So Dayna and I went to see the new Christian film, Courageous. It’s produced by a church in Georgia that has produced other films like Facing the Giants and Fireproof. Courageous is a compelling film for families and especially for fathers. If you’re inclined to cry at movies, take some Kleenex. If you’re not inclined to cry at movies, take some Kleenex.
Courageous is a film about fathering, and it stirred me to think about the way I fathered my kids. Of course, with kids who are 31 and 29, my fathering is pretty much past tense. “I’m feeling a little guilty,” I said to Dayna as we were driving home from the theater. “I could have done better with the kids.” I don’t think I was courageous.
Having been raised in a home without a father, I was ill-equipped to be one. I didn’t read any books on the subject; I just sort of followed my gut. Sometimes that worked out pretty well. Sometimes it didn’t. Like the Saturday I was supposed to watch the kids (who were about 4 and 2 at the time). I put them down for a nap about the time the Razorback game was supposed to start. Nathan, the oldest, refused to go to sleep. He kept asking for one thing or another, kept bugging me like a mosquito in a tent, kept me from being able to watch my game. Exercising zero maturity, I didn’t deal with the issue, I got into a back and forth exchange with him—my line usually being, “Don’t make me come in there.” Being a mouthy kid, he wouldn’t shut up, so (during a game timeout) I pulled him out of his room and took him to the kitchen sink. He wants to be mouthy; I’ll deal with his mouth. I’ll wash that boy’s mouth out with soap. But dang! There wasn’t any bar soap at the sink, so I grabbed the next best thing available: dishwashing liquid. (Before you judge me you must realize that I was in a hurry; the game was about ready to start again.) He was crying. I was mad. And I was going to win. So I smeared some of that blue soapy liquid on my finger and rubbed it in his mouth. And do you know what he did? He looked up at me with tears rolling down his pudgy cheeks and blew the biggest soap bubble you ever saw! Hysterical. I got to laughing and he got to laughing and I hugged to my chest the one I was ready to exile to Siberia just moments before. Not very courageous, huh?
I wasn’t much better with my daughter. Having been raised with two brothers, I had no concept on how to raise a girl. As demonstrated in the previous paragraph, I knew all about boys (yeah, right). I knew about wrestling and playing ball, about getting dirty and eating like a pig, about bodily functions and acting crude. And I knew how to discipline a boy too. They take a spanking pretty good. I could yell at a boy when I needed too. But how do you discipline a girl? From the first time I saw her, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to yell at her. And I wasn’t sure I could spank her either. So I was kind of nervous about having a girl. Could I discipline her when needed? Could I find a way to enter her world? Other than the GI Joe I played with in the mid-60s, I’d never been around dolls in my life. And even then GI Joe was no girl doll. He was always shooting the enemy and blowing stuff up. He’d have had no trouble wiping out Barbie if he thought she was a Communist. He was one bad dude. But this girl world was different—dolls and tea parties, Kaboodles and My Little Ponies, jewelry and makeup, dresses and ribbons and lace. I was glad she liked sports—we made some connection there. But on the whole, I was out of my element and would be the whole time she was growing up. But I loved her, how I loved her and love her still! Yet what’s so courageous about that? She was easy to love.
So if I was grading myself on my daddy-work I’d have to give myself a B. I think I was generally better than average but certainly not exceptional and certainly not courageous. Truth is: both of our kids were easy to raise and both turned out well. They love God, serve Him in their churches, live responsibly, and are raising their own kids to do the same. I credit this end-product to many prayers, Dayna’s influence, and two good churches we’ve been a part of. We did do our best to show them Christ, keep them in the Scripture, and keep them in the church. We did love them unconditionally. We laughed a lot—a whole lot. And we never for a moment forgot that these two kids belong to God and are only on loan to us. The bottom line is that God was merciful, and God shaped these kids into the adults they are today—in part because of us, in part in spite of us, especially in spite of me.
I can see it now: “Let’s make a movie about John’s fathering.”
“Ok, but what will we call it?”
“How about Courageous?”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
“Then what would you call it?”
“I’d call it … Blessed.”
And so would I.