Archive for the ‘Home and Family’ Category


A Mommy’s To-Do List

In Gals,Home and Family on November 11, 2013 by The Spillover

Courtney Reissig:

We live in a culture that celebrates productivity and efficiency. We like to see results. We like to get things done. We like when we accomplish something big. It makes us feel important. At least it does for me.

But here is something I’ve learned in my first year as a mommy.

Babies don’t like to-do lists. Mommies like me do. I find great comfort in my to-do list. And I find even more in that little checkmark next to each and every item on my list. Babies? Not so much. There is always a blow-out right when I need to finish the dishes. Someone always spits-up or spills something all over my freshly washed clothes. One of my boys always seems to get sick, or have a rough nap, right around the time I sit down to read a book, write an article, or watch a show. And forget trying to make a gourmet meal. Dinner time is when they often need me the most.

There are many days where I get nothing crossed off my to-do list, unless you count doing extra loads of spit-up covered laundry as productivity.

In the very early days of mothering my little miracles I would often feel resentment rising in my heart whenever I heard one of them stir or whimper before his nap was supposed to be over. I would stew in frustration over the fact that he needed me more than I anticipated. I had big plans for my to-do list. And unfortunately, he wasn’t one of them.

I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but one day conviction hit me like a nauseating illness. And I was undone. By God’s grace, I slowly started to realize that these babies are my to-do list. For me, productivity is found in the daily care of my own flesh and blood. When I stand before God one day I will not answer for how many articles I wrote, dishes I washed, or meals I made. But I will give an account for how I loved these babes. I will give an account for how I cared for their souls.

What I tell myself every day is that these days will not last forever, and not in a pep-talk, you can get through this kind of way. Reminding myself that these days are numbered is a wake-up call to treasure the little moments that seem to get in the way of my to-do list. The tasks will always be there. These babies will not.

Obviously, I can’t forget my necessary responsibilities. There are legitimate things that need to get done. My kids do need clean clothes. And so do my husband and me! We need to eat. A clean house does make everyone feel a little more put together. But I can work against being a slave to trying to do too much. I can learn to be more flexible with the interruptions. They aren’t a death sentence to my productivity. They are God’s way of telling me to stop and savor the moments.

So as I start this Monday with a to-do list staring me square in the face I want to focus more on the little faces that so joyously greet me every morning. They won’t be here forever. And the dishes can wait.


Gel-Pen Faith

In Gals,Home and Family on October 2, 2013 by The Spillover

From Lizzie at Femina:

Not too long ago a young woman was over at my house for some reason that I cannot remember. Now on a typical day  at my house you would find dishes in the sink, junk on the floor, a baby unloading a drawer, laundry on the stairs, and about 410 things on my to-do list. Children are always coloring, wielding scissors, and gluing things on the window when I’m not looking. Hopefully, you would also find me running around in the midst of it, because long experience has taught me that giving up on it won’t get results. I don’t remember what exactly was going on when she came by, but at some point she commented that she was the sort of person who liked things to be really orderly. It wasn’t a criticism and it wasn’t offensive, although it did make me laugh. Because, lo. Me too.

The thing is, when I look over my past I feel that God has written it on the wall here, there, and everywhere that He doesn’t care about that. That part of my personality that used to seem like a positive attribute  is something that God didn’t treasure. He has asked me to put that on the altar. When push comes to shove and it is either the house or the kids, God choses the kids, and He tells me to. When it is the laundry all done or the kids all loved, it had better be the kids. When it is mom as an uptight dictator about the shoe placement or the mom who is laughing at the huge spill in the kitchen, I know which one God wants me to be.  He wants me to be  joyful, hard-working, full of gratitude, laughter, and above all He wants me to have spit-spot closets. Wait. Does He? All but that last bit.

Of course God is honored when I am combining joy with closet organizing. Laughter with clean floors. Gratitude with getting all the dishes done. But you know what? If something has got to go around our house, it better not be my attitude. Because that is the one thing that God actually told me to keep track of.

As I look back at my life I can see that almost every time that there was something that I felt good at, or capable of, or confident in, God would give me a wonderful opportunity to lay it down. There is a way of looking at it that says, “God just keeps not letting me be happy! He just makes the conditions perfect for me to be miserable! He knew that I need a certain amount of alone time every day and He keeps not giving it to me!”

