"For Father's DayI'd like to take you to breakfast this week." These were my son Nathan's words to me on Father's Day. "There's one condition: I want you to think of one piece of fatherly wisdom to give me." Today was the day; we moved from breakfast to lunch and began talking.
I'd been thinking about it for three days. Nate has in many ways surpassed me, so I'm not sure what wisdom I have to offer, but I gave it my best shot. He is 44, which even considering our family's actuarial longevity, means his earthly life is close to half over. He is in the strength of his life, but that will eventually begin to fade, so my wisdom came in the form of a question: "Where is God calling you; what are your goals, and what are you doing now that will position you to get there? What are you doing that will prove worthwhile in 10, 20, 50 years?" We talked about what he is doing, what he needs to do, and what perhaps he needs to stop doing because sometimes good activities can keep us from the right activities. We talked about the priority of spending time with his family, what it means to make disciples of his daughters, of leading men into their strength with bold faith.
I am convinced that we need strong men leading the church, but that strength must first be tempered with submission to Christ and his teachings. The church has too many men who have bought into the false image of Christ as "gentle Jesus, meek and mild." We know what it means to turn the other cheek, but not to stand boldly and forcefully in the face of evil. (That's somewhat of a digression, but we talked about it, and it's something I believe is critical in the life of the church today.)
I am in a different place in life than he. I'm retired, and the challenge for me is similar to his, but with one major difference. We both need to continue seeking the Lord's direction and moving towards him. I don't yet have a clear picture of God's plan for me at this stage in life; I just know it's not to shrivel and shrink into a diminutive version of myself during my working life. Nate says much the same about where he is in life. It's like climbing a mountain. At times we lose sight of the peak, but we know it's there, and we keep moving in that general direction. Sometimes the terrain makes us move in an unplanned direction, but we know the goal, and that keeps us focused. The difference is that my focus needs to be almost entirely on mentoring other men, whereas he still has the responsibilities of ministry, making a living, and family. He is in what David Murrow calls the Strength part of life, whereas I've moved to the Sacrifice part. I am grateful tonight for our conversation, and for having to reflect on life in preparation for our conversation. It helped me sharpen my focus and renew my motivation to rest in Christ, but never on my laurels.