I’m an empty nest dad. On a Friday, I might ask my bride, Rita, what we have this weekend and she’ll say, “Nothing.” And then we’ll both just laugh. Not too many years ago, that idea would have been unthinkable.
Maybe you’re there now. Your life is going a gazillion miles per hour just keeping up with work responsibilities and your kids’ jam-packed schedule. You can’t imagine a free weekend. Dad, as busy as you are, I urge you to keep doing what you’re doing—but add one more thing. It’s something I forgot to do. That is …
See the glory.
I don’t have a ton of regrets. My kids turned out great and we are adding wonderfully amusing grandkids to the family. But looking back, I realized I should have spent more time appreciating the seasons. Not spring, summer, fall, and winter. But being grateful for each season of life while in the midst of it.
I know I’m not alone in this missed opportunity. Most dads also get caught up in the urgency of the moment and typically experience more frustration than joy. Consider these snapshots of family life …
A hardworking father of young children is trying to build a career while also being a model parent—feigning interest at back-to-school night, scratching his head over math homework, reading Goodnight Moon night after night, and racing to the office supply store before it closes to get poster board and markers.
A dad of teenagers tosses car keys across the kitchen, paces the floor after missed curfews, worries about cultural influences over which he has no control, and wonders how he is ever going to pay for college.
In the midst of these real-life scenarios, most fathers don’t take the time to step back and see what’s really going on. And I get it. When the culture and media are delivering torrents of negativity, it’s hard to see anything else. That’s why I urge you, dad, to do the opposite.
With just a slight attitude adjustment, I believe you can witness these same life snapshots in an entire new way.
Call it what you want, but in each of these scenarios there’s so much more going on. An English teacher might call it subtext. A journalist might call it the story behind the story. A philosopher might call it big-picture thinking.
I choose to call it glory. And I’m pretty sure it’s a gift from a generous God who wants us to live in the light of gratitude and hope.
That new daddy—overwhelmed by his new responsibility—will look across the room one night at his beautiful, exhausted wife rocking that baby and singing a sweet lullaby. In that moment, God will reveal to him the amazing gift of new life and family. That’s glory.
That hardworking, busy father will look up one evening to see one child noodling on the piano, another texting a good friend, another finishing up some algebra homework at the kitchen table, and his wife reading in her favorite chair. In that moment, God will lovingly encourage him to keep up the good work. That’s glory.
That dad of teenagers will have an actual adult conversation with his growing son or daughter one day soon, and he’ll be surprised by their maturity, poise, and sound judgment. In that moment, God will invite him to trust in the future he has planned. That’s glory.
Watch for those moments, dad. Even expect them. Let that realization reveal a new sense of awe and gratitude for every moment of family life. Large and small. Wonderful and not-so-wonderful. Unforgettable experiences and the day-to-day life events that unfold without fanfare.
Be the dad.
Surrender to the routine and the fantastic. Appreciate what you have. It’s a cliché, I know. But it goes so fast.
Men, the very best thing you can do for those kids you love so much is to see your family as a living example of God’s love and glory. Keep at it, dad.
Jay Payleitner is the bestselling author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? and Day-by-Day Devotions for Dads. Jay and his high school sweetheart, Rita, live in St. Charles, Illinois where they raised five awesome kids, loved on ten foster babies, and are cherishing grandparenthood. Track him down at jaypayleitner.com.
Action Points & Discussion/Reflection Questions
- How would you describe the stage of fatherhood you’re in right now? What are your most common fathering activities?
- Do you have a sense that life is rushing past you and you’re struggling to catch up?
- Schedule regular time to unplug, maybe get alone outside, and reflect on the good things your children bring to your life.
- Does being a dad seem to bring mostly frustration to your life right now? Look for positives—even if it’s just finding ways you can learn and grow from going through difficult times.
- Start looking for those moments of “glory” in your everyday fathering tasks: changing diapers, helping with homework, driving kids to practices, reading a book with your child, interacting with your teen, etc.
- When you do “see the glory” in being a dad, let it show! Show your kids your love, excitement, passion, joy, gratitude, or whatever you’re feeling.
What’s a recent example of “glory” you have seen in your children and family? Leave a comment and see what other dads are posting on our Facebook page.