In the movie Dan in Real Life there is a scene in which a little girl tries to reassure her father with this equivocal comment: “You’re a good father, but sometimes a bad dad.” As Father’s Day approaches, I find myself occasionally turning an eye toward evaluating my own progress as a dad. Sometimes it isn’t so encouraging.
By the time I dropped Emily off at school this morning, I wasn’t only feeling like a bit of a bad dad, but I wasn’t even sure how good a father I was.
The morning seemed like it was going to start off well. I got up at a ridiculously early hour so that I could have lots of time to get ahead on things for the morning. Unfortunately, not long afterward Emily also woke up at a ridiculously early hour, so there we were, ready to have breakfast before six o’clock had even rolled around.
Emily and I had our plan last night. I was going to make omelettes for us this morning for breakfast. How could that not go well? But when I sat the omelette in front of her, she managed to eat maybe one bite of it. I was a little frustrated. However, she had asked for bread with peanut butter and honey too, so I thought she’d get a decent meal out of what was in front of her. But next thing, she was saying it was hard to swallow and spitting it out on her plate. I tried not to overreact, but really it was quite hard to look at. I believe I made a comment about it looking like something a cat threw up. I gave her a little bowl of yogurt, and we moved on with the morning.
By the time Dee was getting up the kids were starting to get dressed, but with Emily it had already turned into a big fight. The arguing continued as time moved along. A couple of her toys had made their way to the top of our fridge by the time I pulled out of the driveway with her, leaving Dee and Owen to a relatively peaceful house. The apology I was waiting for came part of the way to school. I have to admit it was the “repeat-after-me” kind of apology. I was willing to take it.
Then, about five minutes into the drive, what did Emily say? “Daddy, I’m hungry.”
Of course you are.
In the midst of our arguing I had forgotten to revisit breakfast before school.
Now, Rice Krispies Sqaures are probably no one’s idea of a healthy breakfast, but at the corner store next to Emmy’s school that was the “least-worst” option. Nevertheless, we were in great cheer as I left her on the playground, a nice hug and a kiss sending her on her way.
As I walked away, I heard the teacher dutifully warning Emily not to walk and eat, lest she choke on her food. I realized that I’m pretty sure they don’t allow food on the playground while the kids are playing, at least in the morning. And I wondered why I hadn’t warned Emily to sit in one place while she ate her sticky breakfast, lest she choke on her food.
If a good dad is one who understands the heart and emotional needs of his children, and a good father is one who takes care of their physical and other essential needs, I was feeling like a bit of a failure on both fronts as I left the playground.
And I am reminded of the words of Paul in Romans 7: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Thankfully, God is better and more consistent in his Fatherhood than we are. He’s more patient. He’s more forgiving. He’s considerably less likely to get in a rut in which his insistence on our good behaviour makes him lose sight of the value he places on us. God sets great value and love upon us even as we tread the water of sinfulness and rebellion. In fact, his absolute love for us despite our sin is the very way he draws us into the new life he has for us.
Again, Paul in Romans 7: “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
God has redeemed us, and he continues to provide for us even when we are inadequate. And we are always inadequate. But he gives us his adequacy, and empowers us each day to live for him.
And that means fathers too. This Sunday we’ll be looking at Ephesians 6, the little passage on parents and children. As we think about what God has called for in fathers, we can also take comfort in the fact that, weak in our own fatherhood as we are, he is always our Father too, through Jesus Christ. Even if we stumble along the way, he is always there, calling us forward and leading us on.