Ahead of Father's Day (Sunday 6 September), we'll be sharing stories of every day Christian fathers, and how knowing God, the Father has shaped and transformed their perspectives on children and parenting. In this interview, Jeremy Ward shares the importance of representing God, the Father especially in moments of reconciliation requiring grace and forgiveness.
1. What does being a Christian father mean to you?
Being a Christian father means I’m called to represent God to my kids. As concrete thinkers, young children find it hard to know what God is like. But I’m given the high calling of making God’s character known to them, so that the tone of my voice reflects the tone of God’s voice, the way I discipline and exercise authority reflects God’s good discipline and authority and the comfort I provide reflects the comfort God provides. What a task!
Fortunately, I don’t have to have it ‘all together’. When it comes to my own pull towards self-centredness I’m more like my kids than different to them. So, I learn to rely on God’s grace and forgiveness to me. I identify with my kids in their weakness and self-centredness and I point them to the same grace that I so desperately need myself.
2. How does knowing God the Father change the way you parent your kids?
Knowing that God, the Father generously offers me forgiveness and hope for change does two things for my parenting. First, it enables me to own my failure, weakness and sin and speak honestly about this to my kids, and even asking them to forgive me when I relate to them in damaging ways. My kids are always engaged when I speak personally with them about such things. I shudder to think what my relationship with them would look like if I felt I had to ‘cover up’ the ways I’ve wronged them.
Second, I can offer hope to my kids in the face of their signature struggles. Whether it is acting impulsively, persistent ‘deaf ears’, or another jealous squabble, I don’t have to relate to them as if they’re just a sum total of these patterns. God is patient with me time and time again. His Spirit empowers me with new resources to change. That same patience and those same new resources are extended to my kids in Christ. I can celebrate incremental change as it happens and not give up as if change is beyond their reach.
3. Can you share something that God has been teaching you, since you’ve become a parent?
Our kids are still quite young – we have three kids under the age of 7 years old. Understanding that kids think in concrete terms is something that hasn’t come naturally to me. I too quickly go into ‘biblical instruction’ mode with my kids as if they were older. But I’m learning that one of the key ways I point them to God’s grace and forgiveness is in moments of reconciliation after time-outs.
We have a bit of routine worked out where we ask the kids what they did, and they take responsibility for their actions by saying sorry and asking for our forgiveness. These aren’t just moments to talk about God’s character but to model God’s character to them in granting forgiveness. This means actually treating them as forgiven – not continuing to resent them for what they’ve done or continue to punish them in subtle ways – but relating to them warmly in restored relationship.
This is also an opportunity to check my motives. Am still angry them because they spoiled my plans for the evening? Or am I happy to give up my plans knowing God’s calling me to see something bigger going on in this moment?