But this is the way that I see it. Those things that I consider part of my personality – loving to decorate, loving to cook, wanting things to be beautiful and organized and perfectly crafty and satisfying. I believe in these things. But I believe in them as things that I can use to honor my Creator. Back in the days when I wasn’t being challenged, these things came naturally, and I believed in them because I could cobble together reasons that they were good. But they primarily came from my own strength. I could be that way without really any pushback. So God brought the push back. He made it take more than the capacity I think I have to do these things. He said to me, “I know you like it, and you think you believe it. Now I’d like to see you do it without yourself.” God isn’t interested in my strength. He is interested in my obedience in weakness. Do you hear that? God said enough with my hobbies and my preferences. Lets see about her obedience and her faith.

When we believe something, we can sign our cute little names on the dotted line. Children are a blessing? Check! You should be full of joy? Check! You should honor your husband and love your children? Check! Enjoy all the days of your life? Check! Watch me go with my cute little gel pen in my journal!

So then God gives us those children. And now we believe something that He has told us, but we are not dancing around ready to sign our names on it anymore. Why not? Well because we feel like fussing about the laundry. Because it is messing us up to believe this, because now our faith about this is not abstract. So we feel broken. Like the things that we believe aren’t coordinating with our emotions anymore. Like we can’t find ourselves. Like the old us with the journal and the gel pen had a much better grasp of motherhood than this weird lady we have suddenly become.  Why so much brokenness? Doesn’t God love us?

God has brought me through this time and again. It is like He holds up my little statement of faith from my youth and says, “cute.” But He doesn’t want me to sign my name on it.  He wants me to put myself on the altar. Enough with this chit chat. God wants to see action. Take that belief, and live it. Not when you have all the emotional strength to do that, but when you don’t.

Do it when it must be all His strength. Do it because you believe, not because you feel. Do it in faith.

This has been happening to me long enough now that I can see His hand in it. I can see the tremendous mercy that it was for me (the wedding coordinator for other people) to be the sick bride. I remember standing at the window in my parent’s room looking out at all our wedding guests arriving. I didn’t want my dress on because it would make me throw up again. And as I saw them all coming, I could also see that God was giving me a chance to walk in joy down that aisle. I knew I believed that the wedding was just about the vows, and about honoring them for the rest of my life. That all the rest was just superficial. God didn’t want me walking down the aisle in superficial joy. He didn’t want me to be buoyed up by the fun, and the dress, and the flowers. He wanted me to take His joy and walk with it. And if that was all I had, it would be enough.

This is a pattern. I felt capable of being a mother, back before I was. God gave me more to handle than I could possibly handle on my own strength. I felt capable of keeping house. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can stop laughing about that. Anything that I felt capable of doing,  God will both make it seem impossible and simultaneously ask me to do it. And there I am – in the sweetest place you can ever be – relying on Him. Walking in faith. Living in joy.

This broken feeling is only broken if it stays there. If it stops in self-pity. If it wallows in grief about the lost emotions of our journaling days. But this is richer. When we seek His joy instead of our own, when we lay our best on His altar, and we have nothing left for ourselves, that is when we are truly accomplishing His purpose in our lives.

We are not broken. We are being healed. We are not alone. We are in His hands. We are not overwhelmed. We have a champion. We are not stupid. We are being made wise. We are not weak. For He is not weak. We are not hopeless.  For we are His.


Seven Ways for Busy Moms to Get in the Word

In Gals,Home and Family on September 11, 2013 by The Spillover

Courtney Joseph:

Fall is almost here, and for most moms this is the beginning of the busiest season of the year. Back-to-school to-do lists lead right into Thanksgiving and Christmas to-do lists, and we will not find rest again until January 2nd. And while God’s word sits on our shelves waiting for us to get a slow moment, the world bids us to keep busy. Get those kids signed up for soccer, piano, gymnastics, basketball, football, and the list keeps going. You just name it, everybody else is doing it.

The world tells us to get our calendars full and stay on the move. If you don’t, your kids might miss out, or they won’t be cool, or they won’t learn important life lessons, or they won’t be socialized, or they won’twon’twon’t. “Get busy and keep busy” is how the unspoken mantra goes.

The world says this chaotic running around is what the good moms do.

But the truth is that we need slow moments.

