Pastor as Father (1 of plenty)
It has been a long time since I've posted one of my "Pastor As..." Series. Since I'm painting the baby room today I thought I would do what no human has ever done in the history of history and think about the future.
Since we've found out Cheryl is pregnant some people have taken to calling me "Dad" or "Pappa" - it's a little creepy. Creepy in the sense that it still doesn't sound right to my ears and creepy in the sense that those folks are certainly not my children. If I'm going to be a father then I'll have to figure out how to incorporate that into my current reality - being a pastor.
|My niece and me, 2014|
Anticipating the reliance that comes with being a dad has made me think about how pastors are fatherly.* I have had to ask myself some hard questions in preparing for fatherhood and I thought I'd bring you along for a bit of the journey:
First, I have already been pondering if I should be doing things differently as a father. Do I kill that last piece of pizza? Does yelling in the car set the best example for my kid? What if that girl was my child? Our child hasn't even been born yet and just the mere possibility has me looking at life in different ways. Two corollary thoughts: a.) why haven't I been making wiser choices already and b.) how can I care more for those around me?
I find myself thinking not just about how my decisions affect myself or my wife but also what it leaves for out little one. This applies in so many directions and with so many of my relationships. If I treated the 4th-6th graders at Sumatanga this summer as my own child, it may alter how I go about ministry there.
It boils down to this: what kind of camp do I want my daughter to go to? What kind of church can I help craft for her? What environment (both physically and spiritually) am I working to ensure for her? Should I vote differently? Should I watch my language?
Ironically, caring for my daughter sure is self-serving. Right? Taking care of our own is natural. Easy. Commendable. But I think I can flip that over. Not only can I be a father for my daughter - I can be a father for those in my charge. And who is my parrish? Well. John Wesley said the world was. That's a lot of congregants to worry about. I think there is something in the Bible about loving others as our heavenly Father loves. *wink wink*
I remember once I preached about how the love of spouses should be shared with everyone. A congregant came up to me afterwards and asked, "So, we are supposed to marry everyone?" Another guy quipped, "I have trouble keeping one woman happy; I don't need another." yukyukyuk. I am NOT saying I suddenly have to be intimate with everyone I meet. I mean the deeper love I've found with Cheryl (and my level of care for her) can become a model for caring for and loving others around me. I bet the same is true for being a Dad.
|Our serious pose.|
Which really leads me to my next point...
Second, this reality is already helping me understand God better and thus be a better pastor. If I can love my daughter whatever the circumstances then it will help me better understand how God loves me. Don't read that wrong - this isn't about me. This is about God. Surely my ability to be a good dad or a good pastor stems from a good God. I love to tell people that God's love finds us and comes in many shapes and sizes. Whenever others love us well it is a part of God's love for us. In other words - when our friends throw us a birthday party we know God's love. When that woman lets you merge on the highway we know God's love. When a student's Uncle and Aunt take her in like their own daughter (so she doesn't have to into foster care), we know God's love. When others love us, we know God's love.
The flip? When we do these things (instead of just having them done to us), we know God's love. No wonder so many people don't feel loved by God. It is because they've never been able to really show their love for others in a meaningful way (or knew how!). Being a Dad will allow me to love another more deeply. So far, for me, even the possibility of loving another as a Father has begun to rearrange my life. That's a beautiful thing, right?
I hope and pray that we can know God's love better. Gotta go - I have to go paint a baby room.
* - My use of "fatherly" throughout this post has more to do with my "Sitz im Leben" and less to do with distinguishing traditional gender roles or excluding swaths of pastors from the same reality I encapsulate. Catch that? Pastors can be motherly too. Same with God.