One of the most important (and most sobering) realities of being a father is the enormous influence that I have on the life and direction of my children. I have the unspeakable privilege and responsibility of setting tone and direction in every area of my children’s present and future. That influence can have eternal ramifications. I have often thought and prayed about how I am influencing my children and what I am pointing them toward. One of the things that I have began to learn is that much of the message that I communicate to my children is indirect. In fact, probably the majority of the most powerful messages that my children receive from me are subtle, indirect and unspoken. Let me share one of these messages that says much about the very nature of influence.
I have now been married to Bonnie for a little over 10 years. In many ways, I am the same person I always have been. But there are other ways in which I have been unquestionably, deeply changed. Why is that? Is it just because I got married? No, not really. I have been changed because I was open to be changed. Let me give an example. I had an athletic upbringing and participated in sports throughout childhood and adolescence. This continued on a lesser basis well into my 20s and early 30s, but my level of fitness slowly deteriorated. Though I like and enjoy sports – I have more than a little couch potato in me and my motivation to stay fit and healthy is at times, a bit lacking. Bonnie, on the other hand, had a quite different upbringing in regards to athletics and is quite motivated to exercise, eat well and stay fit and healthy. Over the life of our marriage I have picked up some (though maybe not enough) of that drive and motivation and am more fit and healthy now (pushing age 45) than I was at 30. She influenced me and thankfully, there was enough humility in me to allow myself to be influenced. It works both ways as well. When Micah was about 3 years old I became absolutely infected with the classical education bug. I didn’t envision homeschooling our children and I know that wasn’t on Bonnie’s radar at all. As I studied and learned about classical education I became convinced that this was the right path for our children. Bonnie wasn’t quite so enthusiastic. But she trusted me, prayed about it and we are now entering our fourth year of homeschooling (Bonnie’s second year of tutoring in our Classical Conversations group) with Bonnie really doing most of the heavy lifting of the day to day process. It has it’s challenges, but Bonnie would say that it has been an incredible blessing and adventure. I influenced Bonnie and she let herself be influenced.
This communicates a wonderful message to our children. It shows them that their Dad and Mom love and respect each other and are willing to listen to and learn from each other. It shows them that their parents are willing to change and orient their lives around what is important. But it also says something about how leadership and influence really works. It works in an atmosphere of love, trust and humility. I will only influence my children in the right way to the extent that they know I truly love them, that they can trust me and that I am humble enough to learn and change, even if (perhaps especially if) that means that I admit to them when I am wrong and am willing to ask for and receive their forgiveness. Think of every area that you would like to influence your children in the right way. Do you want them to be active and fit? They are much more likely to be so if they see you doing what it takes to maintain that lifestyle. Do you want your children to love to read and learn? If they see that love in you, then they will. Do you want them to have a wonderful marriage? Then love your wife or husband with all of your heart and treat them like the prince or princess that they are in God’s eyes. Most of all, do you want them to love and serve the Lord? Then let them see you doing just that with deep joy and gratitude. Let your faith in Christ be infectious. Let it be free, generous and as natural to you as breathing.
Influencing my children is a wonderful calling. But they can only be shaped by me in the shape that I am in. The more I am shaped by Christ, the better of an influence I will be.