It’s in the slow moments that God speaks to us through his word and we speak to him in prayer. This is when we step away from all the busyness in order to fellowship with our heavenly Father. This is when we come to his word for the precious purpose of drinking from the living well — Jesus Christ.

Here is a simple guide for busy moms who want to build more of these slow moments into their everyday — moments to stop and drink deeply from the living well.

1. Choose one passage of Scripture for the week. My favorite passages for meditating on come from Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Epistles.

2. Write the passage on a note card, and slip it in your pocket or beside your computer. Pull it out periodically, and read over it. Keep it in your purse all week long, and pull it out at convenient times and read through it.

3. Read the passage first thing in the morning. Read the passage as soon as you get out of bed, so it’s the first thing on your mind that morning.

4. Open your Bible to that passage, and place it on the kitchen counter. All day long, when you walk through the kitchen, pause, read the passage, and then move on.

5. Read the passage out loud. Read it to yourself, and read it to your children during mealtime and at bedtime.

6. Reread the passage before you go to bed at night. Bookend your days with the reading of this passage of Scripture.

7. Write the passage at the top of your to-do list. This way, every time you look over your to-do list, you can review the Scripture passage.


The Most Frightening Prayer I Could Pray for My Children

In Home and Family,Perspective on July 18, 2013 by The Spillover

Christina Fox:

The most frightening prayer I could pray for my children is the one they need the most.

Now, I always pray about their behavior, their health, their progress in school, and their friendships. I also pray about their future and their jobs. I pray that my boys would marry “nice Christian girls.” But to be honest, when I pray for my children, it is easiest to ask that their lives be smooth and stress-free. It is easy to pray for their comfort and ease, for their lives to be absent of pain and grief.

When It Gets Uncomfortable

Yet when I reflect on my own life and look back on my faith journey, I see all the challenges and trials I have faced along the way, and the good God accomplished through them. I see the heartaches I’ve endured and the suffering that brought me to my knees. I also see the sins I’ve struggled with and the idols God graciously stripped from my hands. I see how God used all those valleys and painful circumstances to draw me closer to himself, to refine me, and to teach me to rely on him.

They have been the most important events in my life, but it’s not easy to ask this sort of thing for my children. It is hard to ask that God reveal their sin to them, that they see their need for a Savior, that they would be broken over their corruption and truly learn to cling to the gospel.

That kind of prayer is uncomfortable.

The Path to More of Him

It means that they will have to dig through rocky terrain like I’ve experienced before. They will have to walk through their own story of sin and repentance — of learning what it means to have empty hands. What’s frightening for me as a mom is to realize that their lives will not be smooth, comfortable, or safe — not if they will learn most deeply what it means to rely on God. In fact, my children may yet have to endure great trials, walk through dark valleys, and experience great sorrow. That could be God’s pathway to giving them more of himself.

I don’t want my children to treat God like a vending machine or like a fire insurance policy. I want them to have a passionate love for him that is alive and outgoing, bowing to his supremacy and anchored gladly in his gospel. I want them to love God’s word and hold to it firmly in times of uncertainty. I want them to show Jesus to the world. This is what I want.

Nothing More Important

And it will mean that my children have to see that they have sinned against a holy God and that it is only through the grace and sacrifice of his Son that they can be forgiven. Jesus said that those who have been forgiven little will love little (Luke 7:47). My children need to know what that means. They have to see the utter depths of their sinfulness and that without Jesus, they are without hope. And they have to trust in Jesus as their only source of hope and righteousness. Only as they acknowledge their need for him and his forgiveness will they grow to love God in the way I most want for them.

The path could be hard, and praying for this can be frightening, but there really is nothing more important. . . . Father, give my children more of you.


Doma and the Rock

In Home and Family,Perspective on July 12, 2013 by The Spillover

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield:

In 1996, when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I grieved with my people. I was an atheist then, and lived in a monogamous lesbian relationship, working as a tenure-track professor specializing in English literature and Queer Theory.

Now, some 17 years later, in the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court has delivered its historic DOMA decision. I am now a Christian, married to a man who serves God as a pastor, and I homeschool in the Classical Christian tradition the two youngest of my four children. And again, I grieve with my people.

Standing with the Disempowered

Perhaps you think that I have a knack — call it a spiritual “gift” if you like — of affiliating with the losing team?

