“Can we wrestle for a few minutes?”
My 6-year-old son needs to go to sleep. It’s already nearly 20 minutes past his bedtime. I have other things I need to get to.
But just that day, I had written in my journal, I need to wrestle with Noah more. Make this a priority.
It’s amazing to me how often I encounter this moment of decision: me—or family? Do what I need to do (or just want to do)—or devote my time to my children or my wife?
This moment is a critical one. And for a husband and dad, it happens every day. What you do in that moment is more important, with further-reaching effects, than you probably realize.
In recent months, God has been forcing me to confront my tendency, far too often, to make the selfish choice.
I know I am not alone in this. In fact, it’s the number-one thing that holds back all of us men from being better husbands and fathers.
It is selfishness. And it is sin.
Making the selfish choice in that moment totally contradicts the role God gave us men to fill in the lives our wives and children.
Herbert W. Armstrong was definitive about it: “Self-love is the very essence of sin.” That is how he put it in his Jan. 9, 1982, sermon, “What Constitutes Sin?” That is a lightning-bolt statement from God’s apostle, based on a penetrating understanding of God’s law.
The love of God is the way of give. It is always outflowing. Anything other than that is sin—the result of loving self too much. The result of choosing me—not family.
The spirit of God’s law is to love God (including Spirit-begotten members of the God Family) with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your fellow man in the world as much as you love yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). The spirit of sin is simply to love the self—to put self first. It is fundamentally an attitude in the mind, which then manifests in words and actions.
As husbands and fathers, we need to judge our attitudes and our actions within our homes by this standard: Am I loving myself right now instead of my family?
If you’re honest, you may not like what you find.
However, here is the awesome and beautiful truth about this:
The roles of husband and father that God designed are the exact instruments we need to overcome and to grow in this critical area of character.
When we men determine to understand and fulfill these roles better, we begin to demolish our selfishness like a sledgehammer crushing rock.
Men: Our roles as husbands and fathers are worthy of our deepest contemplation. Regularly—daily. And we in this last era of God’s Church have been blessed with unparalleled understanding of the profound spiritual meaning of the office of husband and father.
At the core of these roles is the number-one thing that can help all of us men conquer our selfishness and be better husbands and fathers.
It is sacrifice.
A Better Husband
Think: What is your role as a husband really about? It points to Jesus Christ, your Husband and Savior. And its very heart is His sacrificial spirit.
“Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body,” the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
A godly husband demonstrates his love for his wife through sacrifice. The absolute opposite of self-love.
As the model Husband, Christ serves His Bride in the selfless duties of High Priest, Intercessor and Advocate (e.g. Hebrews 2:17; 7:25; 1 John 2:1). He dedicates tremendous effort to help us in every way He can.
Christ gave up everything for us: His divinity, His body, His life. He completely emptied Himself for the Family of God, and like a lamb willingly submitted Himself to be slaughtered. The book of Revelation refers to Christ as “the Lamb” 24 times. It characterizes His marriage to the Church as “the marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7). His Bride is “the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9).
What is the ultimate Husband like? A humble, giving, self-sacrificing lamb!
How have you given yourself to your wife today? Can any of your interactions with your wife this week be characterized as a true sacrifice?
A Better Dad
Now think: What is your role as a father really about? It points to God your Father. And at its very heart is His sacrificial spirit.
“For God [the Father] so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
What did the Father choose? Me—or family?
A godly father demonstrates his love for his children through sacrifice— through giving them the greatest things He has to give. Like the Father gave His own Son! This is the absolute opposite of self-love.
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he [the Father] not with him also freely give us all things? … [H]ow much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? … Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (Romans 8:32; Matthew 7:11; James 1:17).
God—the author and epitome of fatherhood—ceaselessly serves His children. He fulfills the selfless duties of Protector, Provider, Guide, Educator, Disciplinarian and Love-Giver (e.g. John 10:29; 6:32; 16:23; 12:49; Matthew 11:25; Hebrews 12:5-7; John 14:21, 23). He dedicates tremendous effort to help us in every way He can.
And that God has made you a father. What an opportunity: to fulfill a type of God the Father Himself in the lives of your children! If you choose them over yourself, you can turn their hearts to God the Father (Malachi 4:5). And simultaneously, you allow your Father to mold you into His very image.
That decision is going to come up again today. And again and again tomorrow. And again in the future: me—or family?
Ask yourself this question—then answer it: What is preventing me from truly fulfilling the roles of husband and father in my family
Yes, we have priorities that demand our attention outside the home. We must be providers; we should be builders within the Church and the community. This absorbs our energies and time. But if we are balanced and do these things out of godly sacrificial love, they actually enhance our standing as husbands and fathers.
Where the problem comes in is when we choose to put our own self-indulgent interests first: me—not family! This is about the most un-Godlike attitude we can have. It deprives our families of the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits God wants to provide them throughus as men. On top of that, it squanders our sensational opportunity to use our family responsibilities to forge godly character.
Don’t let selfishness hold you back from this awesome role. Make the sacrifices of a loving husband and a giving father!
What are some practical ways you can emulate the Husband of all husbands today? How can you give your one and only precious wife the marriage experience God wants her to have? How can you imitate the Father of all fathers today? How can you provide your children the family experience that will turn their hearts to their spiritual Father?
Make a list! Maybe it’s doing family Bible studies. Calling her to say you’re thinking of her. Fixing what’s broken. Expressing your appreciation. Picking up after yourself. Washing the dishes. Hanging that family portrait. Taking them out when she’s overwhelmed. Helping with homework. Teaching a skill. Being Big Fun Dad. Going for a walk together. Tackling a family project. Giving an unexpected gift. Snuggling. Planning a getaway. Wrestling your boy. Do something off of that list every day.
Make another list of the things you do that swallow your time and draw you away from being that godly husband and father. Disappearing into your study. Not listening. Being distracted. Burying your nose in the paper. Spending too much time on the computer. Getting impatient. Fondling your phone. Bringing work home. Entering television purgatory. Getting lost in sports. Contributing nothing. Study that list. Ask yourself: Is anything on this list worth putting myself in front of my family?
And the next time you encounter that moment of decision—me, or family—make a different choice. Do the unselfish thing. Sacrifice. Just like your Husband and your Father do every day for you.