You can improve at almost anything in the world the more you do it. Whether it’s shooting hoops, playing the piano, or managing a budget, the more you do something the more comfortable you will feel doing it. And in almost every case, you can reach a reasonable level of proficiency.
Everything except parenting.
It seems to me that the more time I spend as a parent, the less confident I am that I am doing it correctly. I don’t think I’m alone; in fact, at the heart of most parents, I think there is a lurking fear. A nagging doubt. A still small voice that says, in various ways, I don’t know what I’m doing.
And the older the kids get, the more challenging things seem to become. Consequently, so also grows the sense of being out of your depth and over your head as a parent. And I don’t think I’m alone.
So how can you encourage the fathers in your Bible study groups this Father’s Day? How can you help a bunch of guys who don’t really know what they’re doing, but are trying the best they can?
One way is to encourage them to pray a prayer we find in the Old Testament. It’s the prayer Solomon prayed when the Lord told him that he could ask for anything. Now consider that for a moment.
What an offer: The God of the universe, He of infinite power and resources, gave this man a no-limit request to make. So what did Solomon ask for? He asked for wisdom. Here’s how it happened:
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?”
And Solomon replied, “You have shown great and faithful love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today.
“Lord my God, you have now made your servant king in my father David’s place.Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. Your servant is among your people you have chosen, a people too many to be numbered or counted. So give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?”
Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this (1 Kings 3:5-10).
Solomon had watched his father, David, rule the kingdom. Perhaps he had even been in some introductory “ruler in training” classes. And yet when it came down to it, when the crown finally passed to him, he knew he was in over his head. He was, even at this moment, wise enough to know what he didn’t know.
So what did Solomon do when he sensed his great weakness? How did he respond when he knew how much he lacked? He didn’t fake his way through it. He didn’t remind himself of how talented he already was. He didn’t think positively. He asked the Lord for wisdom to steward well what had been given him.
As a father, this rings so true to me. God has entrusted me, along with all fathers, a great amount. The hearts and souls and education and emotions and everything else—this is what He has given us. And whether you have one child or 10, such a responsibility can be crushing when you consider its magnitude. When you consider what’s at stake. When you consider how deeply you love this small section of humanity.
But oh, the good news of the next verse. That when Solomon owned up to his weakness and asked for help, “it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this.”
It gives me great comfort to know that early almost every morning, when I confess my inadequacies as a dad, the Lord is pleased by this. When I ask for help in the middle of a conversation with my children, the Lord is pleased by this. When I tuck them in at night and feel the weight all over again, the Lord is pleased by this.
And then, how much better the news becomes when we, as fathers, know that we have a Father who does not lack. Who actually has wisdom. Who actually has good plans. And who actually has the resources to carry them out. And that because of the gospel, we can call God “Father” and know that He knows how to give better gifts to His children than we do.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter:@_MichaelKelley. Check out his latest book, Growing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus here.