One of my enduring life values, which carried me through the Feminist and Gay Rights movements of the 1990s, and continues to motivate me today as one of Christ’s own, is the desire to stand with the disempowered. So here I am. Standing in a familiar place, bearing a new heart supplied by the Holy Spirit, a renewed mind, transformed by Christ’s atoning love, a new mission, created from before the foundation of the world by God’s sovereignty, and a new identity as a daughter of the King. But here I stand, still sporting my comfortable shoes.

An Electric Few Weeks for a Former Lesbian

This has been an electric few weeks for a former atheist, now Christian disciple. First, Exodus International closes down. Truth be told, this is fine by me. Reparative therapy was never part of God’s method, and Jesus Christ did not die to make any para-church his bride. But Exodus detonated with a colossal bang, and took with it gospel integrity, leaving even more theological turbulence in its wake.

Now the Supreme Court, using strong, cosmological, moral language defending the human dignity of same-sex unions, overturns DOMA and Proposition 8, sending a resounding rebuke to the Christian ideal of creation ordinance, and with it, the normative (albeit not always redeemed) heterosexuality that undergirds it.

Gathering the Children in Close

So I did what parents across the country did — believing parents and unbelieving parents, gay parents and heterosexual ones. I gathered my children in close, and I talked with them. You probably did this, too. No big surprises in my talk.

No new news. No identity bombs were dropped. My children have always known that their mother used to be an atheist and a lesbian. They cut their teeth on this vocabulary, and could say the words before they knew what they meant. Saved by grace. Closets are for clothes, after all.

Here is what I know: God is bigger than my sin. And God is sovereign over Supreme Court decisions and shifting worldviews. He has had the first and he will have the last word on all matters of sin and grace.

The Church, Christ’s bride, is a God-made institution and will sustain herself in majesty in times of persecution or revival. Context matters not. Providence will paint the walls of this worldview.

Who Owns Your Heart

But Jesus, the Word made flesh, will not be drawn and quartered. He came to fulfill the whole law, every jot and tittle. And he wants your whole life relinquished to him. Any theology that denies God’s moral law, and then domesticates sin by its absence, does not have Christ’s atoning love, God’s justifying pardon, or the Holy Spirit’s kind company. The Red Letters of the New Testament, unmoored from the moral law of the whole Bible, offer only half the God-man, mangling the gospel by wrenching salvation from sin and belief from repentance. Even the demons believed in Jesus — and it only sent them straight to hell. All dangerous lies pack a dollop of truth. That was true when Jesus walked the earth, and it is true today. That we are saved from our sin simply reveals the obvious: God was right all along. No shame in truth that loves like this.

The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart.

Lessons in Losing

So, here is what I have learned from being on the losing team of both historic, public, and political renderings of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by their own design and awaiting gospel grace. Biding time. Think about that. Waiting like the caterpillar that spawned today’s butterfly. God has set apart a people from before the foundation of the world to receive his grace, and they are waiting for you in every nation and people group. It is an act of homophobia to believe that people in the LGBT community are either too sinful to respond to God’s call on their life, or to believe that people in the LGBT community have a fixed nature that will never, by the blustering, unfounded, and uncharitable declarations of secular psychology, change by the power of the gospel.

The only fixed feature of the human constitution or badge of personal identity is the soul; imprint of God to us, it will journey from life to death to life and will last forever, permanently, for eternity in heaven or hell.

Hopes, Dreams, Redemption

The gospel reorders and remakes people, and its metamorphosis manifests in a life that loves God more than itself. God doesn’t zap us. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, promising that as we “proclaim and initiate an irreconcilable war against our choice sins,” as Puritan William Gurnell states, God will be there. The Rock. Never leaving nor forsaking. Never failing the soul who puts trust in Him (Psalm 9:10). No matter what.

God promises that he will make meaning, purpose, and grace out of your redeemed life. God provides the church to be family, from cradle to grave, where single Christians are cherished saints in Christ’s Kingdom, not people waiting to be fixed. And God provides Christ-redeemed heterosexual marriage so that his creation ordinance is fulfilled and so that his Bride, the church, has imaginative authority over hopes and dreams.


