This past weekend I went camping with my 3 youngest sons in Southern Ohio. The time away was great, but the lesson I learned about fatherhood and identity was even greater!
The fire blazed and crackled in the night air on Saturday night as we sat in our camp chairs laughing, talking and reminiscing. My two best friends and their sons had joined us for the weekend. The boys were now fast asleep, exhausted from a day filled with romping through the woods, throwing sticks in the fire, and playing football in the mud. As I reflected, something my 6-year old son said earlier in the day crossed my mind.
“Dad, you’re strong!”
He declared this as I lifted a heavy piece of firewood from a woodpile and carried it to the fire pit. He and his two brothers watched with wide-eyes as I heaved the log into the middle of the rock circle. Sparks and ash flew through the air as the thick wood crashed down.
“What do ya think of that boys?” I asked with a big grin! All three of them hooped and hollered, like wild Indians. My heart was full. I couldn’t have asked for more amazing (or fun) sons. Excitedly, each boy perched themselves in a chair around the fire pit, leaning in, eagerly, for the flames to appear. I stood back and watched them, shaking my head- “Boys and fire,” I said to one of my friends. As the flames appeared my sons glanced up at me with wonder.
I’m the biggest hero in the land as far as they’re concerned. It’s an honor I take very seriously. My sons think I’m invincible. They believe there’s no mountain too high for me to climb, no distance too far for me to run, and no piece of firewood too heavy for me to lift. As I type those last few words I can’t help but smile. I love being a dad to boys. I love their adventurous spirit. I love the wrestling matches, the football games, the attraction to throwing stuff, and even the rowdy energy that never seems to run out. I love my boys. And I love that they think I’m the strongest, fastest and bravest of any man. But…
They Have No Idea That I’m Afraid!
If only they saw my dark moments. If only they knew how often fear grips me like a boa-constrictor, gripping its prey. If only they saw my worries for the future, my regrets from the past, and everything in between:
Fear of failing. Fear of losing. Fear of winding up with nothing. Fear of the unknown.
But, maybe they’re not supposed to…at least not right now.
Maybe their growing hearts need to see the hero dad, the brave dad who confidently faces trouble. Maybe they need to believe, for the time-being, that I’m actually invincible.
And maybe I need to be challenged, by their belief in me, to face my biggest fears and overcome. If these little boys have such faith in me, then maybe I should have a little more faith in myself! After all, giving in to fear and allowing it to dictate my life leads to failure (which is one of my biggest fears).
I’m not advocating falsehood with our children, nor am I saying that we should hide our weaknesses from them. The Lord knows our children will see us in our darkest moments. That’s the reality of living in a family. But, maybe we need to accept some of the subtle encouragement that our children give us from time to time? I know I do.
Maybe their belief in us gives us all we need to succeed?
I heard a great quote from Jon Acuff the other day. He said, “Being afraid isn’t failure. Staying afraid is failure.”
That’s true. I can choose to face my fears and overcome them or concede to fear and fail. I have four little boys hanging in the balance of that choice, and they’ve made it abundantly clear that they believe I can overcome. What more do I need?
I walked away from our camping trip feeling alive. Feeling blessed and believed in. I have 4 amazing sons to thank for that. Heck, I’ve got an entire family to thank for that! They continually teach me big lessons about my role and responsibility as a father. While I’m not invincible, I am motivated to be the hero they need me to be.
What about you?
Question: Have you struggled to see you the way your children see you? Share your story with us. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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