“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…” – Philippians 2:5-7 (NASB)
I recently found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, in way over my head. The reason for my anxiety? The Nintendo Wii. My son turned eleven and scored a Wii for his birthday and it was time for dad to take a turn. I was given the controller and in no time at all lost all my “lives” and allowed the virtual galaxy to run amuck. For some reason (age possibly?), I just couldn’t get it.
My son was quite gracious in the moment. Dad, it’s o.k. Just sit with me and watch and you’ll get it. I know you will. And so I did. I sat and watched and sat and watched and sat and watched. I still don’t entirely understand how to maneuver somebody called Mario, but I’m only forty-one; I’ve still got time.
Another moment like this occurred back in December. Not a lot of anxiety in this one, but I had to sit down. My daughter asked me to look through a catalog with her. Just sit with me, dad. This’ll only take a minute. She had circled a sweater that caught her eye and wanted to make sure it was on my holiday radar. And so I did. We sat and looked at every page until we came to the reason for our sit-down. The correct size and color were emphasized, followed by a hug around the neck, a kiss on the cheek, and something like you’re the greatest dad ever! These daughters. Smart, huh?
So, one afternoon after work, I journeyed like a magi to the appropriate store and rattled off the correct item number, size, and color to someone who looked every bit of twelve. The girl-clerk seemed impressed at my vast knowledge of this particular item of clothing. Wow! How do you know so much about this? I told her it came from sitting and listening and flipping pages and stuff. She said cool.
Moments like this seem to be popping up all over my fathering landscape. Moments where I’m reminded of something called the power of presence. Maybe you prefer “stopping to smell the roses” or “being there.” Potato, potatoe; same thing. Now, lest you think I’m the greatest dad ever, rest assured that for every moment when I’ve stopped to smell the roses with my children, there have been twice as many moments where the roses had to take a back seat to my own, “more important” little world.
But kids are gracious and I’m learning. I’m learning how utterly vital it is to them that I, the father, set aside my adult privileges and sit for awhile and humble myself and enter their world. I don’t have to get the high score or even like hoodies; I just have to be there, with them, my presence passing along something to them that may be real close to that word L-O-V-E.
Incarnational fathering. An intentional setting aside of the me in order to enter into the them. And in that moment or moments, it’s not necessarily what I say or do, but that I’m there. Now we all know there are moments of action and trailblazing and preparedness that children desperately need from their father. However, I believe there are just as many moments when they long for a power from us that comes primarily from our presence; humbling ourselves, like Christ our example, and entering their worlds. You could call it “fathering in the image of God” – the greatest Dad ever.
Sometimes, doing something for my kids and getting it over with (quickly) so I can get back to what I want to do is nothing more than a broad road to ruin. The narrow road, the one that leads to life, it’s not doing anything but being there, physically present, and resting in the promise that the Father up above is looking down in love and He’s got the whole world in his hands.
Fathers, don’t overlook the power of your presence. Power via humility. It doesn’t make a lick of worldly sense. But it may just make an eternal difference in the lives of our sons and daughters.
Just sit with me dad. It’ll only take a minute…