I Still Believe in Marriage

In Being Real,Home and Family on July 8, 2013 by The Spillover

Jeremy Dys:

For two millennia, it has stood at the apex of human relationships. Every culture has witnessed it and added their own cultural significance to how it is conducted. It has been celebrated and lampooned, but it has survived. It has received the blessing of both Church and State. In recent decades, it has staggered. Culturally “enlightening” ideas of radical feminism, the sexual revolution, and even ‘no-fault’ divorce has all but reduced this venerable institution to its knees. Most recently, one judge (with the backing of four others) allowed for its redefinition.

And yet, it stands. It bows to no man, winces from no blow, and walks with head held high as yet the ultimate union of a man and a woman. No matter what happens to it, I still believe in marriage.

I still believe in that union of one man and one woman that has seen my parents weather 46 years together. I believe in their marriage that steadied a wife to her husband when his heart failed and bound the husband to his wife when cancer dared invade their union.

I still believe in the marriage of a grandfather who mourns his wife who has preceded him in death these dozen years. I believe in a marriage that, when one is taken to heaven leaves one of the “Greatest Generation” in tears at her absence when he holds the great-grandson she never saw. I believe in marriage because he has shown that, “’til death us do part” is not a momentary phrase on the lips, but a conviction of the heart.

I still believe in the marriage of a near-perfect woman to this imperfect man. I believe in the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, and the sickness and health that has been shared by a helpmeet so dear. I believe that my marriage, though imperfect, is the best means by which we teach my four sons what makes a husband, what makes a man, what makes a wife, what makes a woman.

I still believe in marriage as told from Genesis 1 through Revelation 21. I take God at his word that He meant for a man and woman to leave father and mother and be bound to one another. I believe that this is good.

I believe in the marriage bed of Solomon’s Song and the celebration Christ witnessed at Cana as the Son of Man and Son of God. I believe in marriage as the human picture of a God that pursues his people and sacrifices himself as a kindly groom for the good of his most precious bride. I believe in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the foretaste of that grand banquet that my humble kitchen table – amidst its din and crumbs – now prefigures. I believe I will sit at that Grand Banquet. I believe marriage protects against infidelity and is the most honorable of all human relationships.

I still believe in marriage as the best hope for my children. I believe a husband like me ought to be bound lawfully (not just genetically) to the children he fathers. I believe I can wrestle my sons better than any man alive. I believe there is something taught to my sons amidst my wrestling and tickling and horseplay.

I believe that I wrestle them better than my wife, but no man – no matter how compassionate – could rival the tenderness by which she heals a scraped knee with a kiss or patiently prepares an over-tired toddler for much needed rest. I believe no man – no matter how well he might sing – can better hum a lullaby to my child than my wife. I believe that my role as husband teaches my sons to be men. I believe that my wife as a wife pictures in real life what they ought to expect in a woman. I believe that, in their mother – my wife – that my sons first learn to protect women, gently treat them, and tenderly provide for them.

I still believe marriage matters beyond the four walls of my home. I believe that it is the last best hope for a government that is overburdened. I believe marriage is the foundation stone for democracy and when marriage is flattened into redefinition by a human government, it is government – not marriage – that is most harmed.

I still believe marriage is government’s best method of connecting men to the children that they father, protecting women from abuse, and creating personal wealth. No government program could ever hope to attain the efficiency by which marriage cares for children, provides for individual happiness, and increases one’s happiness.

I still believe that marriage increases individual liberty and limits the size and scope of government. I believe marriage allows us to assume the paternity of children born to a marriage, rather than force government to determine the same by DNA and courtroom drama.

I still believe that government cannot redefine what it did not first define. I believe the power of the judicial pen is rendered laughably impotent in the face of the Eternal Judge of the Universe that holds those who govern unjustly in derision. Despite his best efforts, I still believe that it is possible to believe in marriage and hold against its imitations without the slightest feeling of animosity.

I still believe in marriage and that means I don’t have much hope for the idea of divorce. I believe ‘no-fault’ divorce has done more damage to the institution of marriage than any alleged bigot or homophobe could have ever conceived. I believe that ‘baby-boomers’ have shamefully served their self-interest and made meaningless the terms, “vow” and “covenant.” In the process, they have damned the generation below them to distrust marriage and invent ideas like, “starter marriage” and “trash the dress.” But, I do not believe that marriage is beyond recovery – for them or for us.

