Mar

01

2013

Brandon Smith|12:01 AM CT

4 Lessons I'm Learning as a Soon-to-Be Dad

Within two years of marriage, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child. While joyful about the news, we were flooded with questions and concerns. The initial shock exhausted us as we began to anticipate the many necessary skills we do not have. As they say, you're never really "ready" to be a parent. As a husband, it's no small thing to learn to live with and lead my wife, but she can do most things for herself. It's quite another challenge to steward the life of a baby who can do almost nothing on his or her own. 

For us, this first pregnancy has been fun, tiring, exciting, terrifying, and everything in between. As a man, the revelation that I am called by God to lead my family is weighty. In fact, Paul tells Timothy that "if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8). I do not take these implications lightly. It is an absolute privilege for God to entrust a family to me.

Here are four things that I'm learning and hope to continue to learn with the Trinity as my blueprint.

1. God created this life.

The verse that came to mind when my wife happily surprised me with the news was Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Amazing! As a go-getter, problem solver, and perpetual thinker, I needed to hear this word. In some spheres of life, these pioneering traits are good and beneficial. But I must remember that I cannot control his or her life any more than I can determine the rising and setting of the sun. A pastor friend—who has raised both a pastor and also a prodigal son—recommended that I simply be faithful to God in my character as a man, husband, and father while leaving the reins in God's hands. This child is ultimately God's, not mine. This is piercing to my pride but a treasure chest of truth. I need the constant reminder of God's sovereignty to both humble and also comfort me.

2. The Father shows me how to be a father.

I have been reading insightful articles and books on parenting in an attempt to lay some groundwork. But I will find no greater illustration than the Father's love for his children. He is willing to sacrifice greatly for their good (John 3:16-17) and train and discipline them for righteousness (Heb. 12:5-11). My own father did a phenomenal job of showing me what covenantal love looks like. He was consistently tender, compassionate, and even corrective much like God the Father is with each of his own. Indeed, everything done by the Father is for our greater good (Rom. 8:28), whether we recognize it or not. As I point my child to him who freely gives all things (James 1:5), I want to reflect those pure intentions as much as I can.

3. The Son shows me how to be a husband.

My wife now needs me in ways that she hasn't before. I want to serve my now-pregnant wife properly, so I shared concerns about my lack of knowledge with a few older women in my family. I received nearly the exact same response: I can't be Mr. Fix It. I have no clue what she is going through, and I shouldn't pretend otherwise. Instead, I must look to Jesus's love for his bride, the church. He says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Though it is Jesus's yoke that my wife must take upon her, the more I look like him, the better I can help her. I will more fully represent him the more willing I am to lay down my own life for her, just as he did on the cross (Eph. 5:25).

4. The Holy Spirit is my guide.

I have the tendency to become self-reliant and bitter when things spin out of my control. A friend with four wonderful kids recently suggested that I drown my family in prayer. The purpose, he said, is two-fold: to give this situation to God and to remind myself to desperately depend on the Spirit. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit for a reason, and I should not ignore him.

This was perhaps the greatest instruction of all. How could I possibly seek the aforementioned characteristics without the supernatural work of the Spirit? The beautiful news is that I, filled with and empowered by the Spirit, can escape the temptation to dodge responsibility (1 Cor. 10:13) while being constantly reminded of God's perfect will for me and my family (John 14:26). Without him forging my path, I am helpless.

That's what I've been learning so far in this new stage of life. For all the dads out there far more experienced than I am, what tips would you add?

Brandon Smith serves in editorial roles for Project TGM, The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, and For Christ and Culture. He and his wife, Christa, are expecting their first bundle of joy in August. Connect with him on Twitter: @BrandonSmith85.

Categories: Trinity
  • Aaron Meraz

    Good post, Brandon. Here are three things I've learned:
    1. The greatest disciples you'll ever raise are your children.
    2. If your goal is to raise a child, that's what you'll raise. If your goal is to raise an adult, that's what you'll raise.
    3. Begin corporal discipline at six months. Children know what they're doing when they crawl!

    • http://www.projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

      Awesome advice, Dr. Meraz! Thanks!

    • Annie

      As the mother of two, I'm sorry but I must say that there is something very wrong with you if you think you need to discipline a 6 month old baby. Please get a copy of Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey and pay special attention to the chapters on cognitive and moral development.

    • http://www.kerenthrelfall.com/ Keren

      I would encourage you to read this article, in relation to Dr. Meraz's advice:

      http://www.9marks.org/blog/warn-them-not-abuse-their-children

  • Pingback: Lessons for a Soon-to-Be Dad | For Christ and Culture

  • http://compost-blog.com Leslie

    Here are two thoughts that helped us in raising our two daughters:
    1. Lighten up. Pick your battles. Enjoy your kid(s). Remember that God is a God of joy.
    2. You may have never been a dad before, but your child has never been a child before, either. They don't know the "right" way to do things. Give yourself grace to make mistakes, rely on God to pick up the pieces, and be quick to apologize, both to your child and to God, when you mess up.

    • http://www.projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

      Good word, Leslie! Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Nick

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts! My wife is due in 3 weeks and these are wise words that have ministered to me today.

  • http://ProjectTGM.com Brandon Smith

    Nick,

    Great! That was my hope.

  • http://www.citizenbezner.com Steve Bezner

    Great work, as usual.

    But who is that guy in the pic? Did your beard frighten them with its overwhelming masculinity?

    • http://projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

      My beard was too much for the site. They had to neutralize it a bit. ;)

  • Dave

    As a daddy to 5 girls and 3 boys, I would say that the absolute best thing you can do for your children is to LOVE their mother...

    • http://ProjectTGM.com Brandon Smith

      Dave,

      Aaaaamen!

  • Stephen Futrell

    In 1 John 2:1 there is a balance presented from our Heavenly Father exhorting us not to sin while at the same time reminding us of the grace and forgiveness that comes through Christ. I think this is something that as parents we have to keep in perspective, we are raising our kids and training them not to sin but they have to also be taught the truth of the gospel and all the grace and forgiveness that is there. As parents we get to model the gospel to our kids from a young age, it's my hope and prayer that when my kids are saved the relationship feels somewhat familiar, although infinitely greater, than their relationship with me.

    • http://projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

      Powerful stuff, Stephen! Very encouraging.

  • John

    I have two children - I have know words of wisdom as I know less now than I did before I became a parent.

    • John

      Check that - "no words of wisdom" - I can't even spell right, why would I even begin to give kid raising advice?

      God's grace go with you.

  • T.Newbell

    Love all your humble responses to the advice, Brandon! Pray God blesses your new family (addition). Love Dave's advice. :)

    • http://www.projecttgm.com Brandon Smith

      Thanks, Trill! I know a lot about nothin' at this point. ;)