Being a Dad is the single most rewarding, scary, cool, terrifying, fun and sanctifying things I have ever done. Some say it is all about the parents ego, but I strongly disagree.
Let me just put this out there now. I am not sure how the friends on my facebook feed (and there are a couple of you) can say that becoming a parent is selfish. This idea simultaneously shocks and appalls me. The fact of the matter is, I feel I have given more of myself in the last two years than I have at any other time in my life other than when I got married. Actually, if I am honest, marriage and having children all fall under the umbrella of family, so I should have said that I have not given more of myself since I started a family, my wife and I, three years ago. If you enter marriage looking only to get out of it, marry for the satisfaction of self, you are going to be completely disappointed. Similarly, if you enter parenthood in the same way, as though the tiny human you make is going to fulfill you, then again…you are going to be sorely disappointed. There is a very good reason why they tell you in Marriage Counseling that marriage is a “Sanctifying” act. You get to see just how selfish you are and have to confront that head on if you want to survive. To say that getting married or having children is selfish is wrong, it exposes your selfishness and it will not fulfill you (Spoiler alert).
I have been a dad for two years now, yes, I count the baby we lost in January o f2018. That child was a human being, he or she had feet that would have one day run the earth as my daughter, who turned a year-old last Saturday will soon be doing. The fact that the child was lost to miscarriage does not change the fact that finding out your wife is pregnant causes you to instantly start planning the future with that child in it. You cannot claim them on a tax return, they have no SSN, but they are a human being and they were your human being for a short time. The Ultrasound picture now sits in our living room along with some of the gifts we were given in commemoration. I do not care if you think that’s cheesy or stupid, it is our way of remember the little child we loved and lost.
I know this is not my usual post for this site, but I thought it was appropriate considering that I have completed my first year as a dad of a child on this earth on Saturday. That is sort of a crazy thought for me, that the little girl who took my finger in her hand when I first held her is now bobbing around the house with her stuffed elephant, knocking down my block towers and getting a big smile on her face when she sees me come out of the office or back from the church building or visitations. Or when she comes to be with a book in her hands saying: “Dada, dada, this, this.” When she reminds me to put down all my study and research and sermon prep to just sit with her and read the same book ten to twenty times. Or when 5PM rolls around and her mother brings her into my office to remind me to close the workday of ministry and return to the ministry of my family. This girl reminds me that I am also bound by the teachings of scripture to manage my own household well because if I do not, she will suffer as a result, so will my wife and ultimately so will I and whether they realize it or not, so will my congregation.
If I am an under shepherd of the flock of Christ then I must be shepherding the entire flock, which includes my wife and I must honor of the covenant made with my daughter and Christ as her baptism. To raise her in such a way that she comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ and to be patient enough to help her form that faith into a resilient one through all the questions that arise for young Christians. To help her walk the road of Holy Doubt without crushing her spirit or turning her off from faith and from God. To teach her about God and His ways and to help her trust Him in a healthy manner. To serve her, as her father, so that she might know through not just my words, but my actions, what Christ did for her. To teach her to remember the promise of her baptism and to see that promise fulfilled in her. I cannot expert her to know the faith I do, if I am not demonstrating it for her.
For way too many Pastors the home has been the most neglected area of ministry. The home has been the place they unmask. We wonder why so many PK’s want nothing to do with the church after they graduate high school, it is because way too many of those PK’s never saw the faith they heard their parents preach from the pulpit lived out in daily life. The faith of Sunday Morning was not the faith of Monday morning. I do not want that for my daughter, I did not want that for my first child when we found out about her, I do not want that for my little Erin Price.
Instead, the child-like faith with which she trust me, her father, I want to become her child-like faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That starts with sacrifice and ends with unconditional love and grace that can only flow from Jesus Christ who I want her to know and be in relationship with all her days. I have to give of myself, give up my selfish ambitions, my time, my life for her. And I am not just saying this because she is sitting on my lap smiling up at me as I type this. This is a genuine desire.
Many of you have seen my #AdventuresofSaggyandFlappy hashtag. The two stuffed elephants that keep appearing in different places around the house to mark milestones in Erin and I’s relationship, to be an avenue for me to express my future hopes and dreams for my beautiful little wiggly girl. I would want the same for the child we lost. I would want them to know how much I love them by demonstrating for them how much Jesus loves them.
There is one sorrow that I carry now, it is interesting how this happens. This sorrow is that had the first child been carried to full term, had the Miscarriage not happened, our current child would not exist. It is kind of a weird thought, one marked by the joy of knowing that God has answered the prayer for a child but missing the child we never met. This is the strange ground I exist in as a dad. Some of you may think I am over thinking, but I am certain I am not. Do not get me wrong, as I said above, I love deeply the daughter I have now, she is an incredible human. Maybe you have never felt that way, but that is how I feel.
I say all this to say that I love being a father, I love getting to know her, seeing her little personality emerge and watching her explore…everything. This is the life I wanted, a life of sacrifice, praise the Lord for it, for it can be gone way too fast.
Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.