You can imagine my shock one early morning when my wife greeted me with one simple sentence.
The shock didn’t come in not knowing how that event took place – I did pay attention in anatomy class – but in how our life changed in just one quick moment. We went to bed not knowing if we were finally pregnant and woke up to the realization that a child – our child – was in development.
For the last 11 weeks, my wife and I have tried to adjust to what it means for us to be expecting and what it means to be a parent to this child even now. There is a lot for any parent to consider when raising a child, such as disciplining, dietary choices, and how soon will we take the child to a WVU football game. You know the important questions of raising a child. We’ve also looked at what it will mean for us to raise this child in the church, especially given my role as a pastor. That’s a new one that none in our family have had to work with.
All these are, perhaps, normal questions for the expectant family. I’m also wrestling with another parenting topic. That is simply how to be a father. Now, everything dad-to-be struggles with what it means to be a father. I am no different in that. Where I struggle is not knowing what a father is truly supposed to look like.
I have never hid the fact that I never knew my biological father and my stepfather was never there and when he was I was on the receiving end of his abuse. I do not have a picture of a father that is supportive or encouraging. I don’t have a positive experience with fathers. I would be lying if the prospect of being a father, with this history, doesn’t scare me.
So, what do I hold on to? Who do I go to for support when I am struggling with what it means to be a father? Fortunately, I have several examples.
First, there are great men in my life that I can look to as great fathers. My grandfather is a perfect example. When my stepfather refused to be a father, he took on that role for me and my brother. For my brother, he taught him everything he knew about tools, which fostered his career as a mechanic. For myself, my grandfather was always there at my sporting events and other activities. It is the memories of my grandfather driving me to wrestling tournaments that I remember the most from my time in the sport. His presence helped to develop my lifelong interest in sports as a hobby.
I also have some great friends who are amazing fathers. I have been able to watch from the sidelines as my friends have become incredible dads to their children. Their experiences in raising their children will be a great benefit to me as I prepare to raise my child.
Most importantly, I have the Heavenly Father as my guide. Even when I didn’t think I had a father in my life, God was there and served as my Father. I might not have known it fully then, but I do now. God’s presence was there is bringing people in my life who helped to cultivate in me the gifts and talents given to me by the Father in Heaven. I was never alone when my biological father was not a part of my life, because God was with me. I was never alone when my stepfather ignored me or abused me, because God was there.
In the last few days, people have told me that I will be a great father. I hope so. If nothing else, I hope to be a presence to my child that will inspire him or her to live a life that seeks God, serves God, and loves others.
That is what I hope will define me as a father to my child.