Not Dad Enough
It’s one of those days: at the office before dawn, so I can leave work early to help with my son’s practice. Or at least that was the hope. Instead, I find myself still at work, texting my wife to take him instead. This means she has to wake the littles from their nap, dinner plans have to change, and I’ll have been at work for nearly 12 hours before I get home. Just another day where I won’t exactly be overflowing with energy or patience. Some days I just don’t feel “dad enough."
There’s a lot of pressure on dad’s to be everything and win in every area. Action films (the height of western thinking) have raised us to believe we’re the hero of our own story and that nothing should stop us. Social media, on the other hand, has left us thinking everyone else is actually doing it. Bowie and Queen’s classic song, “Under Pressure” doesn’t just offer a great bassline, but an apt lament for the modern dad. The worst part is not just thinking you’re letting down your wife, kids or employers, it’s the thought that you have let God down. And in turn, our response is that we must strive; we must replace those losses with whatever kind of win we can get, so we sacrifice.
A Better Cure
In the (manly?) BBC series, Call the Midwife, one episode tells the story of a grandma diagnosed with Typhoid. Nurses instruct her to keep clean to keep it from spreading, but there is no cure. Overwhelmed with guilt and shame for getting her others sick, she withdraws from her family, refuses to hold her new granddaughter, and begins to compulsively, agonizingly, painfully wash her hands – scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing in vain to get rid of the disease.
Her nurses can instruct her to be clean, but they can’t get rid of the illness. She needs something better. A better doctor delivering a better cure. A better hero with a better story.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest … He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:11-12 ESV
Jesus offers himself as the final sacrifice: His blood for our forgiveness; not to ease our infection, but to heal it. Jesus offers the cure to end our striving and secures for us a supporting role in the eternal story of redemption. A story that tells us all the good works, all the long hours, all the striving to succeed, all the handwashing will never be enough: only Jesus can pay it all. And this means I can stop trying to earn it for myself or trying to prove I deserve it.
At the end of Saving Private Ryan, the title character is found, he’s kept safe, and a dying Tom Hanks leans in and says, “Earn this.” I hate that part. It pretty much ruins the whole movie for me, because you immediately know the whole rest of this man’s life is going to be spent trying to prove he deserved the lives of the squad who saved him. He can never win.
Too many Christians, too many dads are walking around doing the same thing, thinking “Jesus saved me, but somehow I can make it up to Him.” But you can’t. You can’t give enough. Serve enough. Evangelize enough. Work enough or be dad enough to equal Jesus’ sacrifice. And when we try, we trade in our Christian hope for anxiety and pressure.
But to the person with faith in Christ, God says:
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. – Hebrews 10:17-18
Jesus is the priest who puts an end to the strive to earn, as well as the pressure that goes with it. Your kids still need you, but not to be the perfect dad with the perfect story. They need you to be a dad who needs a savior. You may not be “dad enough,” but you can rest in the truth that Jesus is all the enough your family needs, and you can just be dad.
*This article was originally featured in the March 2017 issue of Home Front Magazine.
Derick Zeulner is an associate pastor at South Shores Church. He has a M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA and he loves the wacky adventures of doing life with his wife, Rebecca, and 4 kids.