A few days ago my wife called me at the office saying the kids had a surprise for me and would like me to come in the front door instead of the garage when I got home. With my interest peaked, I gladly agreed. As it turns out, they had ordered a father’s day gift for me and when it was delivered they decided they should just give it to me rather than try to move and hide the box for the next few days. They worked hard decorating the box with drawings and wrote Happy Father’s Day Dad in colorful, decorative lettering. They were so creative that certain letters stood out differently than others, resulting in my great surprise as (through the glass door) I read “FAT Dad” on the package. We all laughed once I came inside and realized the sentiment was much less offensive than it first seemed. In a matter of seconds I went from being surprised by the rudeness of an insult to being surprised by the excitement and generosity of my kids.
Honestly, that would be a pretty good way to describe my entire parental experience – one surprise after another. Some good and others not so good, but each exciting and important in its own way. As a new dad, I remember being surprised by how often a baby ate and how little they slept at night. I’ve been surprised by the large messes that can come from such little people. I’ve been surprised by hugs and cuddles and tackles. I’ve been surprised by first words and big words and hurtful words. I’ve been surprised by the questions: some sincere, some ridiculous and some never-ending. I’ve been surprised by silliness and foolishness, but also by wisdom beyond years.
I remember being surprised by that first realization that my own Dad was far more impressive than I had given him credit for. I was surprised by how exhausting kids can be, though I remember spending countless hours playing with him. I was surprised at how little I actually got to fish when I took my own boys fishing, despite the fact that I thought my trips with Dad were pretty smooth. I’ve been surprised by how hard it is to balance ministry and family, though my Dad seemed to get everything done and always have time for me. I’ve been surprised by how difficult parenting can be because Dad made it seem easy. I’ve been surprised by how much I took him for granted growing up.
I’ve also been surprised by myself. I’ve been surprised by how much I didn’t know and how much a child can teach. I’ve been surprised by how much I can love my children, yet I’ve also been surprised at how many other emotions I can feel toward those same little kids. I’ve been surprised by the anger I can feel and how quickly they can melt it away. I’ve been surprised by the overwhelming feeling that I know less what I’m doing the longer I do it. I’ve been surprised that there’s no system, no predictability and almost no trick that works from one child to the next.
Though I shouldn’t have been, I’ve also been surprised by God. I’ve been surprised by His love, grace and patience with me as a failure. I’ve been surprised over and over again by His forgiveness of my shortcomings. Though I should have known better, I’ve been surprised by His merciful hand in the midst of my mess. I’ve been surprised to see Him sovereignly working in my life and the lives of my children to shape us into His image despite ourselves.
Yes, I think my parenting journey is best summed up as a series of blessed surprises heaped one on top of the other. Though sometimes the surprise is not always pleasant, I can be sure there is another one coming just around the corner. To all of you dads out there, Happy Father’s Day. I hope you enjoy all of the incredible surprises of being a dad!