There are very few things in this world that I can say with confidence, "I'm great at this." One would be fantasy football trash talk. Another would be my dominating skills at ping pong, at least when it comes to destroying my co-workers. (I'm the reigning champ of our staff tournament, and yes I have a trophy to prove it.) But one other thing I'd say I'm great at is being a dad. I'm hesitant to write this blog post because I don't want to sound arrogant or prideful. I'm not a perfect dad. I make plenty of mistakes. I'm also not an expert on fatherhood. I've only been a dad for two and a half years. But you don't have to be perfect or an expert to be a great dad. So what does it take? Well here are a few things I've learned that have helped me become a great dad, and I hope they can help you too, especially if you are a young father like me.
1. Love Jesus.
Here's what I've found to be true. My ability to be a great dad is directly correlated to my love for Jesus. The more connected I am to his grace, the more committed I am to his Lordship (absolute authority), the better dad I become. This may sound cliché, but it's true. This is one of the greatest gifts of being a follower of Jesus. When we say yes to Jesus, we gain the Holy Spirit in our lives, leading us and guiding us, encouraging us, challenging us, and convicting us. The more I center my life on Jesus and devote myself to him, the more room his Holy Spirit has to work in me. This changes everything, including how I love my family, which leads me to my second point.
2. Love your wife.
Early on after my daughter was born I received some of the best advice I've ever been given. A good friend and mentor of mine said to me, "One of the greatest gifts you could ever give your kids is to love their mom with all your heart." That will always stick with me, and it has helped shape me as a dad. One of the challenges of being a parent, especially a new parent, is finding time for your spouse and making that relationship a priority. I'm not perfect here either, but my wife and I have made this a priority in our life. My two-year old daughter is already picking up on the way I love my wife, the way I talk to her, and the way I talk about her. She knows how I feel about my wife, and she knows how my wife feels about me. We are setting the example for the type of marriage and family she will one day want to have. I want her to be able to grow up and say, "I want to marry a man who will love me like my dad loves my mom."
3. Love your kids.
This one seems obvious, but let me expound. Remember the first time you held your child in your arms? Remember how you felt in that moment? Remember the love you had for your child that you couldn't even handle? I do. It is an unforgettable experience. But as time goes on, it's easy to forget the miracle of life that is your kid. It's kind of like this. I live in the midwest. No ocean. No mountains. No desert. Mainly just corn. Rows and rows of corn. So whenever I travel, I am pretty much always amazed at my surroundings. When I go to the beach, I am in awe of the ocean. When I visit Colorado, I'm blown away by the mountains. One day I heard a guy talking about the midwest. He was from Florida, and he was talking about how incredible the midwest is and how beautiful the miles and miles of farm fields are. He described it in a way that opened my eyes to the beauty around me. The same is true when it comes to your kid, because they are around you all the time. Don't forget how incredible they are, how amazing they are, and love them as if you are looking at them for the very first time, in awe of what God has given you.
4. Love yourself.
If you don't read anything else from this blog post, I hope you read this. There are so many negative messages in our culture about men, and specifically about dads. Look, we all know that there are some bad dads out there. But we don't hear enough about the good dads. The truth is, there are so many great dads in our world who are working hard for their families, loving their wives, caring for their kids, and doing the right thing. They don't get very much credit, and they never ask for it. But the truth is we need to celebrate the great dads in our lives and remind them how much they mean to us. For those of you who aren't dads, I want to let you in on a secret. As fathers, most of us hold ourselves to an extremely high standard. We want to be a hero to our families. We put enough pressure on ourselves as it is. So as a result, it's easy to beat ourselves up as dads without all the added criticism from the world. The truth is you can't be a great dad if you don't love yourself. You'll never get anywhere by punching yourself in the mouth. So let me encourage you today. If you are a dad, and you are working hard, loving your family, and caring for them the best you can, then I want to say thank you. Thank you for setting an example of what it means to be a great dad. We need dads like you. We are grateful for you. You are a great dad. Don't be afraid to admit it. Words have power. When you speak it, when you write it, you can live into it. So to all the dads out there, my hope is that you would live into these words today: you are a great dad.