My wife and I have four children. They are not little any more, the three youngest are in their early to late teens. As they’ve become older I started drifting away from them, taking that little bit of extra freedom you find as a parent when they become a bit more self-sufficient and justifying taking as much time to myself. They experienced neglect from me as did my wife. Before we split up I had been trying to change my ways, taking more interest in them, trying to engage them and my wife more, reading books like Each for the Other (ironically I finished it the morning of the day we split up). The problem was that “I” was doing all the trying. I wanted to be on the right path, God’s path, but I was dictating how to go about it, trying to plot my course alone. My prayers were anaemic, my willingness to give myself up minimal.
He has corrected that now.
Talking to my wife this morning over the phone (even now she tries to assure me that things will be okay and encourage good relationships with our kids-[I neglected someone this loving!]) she was telling me how they loved me and don’t want to hurt my feelings but the youngest has anxiety over change- the change of me wanting to be a closer, better father. My constant selfishness means now I must take a slow pace to accustom her to my being in her life more. I did that. Our nineteen-year old, so close with her mom, has had the burden of her mother’s pain and struggle told to her and for far too long she was her mom’s only confidant. That’s a lot to put on a young woman, not to mention putting my wife in that position when she knows it’s a burden but has to feel better somehow. Our son, almost sixteen, has been a little more oblivious to the emotions but now the reality of these ideals he has held failing- both of me as a role model and of his parents’ marriage as eternal- has deeply wounded him. (“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4 , John Piper )
All down to my self-absorption, in case any of you feel too much sympathy for me.
Does this sound like you? Give yourself up. Empty yourself of everything and start letting God move you. Stop watching the shows and movies you think love, stop listening to your music, reading your favorite news feeds, growing your social media presence, pursuing your dreams. Strip away all of your interests for a while- they may not be what God wants you interested in! Ask God to tell you where to go, to reveal your gifts, and show you where He wants you to use them. Develop the habit of first thinking of what you can do for your loved ones before yourself. Develop the habit of considering life without them there and knowing no matter what- it will be worse than you can imagine. (“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” – 1 John 2:15-17 , John MacArthur)
Honor your family. Glorify the Lord. Start now.
After it sank in that I’d lost my wife to my neglect, the effect on our children convicted me next and I began incorporating that into my prayers. I almost never stop now, yet for decades I couldn’t imagine how a servant of God could pray without ceasing. (full disclosure, this is a link to a PDF from J. Vernon McGee about what Christ had to say about prayer. My computer opens a PDF link in my browser before downloading but yours may just start downloading)
Lead me in the best manner to teach our children Make their hearts and minds hungry to know and understand the Bible and give me the wisdom an insight to use the right tools, to find the right tools, and study the best passages of scripture to engage them, to build their knowledge and understanding of You, and to keep them hungry for more.
In Jesus’ Name,
I realize now that God was always telling me how to be happy. I only paid attention once, when you told me you were pregnant and I knew being a husband and father was what I was meant for. He always used you to tell me what path to take but I was always a petulant brat who didn’t want to hear it.
I feel like I have died and now haunt this house. You are so close but I cannot touch you or hold you in my arms.
Fill my heart with ways to enjoy time with my children. Lead me to find fun ways to teach them about you. Show me how I can encourage them to find and use their gifts to glorify you and ways we might use them together.
Thank you for sending me McGee’s sermon about You and Elijah being a majority. Dr. McGee’s insight about how you couldn’t use Elijah until he was as empty as the brook Cherith struck me at the right time. I am empty of myself now. Refill me with Your essence, Your Will, Your Spirit. Re-create me as the best version that I always should have been for her, our children, for You. Leave my self slain and resurrect and awaken a servant.
Praise and honor to you, my Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,