You just don’t have time

TIME DOES FLY — Peter Lewis found this snapshot of his son that he had taken back in 1989. As Peter looked at the simple image of a little boy riding his bike down a dirt road, he realized the fleeting nature of time. “Though my boy was 27 now, I was certain that I had taken the picture only three weeks before.”

By Peter Lewis

The problem with being a dad is that you don’t get any practice or a head start. Three days after my son came squiggling into the world, I realized that a dad is born on the same day as his first child and that I was already behind.  I’ve been trying to catch up ever since.

Back in February, my pastor asked me to speak at church at the end of March. We were in the third chapter of Colossians so I chose to focus on verse 21: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” This was an easy assignment for me because being a father has been the greatest privilege of my life and encouraging men in this pivotal role comes as naturally to me as breathing or cheering on the Patriots.

To prepare for my talk, I dug all over both testaments and found lots of heartening scriptures and helpful cross-references. I decided that after briefly exploring the theology of dad-hood, I wanted to give the crowd something they could carry away in their hands, practical, simple, everyday stuff that would help dads (and moms) build their boys and girls into fine men and women. And so, inspired by both the Word and nearly three decades of (often stumbling) experience, I built a list: know God, show your dependence on Him, study our user’s manual (the Bible), pray with your kids, ask for forgiveness and forgive, be faithful and generous, focus on people instead of stuff, give your time sacrificially, say “I love you” (a lot), hug constantly, write encouraging notes, give your children responsibility and then trust them, discipline them properly and with abundant love, be sensitive (guys, it’s okay to cry), say “yes” whenever possible (even when it inconveniences you), have high expectations, fill your home with laughter, and finally, dads show your affection for your wife right in front of your children (even if it makes them squirm and squeal).

It seemed to be a fine list, but I wanted to end by lighting a fire under the dads, to help them to rise up and commit to being the best fathers possible, to bolster their courage and resolve, to infuse a sense of urgency into this, their highest earthly calling. I struggled with this until I found a snapshot of my son that I’d taken back in 1989. As I looked at the simple image of a little boy riding his bike down a dirt road, I realized what I’d left off my list: the fleeting nature of time.

And so, at the end of my talk I put the image up on the screen. I told the audience how much I loved my son, how proud I was to be his dad. I told them about his life now (an engineer, married, living just an hour away and commuting to Brazil each month for work), and how he had been my best friend then and still was today. And then, choking back the tears that I knew would come, I tried to explain the almost unbearable mystery of that old photograph, that though my boy was 27 now, I was certain that I had taken the picture only three weeks before.

Fathers, do your job well — you just don’t have time.

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