One of my favorite quotations about dads was penned by American writer, Clarence Budington Kelland. “He didn’t tell me how to live;” wrote Kelland, “he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
As I thought about this quotation, I realized how much truth is contained in those few words. I don’t recall my Dad telling me a lot about how to live my life. I learned by watching him live. He demonstrated his love by his actions. He taught me about being faithful by keeping his promises. I learned about dedication and commitment as I saw him work long hours and take pride in the work he did. Likewise, I didn’t hear my husband tell our kids a lot about how to live life, but there was much for them to learn as they watched how he lived.
But as I considered the truth contained in the words of this quotation, it also occurred to me that the opposite is also true. When kids watch us live our lives, they not only see the good things we do. They also see the lost tempers, witness the wrong actions, and hear the bad words. And as we all know, none of us are perfect. Yet I believe that sometimes it is in these less than perfect times that our kids learn the most about how to live.
Think about it. Oftentimes, some of the hardest lessons we learn in life come about when we mess up, when things go wrong, or when times are hard. As we face and deal with real life dilemmas, our kids see what we do.
Are we honest with ourselves and others or do we make excuses and try to deceive?
Do we admit wrong and seek forgiveness or do we try to blame others or justify our actions?
Do we do what’s right and maybe difficult, or do we choose the easy way out?
Do we pray and seek God’s direction or do we seek the world’s advice?
The way we choose to live out our answers to questions such as these will teach much to our kids about how to live.
We can learn much from God’s instruction to one of the most well-known Dads in the Bible, Abraham. Genesis 17:1 tells us: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.” When we walk before God, we acknowledge Him, show Him reverence and fear, and display our faith and trust in Him. To be blameless is to be innocent, guiltless. Abram’s response was to fall on his face before God (see Genesis 17:3). Can we do any less?
I remember seeing my husband hold each of our kids when they were first born. It’s hard to explain what I felt as he cradled each of them, almost nervously, in his arms for the first time. He expressed such tenderness and so much love. He was now Dad to this new little person. I’m sure he felt quite a weight of responsibility as to what this new role would mean in the years to come. But as I think back to those first few years when the kids were small, I think he was more concerned with just being a good Dad to three little kids. He lived life and they watched him do it – day by day, when he did the right things and when he made mistakes. As the kids grew older, they continued to watch how he walked, the kind of life he lived, and most importantly of all, the God he turned to for both forgiveness and direction. He lived and they watched. They all grew and learned together. And in the process, he taught them much about life and they raised a Dad!