In 2006, I was designated the world’s greatest Dad. I have the Father’s Day card to prove it. I have also received an official World’s Greatest Dad ball cap. The hat has not survived; however, I have preserved that Father’s Day card along with many other tributes paid by my daughters. Now as they are adults and I am a grandfather, I think it is high time that I make some confessions.
Let me say in my defense right off the bat, a chipmunk is a rodent — a rat with racing stripes. I am pretty sure they can carry parasites and disease. In addition, chipmunks had been destroying our garden. So when I cornered one outside on our patio, I grabbed the closest weapon I could find — a garden sprinkler — and hit it. With a few more whacks I put an end to that pest and, who knows, maybe even averted the plague. As I stood there outside my patio door, I was rather pleased with my triumph until I looked up. On the other side of that patio door stood my three little daughters with eyes wide open in shock and horror at seeing their father bludgeon to death a defenseless little creature.
Those three pairs of eyes along with their accompanying ears were a constant concern of mine, as was only fitting. My daughters watched me and listened to me, but not merely when I was speaking to them or demonstrating something for them. Their passive observation of my everyday life made me uneasy. I was not fearful they would report on me or think less of me, but I knew they likely would imitate me.
My girls served as a kind of integrity firewall. It is amazing how easily I can talk myself into doing something stupid or justify a sinful decision. But it is really hard to explain those same actions or decisions to a nine-year-old without them sounding as foolish as they really are. What’s more, whatever I justified in myself then could become a license for them later.
The Weight of the World
Do you want to know how to be the world’s greatest Dad? I wish I knew. For the life of me, I cannot think of one really amazing fatherly thing that I have accomplished. Nevertheless, if you tend to be competitive, I can at least clarify something about the title.
You have probably noticed around Father’s Day that department stores, groceries, and even convenience stores carry stacks of mugs, T-shirts, ball caps, and cards emblazened with “World’s Greatest Dad!” They are sold by the millions. It’s a participation trophy!! Still, it is the highest award attainable by a mere man. There is only one truly great Father, and he is divine. The rest of us just muddle through. In fact we need to be carried across the finish line.
I am guessing the award is a generous reciprocal gesture. Children who have learned that they do not have to earn their father’s love turn around and bestow the same unconditional love with heaping globs of glittery superlatives. In the final analysis, world in “World’s Greatest” may not actually be the entire world but only their world. Yet that is the one that matters more.
Follow the Leader
At the risk of sounding trite, fatherhood is like the game of follow the leader. I was at my best when I remembered to follow my leader. When I tried to make myself the leader apart from Christ, I was being an obstacle to my children. As long as I kept my eyes on Christ and told my girls to do the same, I was doing my part (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Thes. 1:6-7; Ps. 78:5-7). They might have noticed how feeble were my attempts to imitate my Savior, but that was okay as long as it reinforced their need to look to him.
For my fellow dads, here’s wishing you well on your quest to be the world’s greatest. Your success means more than you could ever imagine.
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