A Father’s Heart

A FATHER'S HEART

Part of Rich’s current work involves quite a bit of travel. For Sienna, our two-year-old daughter, this can be tricky to understand. Sometimes Daddy is here consistently to get her up and dressed in the morning, play, count with and shout bird together and sometimes he isn’t. Sometimes he bounces her down the stairs to breakfast tickles her feet as she giggles hysterically and other times he’s not and it’s just her and Mummy.

Rich is an extremely hands-on Father and he loves both Sienna and me very much and very well. Each parent has their own sacrifice to make when raising children.  For Rich, in this season, as he travels to earn money to keep our family, his is not always being present in the daily routine. Despite enjoying his work, he desperately misses us when he’s away and we both do our very best to keep him in Sienna’s mind. We video call and look at pictures and talk about and pray for Daddy. Whether Sienna is in a stinky mood or full of excitement to see him walk through the door on his return, he still loves her consistently.

Watching Rich pursue Sienna over and over again not only sets her up for high expectations in a future spouse but also I believe reflects the heart of a loving God who so desperately loves his children. Time and time again God pursues us, is patient with us and is faithful in His love for us despite how we might receive Him. And, just as Rich loved Sienna first and initiated their relationship before she was even aware of what a ‘Daddy’ was, so our heavenly Father also first loved us. Before we even knew of His existence, He spoke ours into being. He chose us to be His own and He set into motion Heaven’s plan.

Sometimes it might feel like God is distant, but be encouraged that He’s already put so much groundwork in so that we need not doubt His heart towards us. The famous John 3 v 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son” is the foundation on which we pin our faith and the good news of the gospel. We can find assurance in the lengths He’s gone to in order to make clear to us the pursuit of His heart. Us. Even death wasn’t too much for Him! 

This work season won’t last forever and as Sienna’s language and comprehension improve, she will be able to understand where he is and that his love for her is consistent regardless of his location. He’s laid a strong foundation already in her short life so that when he calls she’s excited to see her Daddy. Whilst she can’t quite grasp why he’s trapped inside my phone, she recognises his face and his voice. With increased age, they will be able to have regular conversations and their relationship will continue to grow. He will never stop pursuing her with his Father’s heart. Whenever she stops to think of her Daddy, she will know him as available loving and consistent based upon her experience of him regardless of whether she can see him or not.

Whether or not you have a consistent and loving earthly Father or not I pray you’d know you have a Heavenly one Who is always on speed dial.

 

Fatherhood – Embracing The Tension

FATHERHOOD - EMBRACING THE TENSION copy

REPOST in honour of Father’s Day 

Rich and I have been married for 7 years, nearly 8, but have been together a decade in total at this point! We met when we were both still students and have laughed, lived, loved and cried together ever since. Every year is sweeter with my best friend. Marriage takes work and I’m blessed to work hard alongside him. He’s generous, kind and full of integrity. Don’t be fooled by his quiet demeanour, he has a witty sense of humour and works harder than anyone I’ve known. He has wisdom and discernment beyond his years, and a huge random tank of knowledge stored in that beautiful head. There’s so much I could say but at the risk of gushing and causing you to reach for the sick bucket, I’ll stop there. 

I asked him to write a blog on his perspective of parenthood, here’s what he had to say…

Fatherhood – Embracing the Tension

When Anna asked me to write a blog entry for her, I didn’t really know where to start.
There are lots of things that I could write about. I could write about a husband’s perspective on the whole birth process. Maybe I could talk about the initial days of fatherhood and some of the preconceptions I had. I could maybe give some pithy advice as to how to juggle life as a Dad and as the sole breadwinner. But somehow, I feel that all of the above could be written about by far more experienced, and eloquent people than myself.

Becoming a Dad has been the best thing that has happened to me, but also the most
challenging. It is both amazing and terrifying to think this little person is your child, your responsibility, your legacy. That you have the ability to both love her and also fail her. Going to work is bittersweet. I travel quite a lot with work, which always used to be fun and exciting. It now can seem as though I’m missing out when I’m away. We often can’t wait to get her to sleep in the evening, especially after a busy day but as soon as she’s in bed, we’re talking about her, missing her a bit if truth be told. Not enough to wake her up though! I’ve basically realised that being a Dad isn’t simple, it’s actually often paradoxical with the right thing being held in tension between two seemingly conflicting positions. I’m learning to embrace the tension.

