Motherhood is a labor of love.
We all know that, right? From the first moment we discovered we were pregnant, or the first time we met our child through adoption, we learned a different kind of love.
But some days...
Some days the love is as strong as ever, but the sparkles seem to have faded. The rose-colored lenses (ok Instagram filters) have been removed, and real life hits.
And we wish they would just learn to fix their bed already. Or that they'd put their toys in the toy box, and not behind it. And why do they have to whine about washing the dishes every single night. Are you feeling these bold words? Yelling them in your head?
I so often forget that my kids are kids. Not tiny adults with fully developed minds.
At this writing, we have just celebrated Mother’s Day. I loved seeing all the ways women were honored all over social media. Some women got breakfast in bed or a special lunch, or both! Most women got at least a card or a phone call and some of us got beautiful gifts and thoughtful scribbly drawings. There were written tributes everywhere and abundant ravings for the importance of mothers in church on Sunday.
Now, Father’s Day is coming up. (If you had forgotten consider this your friendly reminder!) Churches and newspapers all around the world will provide acronyms and three point sermons regarding ways for father’s to be the very best dad possible. They'll be encouraged to be strong leaders, with the perfect balance of gentleness and authority, mercy and justice. Not only that, but they’ll be reminded that their relationship with their kids can only be as good as their relationship with their children’s mom.
Do you see the contrast? Many dads will receive gifts and cards of thanks, but the overarching tone of Father’s Day seems to be: here is the high bar you should seek to attain. Why are the two holidays different in this way? In preparation for this Father’s Day, I’d like to take some time to really ponder why Father’s are worth honoring.
One of the implications of this difference in attitudes towards each holiday is that (since we know that Mother’s aren’t ACTUALLY perfect, despite what the Hallmark card says) there is abundant grace for moms, but not so much for dads. By overlooking her short-comings, but prodding him to improve on his, we are rending concepts that in actuality must coexist to reflect God’s design.
So I’d like to start by reminding us that yes, there is infinite grace for all of our shortcomings. Just as there is great value in seeing Christ’s example and other scriptural wisdom and following after them wholeheartedly. I want you to know that I do believe in the value of teaching men how to become ever more capable to fulfill their calling. I also believe in giving abundant grace while the Spirit makes us new. I just feel like we as women mostly get the latter and men kind of get the short end of the stick each spring. As we move forward, let’s take these inseparable concepts and think of fatherhood with a more cohesive set of lenses.
The Weight Of Authority In Fatherhood
As women and mothers, many of our responsibilities are very tangible. In many homes, mom is primarily responsible for much of the household duties. This looks different in every home and can be very dependent on whether mom works, whether or not there are two parents in the household and so many other factors.
Our responsibilities could be cooking and cleaning, working and/or educating children, or maybe keeping the lawn or garden looking pristine. No matter what it looks like for each unique family, it’s common for a woman’s responsibilities to be self-evident. It’s easy to see if they are completed and with what level of care. It’s also therefore a lot easier to be grateful for them. I know not everything is quite as simple and visible. Sometimes mom is home with the children during the day and her efforts to love and discipline her children go largely unnoticed. Unless of course our kiddos misbehave in public of course! (I’m right there with you, mama!)
Let’s take a moment and think about the cultural and Biblical expectations for a Father. Colossians and Ephesians have similar instructions to Fathers, asking them not to provoke their children, but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As husbands, men are expected to make important decisions, be financially responsible, lead their families spiritually and maintain a healthy walk with Christ. I feel like I need to take a breather just typing that out!
Think about it this way. If you don’t do the laundry, within a few days or more people will notice. They’ll come to you looking for clean underwear and complaining of having nothing to wear. (Although I don’t know about yours, but my daughters sometime feel that way even if everything is clean.) Since this responsibility is so tangible (and never-ending right?!) it’s easy to see that you need to kick it into high gear and get it done, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal if your kids wear dirty jeans for a day.
Compare this with most of dad’s roles. It might work similar with mowing the lawn or filling the car up with gas. But what about making life decisions such as whether or not to move? How does it work out with his efforts at spiritual leadership? It usually takes a lot longer (and a lot more risk) to find our whether he made the right call. Will you pause a moment and consider the weight of these things?
Ladies, our jobs have great eternal value. They do. Both in and out of our home, we have been called to do precious things for God’s kingdom. But the bottom line is, a husband and father’s role has added responsibility. A teacher I enjoy recently reminded me of this when speaking on submission. It’s easy to focus on the difficulty of submitting, especially if we believe the leader in our life is wrong. But as women, we don’t often taste the pressure that comes with that authority. You may know how it feels to lead a team, a ministry or a business venture. But unless you’re a single mom, we don’t feel the burden of taking the lead on issues with eternal weight for the people we care about more than anything in the world. Business and ministries can have do-overs. Father’s only get one life to live well.
Making it practical...
Like I said in the beginning. This is a two way street. We all need grace and growth. So this Father’s Day, what can we do differently? Here are a few ideas to start - we’d love to hear yours in the comments!
In the week before or after Father’s Day, take time to pursue your husband’s (or father’s) heart. Many men hesitate to reveal how they’re feeling. Take time to chat and enjoy the conversation. Take time to really listen. Sometime when life is really busy, this alone is such a gift! If time and talk allow, ask him how he’s really doing. Depending on your relationship with him and his with Jesus, you might ask him what God’s been teaching him or how you can pray for him. Maybe, with humility and grace in each hand, you could ask if there’s one thing you could work on or do better to help him.
Say thank you. A real, true, positive thank you. If it’s hard to think of positive things about the man in your life, ask God to help you see through different eyes. Avoid the temptation to blow sunshine and say things that have very little value. One pointed, meaningful word is worth hundreds of shallow ones.
Have some fun! Take him to do something he loves! If you have little ones, maybe add in a gift certificate or home made coupon for him to do that thing alone sometime. For instance, my husband loves to fish. So naturally, he loves to take us fishing with him. Except what he’s really doing when he fishes with the family along, is rowing the boat, untangling fly lines, tying knots, teaching our children how to tie knots, netting fish, calming frustrated casters, and I think you get the picture. I don’t think Father’s Day would be the same without us, but there’s also nothing like a quiet day on the river.
When I started writing on this topic I had that old Christian song - This is the Day - in my mind. I haven’t sung that song for years - and if you are a young mum you may not even know what I’m talking about. So I went on Youtube (as you do these days) and the first find was just precious. To be honest, after watching this little clip with this old chorus in the background there may be no reason for me to write any more.
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made
That the Lord has made
We will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it
And be glad in it
For this is the the day that the Lord has made
We will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.
My words were tight and my face was exasperated. Why were we talking about this again? Sibling rivalry is nearly as old as time and I felt like I had been battling it since it started. Why didn't they get it? I sighed as I quoted Bible verses to them once again, ignoring the angry words that wanted to come out of my mouth. But even Scripture sounded hollow and empty. The ancient words seemed to fly over their heads, unheeded.
Weary of the battle, I sent them off to play in separate rooms for a while. Why God? I'm trying so hard. I'm saying the right things. I'm searching the Bible, reading parenting books, and daily teaching the right kind of behavior. I felt disillusioned with parenting.