Renae and I just got back from a long weekend in Denver. And as much as I love to drive through the open country of Nebraska (really!), having some good listening material helps. Besides immersing myself in the new Fleet Foxes full-length — which I hope to write more about in the near future — we listened to a number of sermons that we had downloaded from Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
The first batch came from head pastor Tim Keller’s series “The Trouble With Christianity: Why It’s So Hard To Believe It,” which is tied in with his recent book The Reason For God. We only listened to the first couple of sermons, which dealt with Christianity’s claims of exclusivity and Biblical literalism, but both were excellent. I had heard many of Keller’s arguments and statements before in other places, but his delivery was so thoughtful and well done, they felt fresh all over again.
The second batch of sermons came from a series titled “Raising Covenant Families” by Dr. and Mrs. Wilson Benton. Not surprisingly, this series — which covered topics such as discipline, a Biblical view of parenting, what the covenant means for families, parental responsibilities, and so on — was incredibly relevant for us. Not to mention incredibly convicting and challenging. Having just recently baptized Simon, itself a sign of covenant family-ness, these topics are at the forefront of our minds, and we found these sermons very illuminating, encouraging, and challenging.
One of Dr. Benton’s statements that really cut me to the quick was that, as Simon’s earthly father, I will be the source of his first information about God as his Heavenly Father. Or, to put it another way, I need to treat Simon in a way that reflects how God treats me, so that he can begin to understand how God treats him. The more I think about this, the more convicted I become.
Why? Because I’ve already failed Simon as a father. Maybe not in ways that will leave lasting scars or ring up expensive therapy bills a few decades from now, but even so, I’ve failed to consistently respond to his (legitimate) needs and weaknesses with the requisite grace, compassion, and patience. Instead, I’ve responded with impatience and frustration (those 3:00am feedings are a killer, believe me). How much more so will I fail Simon in the coming years as his needs change and require more of me, and how much more damaging will those failures be as he develops and matures as a human being?
This all sounds awfully gloomy, I realize that. However, as Benton points out, my child is first and foremost God’s child. I’m just a steward, and therefore, God, in His sovereignty, bears the ultimate responsibility for him. Which is not a license for me to shirk my fatherly duties or perform them in a substandard manner — or to beat myself up when I do fail him. Rather, it can become a source of confidence and reassurance as I stumble along and try to figure out this whole father gig. Confidence that God has the best possible plans for Simon, better than anything his mother and I can imagine, and we can fall back on that even when it feels like we’ve totally botched things.