Vilify me, mock me, and force me to submit under penalty of law, you will not change what I believe. Insult me, mock my faith, and use the supposedly limited power of the government to shout me down, you will not shake my resolve to better the loving and lifelong union of one man and one woman. Cite polls, tell me loud enough, long enough, and often enough that redefinition is inevitable, or come up with more variations to human coupling (or tripling, quadrupling….) than Baskin Robbins, I am resolved to support that which makes my grandfather pine to embrace once more, that has sustained my parents these 46 years, and has changed my life over the last (almost) twelve years.

I still believe in marriage. Do you?


What Makes Dad Special

In Home and Family on June 16, 2013 by The Spillover

David Mathis:

All around the world, dads are special today. Father’s Day is the third Sunday of June in the United States and more than 80 nations. It is fitting that we not only annually honor moms on Mother’s Day, but our fathers as well.

God’s good design is for both moms and dads, and for their appreciation and honor, whether old covenant (Exodus 20:12) or new (Ephesians 6:2). It takes man and woman, father and mother, to image God to a child. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Beyond Precise Description

Having just one or the other isn’t God’s ideal, though we greatly revere those who give such valiant effort to leading single-parent homes, difficult as it is. And having two of the one and none of the other is even more trouble. Father and mother aren’t interchangeable. God’s created order doesn’t just call for a guardian or two, whatever the gender, but for a mother and for a father, together.

There is something distinct, some special imaging of God, that both father and mother display for a child. It’s a glory beyond precise description, but not above several good glimpses in the Scriptures.

Like a Father with His Children

In Paul’s letter to the young believers of Thessalonica, he gives a good deal of space to recounting his early days among them. He notes that not only did he share the gospel with them in word, but he also “shared his own self” in deed and depth of relationship. Here’s how he says it in 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12 — watch especially for the mentions of mother and father.

We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Much could be said here about how the images of mother and father work together to communicate depth and closeness of relationship. Paul says he has shared his own self with them, and not merely communicated to them a message. Both motherhood and fatherhood demand such, but on Father’s Day it’s worth trying to discern what’s distinct — what makes mom and dad each to be special in their own way.

What’s Distinct About Dad

On the one hand, Paul says that he and his apostolic team were “gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” The associations here are not only gentleness and intense care, but also intimacy. Depth of relationship is in the offing. He sums it up in the first part of verse 8 as “being affectionately desirous of you.” There is manifest affection and tenderness. This Paul corrals in the mothering picture.

Then Paul takes up the father image. And it’s not the same as mothering. There’s overlap, no doubt, but they’re not interchangeable. He says, “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.”

A Father’s Exhortation and Encouragement

Don’t miss how personal this fatherly care is. He says he exhorted “each one of you,” not just the group at large. So he knows them personally. As Robert Coleman says, “The only way that a father can properly raise a family is to be with it.” And because he knows them, he doesn’t exhort like a slavemaster, or like a judge, or like a king, but he exhorts like a father — a father who knows his children and manifestly loves them and desires the best for them. There’s something about fatherhood that makes such warm but strong exhortation especially appropriate.

It’s not that mothers don’t exhort. It’s not that mothers shouldn’t exhort. It’s not that mothers should never step forward and, with manifest love and earnestness, charge a child to walk in manner worthy of God. But there is something about fatherhood that makes such exhortation and encouragement particularly fitting.

Dad’s Discipline for Our Good

While the mothering image is more gentle and nurturing and tender, the fathering image is more tough and strong and challenging. It’s the father who leads the way in discipline and correction. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul charges not the parents in general, but the fathers in particular, “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Same story in Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

And the special place of a father in exhorting a child — disciplining a child — comes into focus in Hebrews 12:7–11:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God’s Good Gifts of Moms and Dads

When we honor our father and our mother, we love mom for her nurture, and we respect dad for his exhortation. Many disclaimers abound. Dads also must nurture and show affection, and moms must discipline and exhort, but there are parental virtues which, while having their proper exercise in both mother and father, make their particular home in either mom or dad.

On this Father’s Day, whether your dad has been all that you ever hoped and dreamed, or you’ve now grown old enough to see his faults and failings (sadly the more common story), there are distinct virtues to respect in dad, even as we love the overlapping virtues in mom. Yes, it’s worth having not a Guardian’s Day or a Parent’s Day, but distinct Mother’s and Father’s Days in celebration of God’s good gifts of both moms and dads.

Let’s see if we can honor dad today not just by pointing out what made him a good parent, but a good father.