Here are a few tensions I’m currently trying to embrace:

I’m expected to lead but I don’t know where we’re going

When I think of my Dad, I always felt like he knew exactly what was going on and what to do in any given situation. I’m sure he didn’t. He was probably doing exactly what I am currently, and making it up as he went along. As men, I feel sometimes we feel the pressure to have it all together and know which way we’re going. The thing is, most of us if we’re honest probably don’t know where on earth we’re going, let alone what we’re going to be doing there when we get there. It’s this self-imposed pressure that I think can cause a sense of inadequacy and even depression. The fact of the matter is, no one knows what is going on. If someone tells you they do, don’t believe them. We don’t get the full roadmap, we have light enough for the next step, no more, no less. I’ve come to realise that when it comes to my family I don’t actually have to know everything and have it all together. I don’t have to lead my family through a specific route that I’ve mapped out. I just have to show them how to take the next step. I have to model what it is to walk in faith, to walk in humility. I lead my family when I model excellence and a healthy work ethic. I lead my family when I am kind and compassionate in a situation that would often warrant a different response. I lead my family when I am consistent, loyal and faithful. I lead my family when I say sorry and show vulnerability. It turns out I can lead even when I don’t know the way by modelling how to take the next step with integrity, even if I don’t know the final destination.

I’m not 20 any more but I’m also not 80

It’s true. When I look back at what I used to look like, it’s as though a complete stranger is
looking back at me. I was a lot thinner, healthier and had way more energy. I have realised that actually, I am not immortal. I need to look after myself and my body so I’m still around and useful when I’m older. I’m by no means a health fanatic, but I have come to realise that I cannot expect to eat what I used to, drink whatever I want and do no exercise without repercussions. People never think of their health until they lose it. I don’t want to be a 40-year-old dad with an 80-year-olds body. I’m trying to look after myself better these days, understanding that I’m not 20 any more but I shouldn’t feel like I’m 80 either. I can’t do what I want any more and it have no repercussions. It’s early days but hopefully Sienna and Anna will thank me for it long term.

I can’t be there all the time but I can be fully present when I am there

This one is really important and so hard to do. As a dad, or the working parent, you can find yourself constantly feeling guilty. You feel guilty for going home early to see your child before they go to bed. You also feel guilty working late knowing your wife or other half is taking the full hit back at home. You know you need to go to work and put in a full day there, but you also need to be a dad/parent and help out when you’re home. I’ve come to realise that it takes discipline and perspective to navigate. Does that email need to be replied to this second? Can that call wait until tomorrow? Similarly, will missing a bath time once in a while ruin my daddy-daughter bond? Can Anna put her to bed once or twice without me being there? The answer is usually yes to all of the above. The real issue isn’t how much time you spend at a certain place, it’s being fully there. If work had 100% of your focus between the hours of 9-5 you wouldn’t need to take work home with you. And if your family had 100% of your focus when you’re with them, they wouldn’t feel like they’re missing out on you either. We lead full lives, we work jobs to pay bills. We work out this journey pragmatically, we have to. The goal is not to spend every waking moment with my family, it’s to let them know that wherever I am, I’m doing my utmost to do my job well so I can come back to them with no unfinished business. They are my priority, wherever I find myself and whatever responsibility I have to fulfil. I need to work in a way that honours my boss and prioritises my family.

It’s impossible to always be in a good mood, but I ‘m consistent with my countenance

I have made the decision, that I always want Sienna to know that I’m pleased to see her,
regardless of what kind of day I’m having, and regardless of how much of a pain she’s been. That’s a choice, it’s a decision that I’ve made, that she will always know that her Dad is pleased to see her. It’s important to me because that’s how I want her to view her Heavenly Father. I’m not always in a great mood. I could have had an awful day but I have disciplined myself to always smile at my daughter whenever I see her. It’s a small thing, she probably doesn’t even notice it, but I need to remind myself that it’s how God is with us. He looks on us and smiles. I can’t always be in a good mood, but I have committed myself to be consistent with my countenance towards Sienna. She needs to know that she can always come to me, no matter what, and she is welcome. She needs to know that her Dad is, and always will be, pleased to see her.

