What just happened? A moment ago I was the captain of my high school hockey team. I was a college student who married young. I was a young professional going on all kinds of crazy adventures with my hot wife. Life made so much sense. But then it happened.
One day I woke up and all of a sudden, I’m thirty-pounds heavier, my rock climbing gear has been replaced with mounds of different Iron Man action figures and doll houses, we actually have a budget now, and despite our best efforts my wife and I haven’t been on a date in over a month.
The culprits to this identity theft: Logan and Noel.
Name: Logan David Ballenger
Height: 3’ 1’’
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Reddish brown
Visible scars, marks, tattoos, defining characteristics: small scar on the top of his forehead. Usually muddy, often has a Kool-aid mustache, and typically carries an arsenal of plastic weapons. Occasionally can be found with a small, fading water-tattoo on his right hand.
Age: 3.5 years
Accomplice: Noel Elizabeth Ballenger
Notes: Suspect should be considered highly dangerous. He’s been known to suck down multiple juice boxes and without warning violently regurgitate them on his nearest victim. Struggles with sharing and uses charm to drain the finances of adults. Likes to attack and wrestle when least expected.
Name: Noel Elizabeth Ballenger
Height: 2’ 6’’
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Strawberry Blond
Visible scars, marks, tattoos, defining characteristics: angelic skin, button nose, chocolate covered face, typically wearing nothing but a diaper (hates clothes).
Age: 1.5 years
Accomplice: Logan David Ballenger
Notes: A master at manipulation. She knows how cute she is and uses this to torment anyone willing to play with her. Her favorite con is to act like she wants to hug you only to then get into position to be thrown high into the air. She demands to be thrown into the air multiple times but instantly cries when her victim’s shoulders and back are incapacitated. Ruthless, willing to do anything for Oreos and milk.
If you have been victimized by similar criminals as these, you know how quickly they can change your life forever. All kidding aside, to say that having kids is life changing is a bit of an understatement.
Having young children is a lot like waking up from a championship heavyweight fight you just lost. You still got paid millions of dollars for getting in the ring with the champ, but after you get up from the canvas, you’re still really dazed and confused.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about and you just can’t relate to the millions of dads wondering if they are doing a good job fathering their young children, then this blog is probably not going to help you much.
I’m writing this for dads like me. I want to be the best dad ever. I love my young children more than anything in this world. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect them, provide for them, and make sure they are happy and healthy.
And yet I’ve struggled in so many ways too. When they don’t listen, I’ve been quick to raise my voice or just walk out of the room to let their mother deal with it. I’ve grown irritable after a long-day’s work when all I want to do when I get home is sit on the couch with my phone so I can look at the sports feed. But most of all, my deepest fear in regards to being a dad stems from knowing that someday, my little criminals are going to be adults.
One day, Logan and Noel aren’t going to have listen to what I say. One day they are going to move out and do whatever they want to do, good or bad, no matter how loud I raise my voice or frustrated I get. And most importantly, someday they are going to make their own decisions about Jesus Christ.
The Concise Biblical Goals of Fatherhood
As I opened up my Bible for instructions on being a good dad, I was kind of amazed at the small amount of verses specifically dedicated to us. In the New Testament, the two most concise and specific instructions given to fathers on how to raise their kids are found in Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)
To be fair, every verse that talks about leading, loving, and relationships can certainly be applied to parenting. Additionally, the Bible is not ultimately an instructional manual for every specific sphere of life. The Bible is really the book we go to learn about God, to grow in our walk with Christ, and intern every aspect of our life will be affected by the inner transformation the Holy Spirit produces through the work of the Gospel.
All that to say, I was still taken back by the limited amount of specific instructions given to dads. I mean, there are few topics in life as important as fathering. Shouldn’t there be more Bible passages to help us?
The more I study God’s word, the more I’m amazed at its concise wisdom and power. As I’ve prayed and thought about all this, some different thoughts have begun to fill my mind, “If God has given us only two really specific verses on being a dad in the New Testament, the truth contained in these verses must be enough. Perhaps God has not spent gobs of time outlining step-by-step instructions on how to be a dad because all we need to know is what God has already given us. Okay, maybe I need to look at these verses a little closer.”
Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 basically say the same thing. By studying these two passages, we can boil our jobs down to two things:
1. Help our children not to be angry.
2. Help our children to know God accurately and intimately.
That’s it. That’s basically what the New Testament teaches dads to do. And you know what? It works. I’ve been trying to focus on accomplishing these two goals in my parenting, and ever since something has shifted inside of me. The fog has started to clear and it’s all starting to make a bit more sense.
I’m certainly not claiming to have mastered being a dad. All I’m saying is that the more I dwell on these specific commands to not anger my children and teach them God’s ways (topics we will talk about more in the future), my daddy stress level has gone way down. I think this is because of how I (along with most men) am wired.
A Distracted Dad Is a Frustrated Father
I’m going to make a big stereotype right now. So I apologize if you don’t fall into this category. Guys typically suck at multitasking. When we get distracted, we usually get angry. And perhaps your young children are different than mine, but I’ve found little kids to be anything but calm, peaceful, and focused. Therefore combining a focused, analytical adult (most men) with wildly chaotic young children is typically not a natural fit, thus frustration ensues.
Here goes another broad stereotype: Women are typically awesome at multitasking. My wife can pay the bills on her smart phone, cook macaroni, and have a water fight outside all at the same time (thank goodness for waterproof phones cases). If I tried do anyone of those things simultaneously for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time, I would definitely get really annoyed, visibly frustrated, and my kids would feel it.
The flipside to all that is that most men are much better at doing one thing really well. When I have a water fight with the kids, it’s an epic, colossal event they are sure to remember. But there’s no way I can think about the bills while I’m trying to tie a water balloon for my screaming , impatient one-year-old daughter as her brother sneaks up behind me with a super soaker. And the macaroni . . . I’d be lucky if I didn’t burn the house down.
But again, if you give me a clear and focused task, I can lock in until the job is done. I can write a book in a week, I can refinish the floors in a weekend, and I can go to work ten hours straight. Maybe this is one of the reasons God has given us guys such clear, focused instructions on being a dad.
So to help us avoid becoming frustrated fathers, we need to become focused fathers. A man’s mind typically craves order and young children bring chaos. But if we put overarching goals on specific details, it helps us stay focused. I’m not just playing with action figures, blocking Noel from falling off the bed, and talking to my wife about her day. I’m spending time with my family. Having this overarching goal helps my mind simplify times of being pulled in many directions.
By having specific goals, our male minds can have a bit more order. Kids and the chaos they bring are not changing. But we can change our perspective, and lots of times that’s all we need.
Being a focused dad really helps. So memorize Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, and next time you feel frustration stemming from you insane young children, remind yourself of the concise goals the Bible gives us as dads.