I married my High School Sweetheart, Susan, 32 years ago. Being the youngest of four boys, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that God would give me five daughters to raise. I was in for the ride of my life. They are all grown and living on their own now. How blessed I have been to be responsible for leading my “six pack” of women to the heart of Christ. How humbled I have been made to think that God placed six eternal souls in my direct care. It’s an awesome responsibility worth of our greatest efforts.
Lesson: We Must Give Image to the Heavenly Father
Having come to know Christ in high school, I have always recognized that my role as an earthly Father is to give image to our Heavenly Father. I know this is a daunting task. All men can honestly say that they fall greatly short from that mark. Yet that should not stop us from trying to love our kids as God loves us. One simple example I can offer you is to help develop within your kids a longing for their Father’s love. I always used the “Mary Poppins” technique in parenting.
“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
The sugar is the love we pour out on our kids and the medicine is the correction we give when needed (which is still actually love but they can’t see that yet). As Fathers we must recognize that our role is to get our kids to God – through our hearts! This means that our actions must speak love all the time because God is love.
If our kids have hit their teen years and are in outright rebellion, one possible really good reason is because there has been little sugar received in the past. Of course it is never that simple but people live from their hearts and they use their minds to navigate through the painful waters of life.
When an earthly father reveals his own heart to his kids, they grow in confidence and security because their Father’s love gives it to them. They are much more capable of standing up to the challenges of life because they have come to know that their Father not only loves them but BELIEVES in them.
As men, with our own wounds and fears, the idea of opening our hearts (let alone giving it) to our kids is a horrifying thought. However, if our love is going to be real, then we must rise up in the true strength of our manhood and die to those fears and give our hearts away.
From my own personal experience, I can guarantee you two things:
1. You will be hurt! – To live authentic love in a fallen world is to experience pain!
2. You wont regret it! To watch your kids bloom in the light of your love is worth the pain.
The truth is that our kids will grow up and live the model of love you and your wife exemplify. You will either work for God and train your kids for selfless love or you will work for Satan and train your kids to selfishly close their hearts and learn how to manipulate to get emotional bandaids. They will live in constant fear of emotional pain and never be free to open their hearts to God.
Therefore, we must go to the Holy Spirit and ask Him for the help we need to heal from our past so that we can open our hearts and give them to our loved ones. Only those who live in authentic faith will believe enough in God to entrust Him with this task. The rest of us will simply keep God at arms length distance and keep playing Church!
If you want to live richly in God you must take the leap of faith at the core of your being!
Go for it! You and your family are worth it!
A Good Action You Can Take Today:
The love of God is not an emotion nor a good intention, it is a decision to act selflessly. While our world is pumping sex and self-gratification as the primary conduit and result of love, we must put off that worldly formation and put on Christ. St. Paul said in Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (NABre).”
We must first go to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to reveal to us the portions of our worldly formation that must be transformed to Christ and His love. Only by the grace of God will you be able to give image to our Heavenly Father, so let Him do it in you first.
Time: Make sure you are making time for God by setting up a daily prayer time. You should give Him at least 20 minutes to start and then as the need arises, let it increase.
Make time with your kids to be present to them. Each day you want to check in with them. Like you must do with God, Make it a focused time THEY have YOUR undivided attention.
Dialogue: The moment we stop and focus on God, we recognize that He is already present, ready to listen to our every word in prayer.
The first greatest gift you can give your kids is to listen to them (don’t just try to fix a problem). Listen to their hearts, not just their words. Ask the Spirit to make you attentive to their needs that have not been spoken.
Gentle Direction: For those who are willing to wait for God, He will provide us with gentle, patient direction. The Holy Spirit has been given to us for this very purpose – to guide us and encourage us along the journey. God doesn’t expect perfection, He just wants to help us along the way. With our families there is a time and place for everything. As fathers, we often fail because we don’t stop what we are doing to attend to the needs of our kids. This communicates volumes more than any words you can say. The other polarity is just as damaging. We need not stop every time, when our kids ask for help. Instead, we should teach them to learn to wait upon God by denying their request but giving them a time to expect our help. Then STICK to your promise!!!!!
Constant Love: God’s love for us is constant and never ending. He will not love us any more or less based on our behavior. Every moment of every day God is thinking about us and loving us.
If only we could love unconditionally. However, the truth is we can’t. The times when we fall short, me must go to our kids (and wives) and ask them to forgive us. This great act of humility is a greater act of love. Our kids will be hurt when we fail, but will learn something even greater when we confess our failure and ask for forgiveness. They will learn that Love covers a multitude of sin. When we fail to love perfectly, it is then that we can focus their attention on the ONLY ONE that does. These are precious catechetical moments when we teach them to long for their Heavenly Father as the fulfillment of their heart’s true desires.
My Brothers, be the Father that never stops loving.
BECAUSE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER NEVER DOES!
As Founder of New Evangelization Ministries Inc. (NEM), Deacon Ralph Poyo seeks to be a useful tool for assisting Bishops and Pastors in training their leadership in the processes of Evangelization and Discipleship. He has traveled extensively around the United States, serving as an evangelist, popular conference speaker and consultant. He incorporates what he learned and experienced in over thirty years of parish and consulting ministry to rural, inner city, and suburban parishes and dioceses.
When Dcn. Ralph is not consulting with parishes or dioceses, he is a popular speaker capable of communicating with a wide variety of audiences. His passionate, humorous, and playful style has captivated audiences of all ages with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His presentation style disarms and speaks directly to the issues that plague our efforts to live the Catholic Faith.
Dcn. Ralph is married to his high school sweetheart, Dr. Susan Poyo, and has five daughters, three sons (In-law), and three grandchildren. More information about Dcn. Ralph can be found at NewEvangelizationMinistries.org and you can follow him on Twitter by his Twitter handle @HobbitDeacon.