Written by Rich Harris

Child’s Play

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Diving and climbing are the thing of the moment for our nearly 15-month-old Sienna. She’s so curious and adventurous and loves to explore her surroundings. I find she’s always pushing to reach the next thing, she’s not content with being on the ground, for example, she wants to be up high on the settee with the ‘big’ people. Fearless and unaware she then looks out for me or Rich and dives off the end, whether we are ready for it or not!

Also, this past week in swimming she has been diving off a floating mat and into the pool to retrieve a ball. She can’t swim on her own quite yet – she is only one! But assisted by us she dives/gets dunked under the water and glides (with help) towards the ball. I’m in awe of what she can do at such a young age, albeit assisted.

She has absolute trust in us as her parents that we will catch her, pick her up, give her a cuddle if it goes wrong, fix it and let her try again. Even if she stumbles whilst trying something it doesn’t deter her. In fact, she becomes more determined. Even if we tell her not to do something, like touch the bin (you can see this is a recurring issue!), she still re-attempts it! As a parent there’s a challenge for me, how do I encourage her curiosity but train some obedience? I don’t want her to grow up unafraid to try things, but I do want her to understand the importance of my instruction.

Watching her play with Rich is a joy, especially so when she runs at him full pelt and launches herself into his arms (as long as he’s paying attention lol!) She has absolute trust that her Daddy will be there to catch her. It’s no wonder that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I see in Sienna, a faith in her father that I want to recapture for my heavenly Father. An urge and determination to run and leap into His arms with absolute faith that He will catch me. A determination to push to the next level knowing that whatever happens He will be there to help. If I’m slightly off balance, He will redirect me and I never need doubt his leading, even if I may not always like it. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who have faith.

Faith is such a powerful force, and as we have been entrusted to love Sienna it’s our responsibility to help stir this within her. I believe it’s more than just training her in the scriptures and surrounding her by loving people and taking her to Church. It’s helping her to experience it through life, by example, but also through daily practices that allow her to dare to venture into the unknown. It’s in creating a secure base from which she can explore whilst knowing that we are a consistent and constant rock to which she can easily return. As she grows older, the things instilled in the younger years will hopefully form the foundations of her character which will help to inform her decisions and intrinsic navigation system. I pray that faith is one of the loudest voices in her decision-making process. She will discover her own voice, gifts and desires and will need to pursue them unafraid to take risks or of failing.

The older I get and longer I’m a Christian, the more I realise I don’t actually know as much as I previously thought. The further I continue, the more I realise that faith is actually simple and it’s become complicated by religion, processes and procedures. Faith is exciting, it’s adventurous and it takes risks. It believes and trusts in a loving Father whose arms will catch us as we leap towards Him. Some things we are meant to develop in and others we are meant to protect, our faith is one of them. As Christians, it’s a strange dichotomy of faith to mature in Christ and yet remain childlike. So many times I think we confuse maturity with more rules and regulations, with religion, comfort and being sensible.

So how do we mature and steward things well and yet retain a childlike faith? A faith that still believes we can jump and our Father will catch us. A faith that pushes to see the mountains in our life move even with previous failed attempts. We are exhorted to seek wisdom though it cost all we have (Proverbs 4), but I think maybe we have misunderstood wisdom. There’s a beautiful passage of scripture that explains that wisdom is not so much just knowledge acquired or experienced but rather a person to be known.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: 

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 1 v 18 – 25

Getting to know Christ though it cost all I have makes sense to me. He is wisdom personified. He stewards everything and everyone well yet remains in the mystery of faith. He trusts His Father, even unto death. The Jews had history and the Greeks had knowledge, yet they became stumbling blocks obstructing them from seeing and experiencing God in the flesh who was in their midst. History and knowledge should have been an advantage, signposts to the Saviour and yet I guess they lost the essence of wonder, the ability to be awed, to lean in and believe in something beyond their minds limit, to have faith.

