Devotion for the Week...
Happy belated Father's Day to any dads who happen to be reading!
For Mother's Day I looked at Gifts for Mom, but this week I want to look at the gifts good dads give to their children. I'm happy to say I've seen lots of wonderful gifts given by the two wonderful dads in my life, my own dad and my boys' dad, Paul. Though they both have given good gifts bought in stores, those aren't the kinds of gifts I'm thinking about. And, of course, there's no reason mothers can't give these gifts, but I've seen them especially from Paul and my Dad.
First and foremost, there is the gift of discipline. In the moment, of course, no child likes to be disciplined. The Bible even says, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful," (Hebrews 12:11). How true. What that verse doesn't necessarily show is how unpleasant the parents find it when they are forced to administer the discipline. It would certainly be easier in some ways to skip the discipline and just let the boys have their own way, but Paul said back when Aiden was only a baby that he wanted our kids to be raised so we could take them anywhere and no one would ever feel like "oh no, the Parsons' kids are coming over." Since that was the standard that was set, we can take the boys anywhere without fear of how they will behave (though they certainly aren't perfect!), which proves the second part of Hebrews 12:11: "Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Correcting their behavior when they were young, setting a high standard and holding them to it, sets them up for success as adults because they will have already learned self control, to treat others with respect and to work hard. Again, the boys aren't perfect (and they're not teenagers yet!), but 'a harvest of righteousness' will hopefully be easier for them to achieve because discipline has already been consistently given.
Next is the gift of generosity. This one is often linked with the gift of sacrifice. The memory of one Christmas gift stands out in my mind. The year I was in grade 10 my tape player broke just a couple of weeks before Christmas, which was awful since I listened to music in my room all the time. My Dad is pretty handy with fixing stuff, so I immediately handed it to him with a request that he get it back in working order. Instead I opened a brand new CD player on Christmas morning. At some point over the holidays, Dad referred to my new CD player as his new rocking chair and it took me a minute to understand that he had taken the money he meant to use to buy a new chair and instead bought me a CD player. Generosity and sacrifice. Dad is generous with his time too. There's a kid in the neighborhood who used to spend hours hanging out with Dad in his garage while the boy's own dad was working. Dad spends winter Saturday afternoons doing woodworking with my cousin, who has Down's Syndrome, which seems to delight Dad every bit as much as it does Stephen. A dad who is generous and willing to sacrifice to give to others shows us daily how our Heavenly Father treats us. James wrote, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).
My Dad is also very curious, wanting to learn about how things work, how people lived in ages past, what caused the major events in history and anything else that may catch his attention. I remember him once telling me that we should know everything about something and something about everything. When we were on vacation we'd visit local museums and historical sites and we'd stop to read all the information plaques along the hiking trails that told us about the history or the plants and animals of the area. That example of curiosity encouraged me to be curious, to be interested in learning about history and about the world around me, which is something I still really enjoy. The Bible tells us that, as a young man, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). Growing up in the home of Joseph, Jesus probably learned everything about carpentry, but since we are told that He grew in wisdom, I think that encompasses a much wider range of knowledge. I hope that I am still growing in wisdom, and that I will continue to do so.
The last gift from fathers that I want to consider today is one that I saw showing up in Nathan just the other day. None of us are perfect parents. We try our best, but we fall short. How we respond in those moments will have a lasting impact on our kids and Paul is so good about going to the boys and apologizing to them when it's needed. That may seem like a small thing, and there are probably some parents who feel they shouldn't have to apologize to their kids, but I think it's huge. And I know it's making an impact. One day last week I had an awful day with Nathan. He whined and complained about everything, though I don't remember what specifically. The next morning, while I was helping him get ready for school, he looked at me and said, "I'm sorry for being so complainy yesterday." I was blown away. I hadn't said a word to him that whole morning about his behavior the previous day. This was simply his own acknowledgment that he had been in the wrong. Being able to say you're sorry is a great relationship skill, but I think it goes even farther than that. When we are able to recognize that we have done something wrong, something that requires an apology, we are that much closer to being able to recognize that we are sinners, in need of forgiveness from God. And being able to turn to God and ask His forgiveness changes everything.
I quoted this verse already, but I want you to read it again. "Every good and
perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly
lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). Dad and Paul, I hope you know that we consider you to be two of those 'good and perfect gifts' given to us by God.