I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. I was listening to “Renewing Your Mind” with R.C. Sprout at the gym the other day and he talked about the concept of time. That the idea of a “present” doesn’t really exist, it is fleeting. Which for us means that we have limited time with our blessings as husbands and dads. That makes it imperative that we utilize those fleeting moments to love, serve, disciple, provide and protect our family. The best way we can do that is to show up and have a presence in their lives.
The ministry of presence
As a United States Army Reserve Chaplain we were taught one basic truth when it came to our chaplaincy and that’s the ministry of presence. Through the ministry of presence we’re able to connect and meet our soldiers in the place they are at and minster to them in that space. And, as I’ve sat and thought about this key aspect of my chaplain ministry there’s a definite parallel to fatherhood.
In their book, The Work of the Chaplain, Naomi K. Pager and Jane R. McCormack speak of the important work the chaplain does. As we look at these things, specifically the ministry of presence, our thoughts should go to, “How does this apply to fatherhood?” In their introduction they say, “Christian chaplains are an extension of Christ’s ministry to all people” (P. V). Couldn’t this be said of fathers too? The Christian father is an extension of Christ’s ministry to their families.
They continue on to talk about what the ministry of presence is and how it relates to the chaplaincy, practical advice for us even as fathers too. Here’s what they say,
“Presence is both physical and emotional. First, the chaplain [father] make a conscious choice to be physically present with the client [kids]. Second, the chaplain [father] is emotionally present with the client [kids] through empathetic listening…Some become frustrated with the ministry of presence. Goals don’t seem to get accomplished. Tasks don’t seem important. Doing seems secondary to being…” (p.26)
Think through this as a dad. Not only our physical presence but our emotional presence is a “no fail mission” with our families. We must be present. Being present allows us the opportunity to lead our families well, and how can we lead them well if we aren’t ever there?
How we can minister to our family by being present
When we look at being present for our families what does that mean? Like Paget and McCormack say we must be there both physically and emotionally. I’d also like to add: spiritually. We say all the time on the 2 Chaps Pod and here at Uncultured Dad that our responsibility to our families involves certain responsibilities: train (disciple), love, serve, provide, and protect. In order for us to fulfill these responsibilities we have to be present.
The Ministry of Presence allows us to disciple
As dads, we are called to make disciples and our first priority has to be our families. In order to do this we have to be present enough to model for them what a disciple looks like. We must be models of repentance, faithfulness in our devotion to God’s word and our church, and we must model forgiveness too. How will our family know what repentance is if we never are able to repent when we do wrong? How will they learn the Word of God and correct doctrine if we are not taking the time to teach it to them? In the life of our family there is no replacement for the Scriptures in the life of our family, and that starts with us as dads being present in the Word and in front of our families.
The ministry of presence allows us to protect
Being present in our family’s life physically allows us the ability to protect them. Now, to be clear, we may not always have to protect physically but we should be 1) capable of doing so and 2) present enough to be thought of as a threat. We have discussed the proper perspective to take when it comes to protection and home defense on the 2 Chaps Pod and it boils down to this: we have to be a warrior in protection for our family and in order to do that, we have to be present.
Sometimes, however, protection also involves more than just physical protection. Remember that Paget and McCormack reminded us that presence means physical and emotional presence. We must protect our children emotionally too. Helping them to process their emotions, understand them correctly, and react accordingly is part of our job in raising them.
The ministry of presence allows us to love
There is no doubt that if you were asked you’d say you love your kids, it’s innate within us once we hold them in our arms the first time. We spend our days providing for them, which is part of that love, but what about when we’re not on the clock? This is something that I struggled with for a while as a dad, thinking selfishly about “decompression” and “my time” when my son was first born. Decompression time and having time for your hobbies isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it starts to replace your family time it becomes a bad thing. By showing up and being there and present in our family’s lives we can demonstrate love to them. By default, this will help us model for them what a good man and father looks like, which helps train them as well.
The Bottom Line
As dads we have to show up. We have to be present in our family’s lives and model for them what a man is and should be. In order for us to shepherd our families well we must take a page out of the Chaplain’s playbook and minister to them through our presence. We are only guaranteed today, never tomorrow, so let’s make the most of the time we’re given to lead and serve and love our families well.