Gifts and intellect aren’t the enemy and we will endeavour to encourage these in Sienna. However, above all else I will strive to show her Wisdom, to show her Jesus and try and teach her to put her trust and faith in Him. On the journey, I hope also to keep learning from her how I can do the same.

Heart’s Intent

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There are so many fun new things to experience with Sienna as she continues to develop and grow, and she certainly has a curious mind and adventurous spirit. With each new week, we witness her try new things, increase in understanding and attempt new words. She takes joy in repeating and practising that which she’s learnt and lucky for us we get to partake in this repetition, over and over and over and over again!

Along with new pleasures come new frustrations and anxieties for her cute little self. There’s still much to learn and understand as her comprehension is still infant. One of Sienna’s ‘wonderful’ phases of development we currently ‘get to’ navigate is bouts of separation anxiety. This is where children may experience some anxiety when away from their loved ones. Helping her to understand that we will always return can be a tricky endeavour whilst she is unable to comprehend an explanation of what’s happening. However, the more she experiences our return and the consistency of our character in this way, the more assurance will build within her. Her anxiety now, is due in part, to her lack of knowledge and understanding.

As parents, we try our best to teach her new language and ways in which to help her let us know her feelings, needs and desires. We also endeavour to gradually expose her to different experiences with us, so that, as in the case of separation anxiety, she will soon have a full memory bank of positive encounters with the faithfulness of our return and her anxiety will become a thing of the past. Whilst these things can be difficult to deal with now, as we spend time together daily, reinforcing our love for her and teaching her our ways, her revelation of us will grow. The hope is that she will learn the consistencies of our character and the increasing depth of our love. That she will know and understand that it’s our pleasure to help her, to love her, to ease her pain and to teach her. With that, also comes discipline and whilst we don’t enjoy saying ‘no’ to her we do it because of our love for her. Our love causes us to want the best for her, and eating wires, putting her hands in the bin and throwing things in the toilet isn’t that!

My encounters with her often cause me to wonder about my own experiences with my Heavenly Father. I remember times in which I have been frustrated and anxious and wonder if sometimes it was due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of Who He is and His intentions towards me. How many times have I missed his guidance or discipline because I didn’t understand the motivation? I think about the times I’ve lacked comprehension of His ways and wonders, and been distant from His word which has caused me to feel separation anxiety. What am I missing out on now even because I haven’t taken the time to know Him more? This reminds me of a verse in Hosea, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”(Hosea 4 v 6). It’s sad to think that things, hopes, dreams, understanding and worse – people may perish due to lack of knowledge when it’s been freely given. I want nothing more than for Sienna to be able to see the love behind the decisions we make, as well as be able to clearly communicate with us so that we can respond quickly and accordingly. I imagine our Heavenly Father may feel much the same in wanting us to know more about Him and understand His love.

As a family, we have daily opportunities to grow together, to learn, to laugh, to love, to communicate and to flourish as our understanding of each other deepens. As Sienna’s communication develops, conversations will flow more freely and become two way, understanding will grow and revelation will deepen. The good news is, it’s not too dissimilar for us as children of God. He wants to be known, if that were not true He would not have revealed Himself to us time and time again. We only know Him because He allows us to in many ways but perhaps most clearly through Jesus. The invitation is to know Him more, to also grow together as a family so that we may know His heart and intentions towards us so that we can live the life He has called us to and enjoy His Presence and Fatherly love.

I wonder if some of the anxieties and frustrations that you are feeling today could be eased if you could understand the intentions of a good Heavenly Father towards you and how it’s his pleasure to respond. Furthermore its His pleasure to know you. Jesus reveals His heart over and over throughout the gospels, in fact, His whole life and death point towards His motivation towards us. I leave you with this scripture and trust that you, like me, will accept His invitation to know Him more. I pray that not only will our understanding develop but the vaults of our memory will fill to overflowing with experiences of His goodness as we take on the challenge to grow as His kids.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’”

Matthew 7 v 7 – 11