April 25, 2018
Last week, my four year old son sat in my lap one afternoon and told me: “Dad, I’ve decided to be a pastor, just like you, when I grow up. I’ve started practicing already.” When I asked him how he was training to be a pastor, he told me he started highlighting in his books.
I got a laugh out of this, but I also felt a bit proud. My boy knows that I spend a good bit of time reading, researching, and highlighting for sermons. My son’s typical choices for future careers are typical of little boys: fireman or police officer. I suspect he probably finds most of what I do really boring. In fact, I’m certain of it because he tells me as much when he’s stuck hanging out in my office during work hours. Pastoring is definitely less interesting in a young boy’s eyes than putting out fires or driving any vehicle with a siren.
The big attraction to pastoring is definitely wanting to be like me. Dads tend to be their son’s first heroes, and they become a model to live up to, win the approval of, and imitate in life. For some young men, their fathers become the figure to rebel against or overcome. Regardless, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of fathers to their sons.
In the midst of the pressing concerns of day to day life, it’s easy to overlook or minimize the importance of a father’s words and actions on their sons. Over the years, I’ve talked to many men, young and old, who desperately wanted to hear their fathers say: “I’m proud of you.” I’ve met successful men who work themselves to death, trying to win their dad’s approval. In some tragic cases, this goes on well past when their father has passed away. A father to telling his son that he’s a good man or accomplishing great things is no small matter. Many men aren’t sentimental, so this sort of expression can be out of character or uncomfortable. At the same time, it’s one of the most important thing a father can do for his son.
Beyond that, I think accepting the gift of a son’s admiration is a huge deal for men. Our culture often approaches dads with an attitude of derision. Television and movies are loaded with examples of “clueless dolt” fathers or worse, absent or abusive dads.
This gives guys very little to aspire to. I’ve often heard men proclaim that they want to be the kind of dad that theirs wasn’t. This is tragic. The purpose of heroes and role models is to inspire us to be better. For dads, the admiration of our sons should be an inspiration to be the best dad we can be.
I have a friend who regularly extols the virtue of becoming the kind of dad his kids deserve. If your son sees you as a hero, be a man worthy of the title. Aspire to greatness. Sure, it’s just the attention of a little kid, but it’s the attention of the most important person in the world. Based on the example his father sets, a son will learn how to treat his future wife, the attitude he should take toward hard work, how to deal with God, tell the difference between right and wrong, and so many other lessons. There is no higher calling a man can aspire to than to be the hero to his son.