving a truck, only to return home for shortened weekends. When he was home, he was tired and preferred to spend his brief time home relaxing and enjoying a sports match on the television. He didn’t ignore us; He would have conversations with us as the weekend passed. However, he didn’t “live” life with us. He didn’t learn with us. He didn’t experience the world with us. He wasn’t a bad father by any means, but in watching him, I learned that providing for my family meant that I needed to work hard to earn money and then use that money to provide. It didn’t require much more than that. For a long time, that is how I lived my adult life.
A year and a half ago, my father passed away from brain cancer. Reflecting on my father during his last days on this earth and then again afterwards, I realized how much he loved us, and how hard he worked as a result of that love. I cannot find fault in how much he loved us. The sad thing is, I’m not sure he knew to do anything more than that.
Because they love us, children can be very forgiving of our faults, and this is a mercy God shows us. But, if we have it in our ability and power to love and raise them wholly and completely, should we not do so?
What does this look like? If it is more than just food on the table, clothes on the back, and a roof over the head, what is it? It is what I alluded to above; it is the living, learning, and experiencing of life and God’s world with them.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
My family has a friend who might be called an amateur astronomer. She loves to go out at night to locate and identify the stars and constellations. Recently, she came over to our home and showed us how to do the same. Because we live in a rural part of North Carolina, the night sky is very dark, the innumerable stars are bright and plentiful. I am able to go out with my children on a clear night and enjoy the stars with them. Together we can identify the North Star, the two Dippers, Orion’s Belt, and various other stars. We are now able to locate and identify these stars and constellations together—allowing us to learn about and be awed by God’s handiwork as a family.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:10, 13a (NIV)
My daughter is growing past the stage of imaginary tea parties. But there was a time, not too long ago, that she would invite daddy to her bedroom for some tea. I would enter the room to find a small cardboard box covered with a pillow case, plastic toy dishware, a toy teapot filled with water, and bite-sized chocolate bars. That is what I saw with my eyes. When I looked into the same room with her eyes, I saw a magnificent table spread with the most beautiful tea set, and a mouth-watering afternoon snack accompanied by an extravagant and exotic tea. And all of this prepared and set before me by the most beautiful princess host any guest has ever laid eyes on. I would take my seat and enjoy the hospitality my wonderful daughter was showing to me.
I hope that my daughter will continue to grow into a godly young lady who is affectionate to the saints of God and hospitable towards them. More importantly, I hope that she is more so because she was able to practice with her daddy and see how much joy he received from her service of love. What’s more, having read a book like Protocol Matters by Sandra Boswell, I wish I could have those tea parties again and be a proper guest, following the polite manners we wish to see in a host and in guests. A tea party with daddy is the perfect opportunity to pass that knowledge on.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 (NIV)
A friend once stopped by my home to pick up some things he was planning to borrow, and upon leaving noticed my three children (at the time ages 13, 10, and 8) seated on our sofa, each reading a book. He playfully kidded that they were bookworms and left. He was right, they are bookworms—but this is not a bad thing.
They are bookworms, however, not because we don’t own a television (we own two); nor is it because we don’t own game consoles (we own two); nor is it because we force them to read in order to earn television or game time (we don’t). It is because, at least partly, they want to be like mom and dad. Mom reads to them throughout the day, and Dad reads to them or with them in the evenings. Not a week goes without several evenings spent together with me reading a book to them, or sitting beside them reading my own book while they read theirs. Furthermore, our home is filled with books. I do not know how many, but could guess it numbers around 1,000. Our children will grow up wanting to love God with all of their minds because they grew up with a mom and dad who love God with all of their minds.
These are just a few random examples of how we fathers can live, learn, and experience life and God’s creation with our families. No two dads have to do it exactly alike, but every dad should do it. Go online, or grab a book, and look up the names of the trees and plants in your neighborhood. Then take the kids on an after dinner hike and teach them to name them. Or, volunteer at a soup kitchen with them and teach them to give a cup of cold water to the poor (Mt 10:42). Whatever you do, no matter how simple or how daring, dare to live, learn, and experience life with your little ones. It will change their lives.