As a husband and a father, I can't express accurately the humiliation and indignity I feel every time I "blow it" with my family. For me, it happens far more frequently then I care to admit and no matter how hard I try to justify my unkind actions or words the sting of my sinful and selfish choices always hits me right in my heart; and leaves me feeling wounded and grieved. And if you're a husband or a father, you likely know exactly what I'm talking about.
As a pastor, I can't express the sadness I feel any time I talk with a wounded wife or mother and hear stories about how her husband is burning down their home with his choices or the way he speaks to or refuses to engage with his family. I'm left feeling discouraged and saddened by the reality of the fallen world in which we live and the destructive nature of sin at the hands of sinners, especially men.
I certainly don't mean to imply that men alone bear the blame for the problems in their homes or families. God's Word is clear that we all sin and fall short of God's glory. However, I am trying to explicitly say (without confusion or apology) that the primary responsibility for the spiritual well-being of our homes rests firmly in the hands of men, husbands, and fathers. God has given men the responsibility to shepherd and care for their families, and he will hold men accountable for any passive, unkind, and tyrannical leadership they may be exercising in their home.
In a sense, we are the captains of our homes. Though the vessel or it's passengers do not belong to us, It is husbands and fathers who are called to stand at the helm as we intentionally guide our home (or better yet the hearts and souls of those in our homes) towards godliness, holiness, and joy in Christ.
Men should live as if the spiritual well-being of their home depends on them; because it does!
WHAT MIGHT GOD DO?
I have found it to be true that every pastor has a specific passion; a particular way in which God has wired him and called him to lead. My passion is to see men eagerly embrace and then humbly walk out the shepherding responsibilities in their home. When I look at the culture in which we live and I see the ways in which a distorted view of manhood and womanhood have marked our culture to the detriment of it's people, I can't help but wonder, "What might God do if Christian husbands and fathers set their family's course on Jesus?"
Would God change the environment of our homes...turning grief into gladness and disquietude into joy? Could this change within our homes begin to waft outside its walls as a sweet aroma? Might God use this sweet fragrance to change our neighborhoods? Might God use this change in our neighborhoods to change our cities and our culture at large? What might God do?
WHAT ARE WE AIMING FOR?
If men are responsible for setting the course for the spiritual and physical well-being of our homes, what direction are we heading and what tools are we using to navigate the treacherous waters of life? How do we determine if the course we have plotted is accurate or if it will lead our families where they were meant to go? What instruments do we use to ensure that we are heading in the right direction?
Is it our feelings? I certainly hope not! Though our feelings may be good gauges, they were never intended to be guides. We cannot trust our feelings to be objective or selfless because they flow from a scuttlebutt, tainted by sin. Our hearts are imperfect vessels and we are prone to wander. Though our feelings may be able to assist in helping us understand the course we are on, they must never be our primary navigational instruments.
Is it appearance? May it never be! May we never settle for a semblance of godliness at the expense of the real thing. Imagine a ship fancy on the outside, though deep in the hulls of its belly the captain knows the reality. Far beneath the painted and fancy decks lies the truth of a ship plagued with rot from the inside out. Men, though we may fool those on the outside looking in (or even fool ourselves into believing that an outward image of glory is enough) the truth of our ship's true condition will be known by every soul inside the ship's bulkheads. And their safety and security will be nothing more than hallucinations at sea. Appearance matters not, when our home is being tossed by the waves of the perilous ocean called life.
Maybe it's control? Maybe it's the position of authority that we really wanted all along. Could it be that we don't even care what direction our ships are sailing as long as we are the men at the helms? God help us all if that be the case!
When a man's pride leads him to care more about making the rules than whether those rules are good, godly or beneficial to those whom God has entrusted to him...he is nothing more than self-serving pirate.
God's rules are given for our good and his glory. God invites us into godliness not in order that he may get his way, but rather to invite us into the fullest joy imaginable. What do our rules do for those on whom they are placed? How do our rules leave others feeling and how does our enforcement of the rules invite those under our care into a life of joy? Based on the answers to these questions, we will know if the objective of our rules centers on the captain or the King under whose flag his vessel sails.
How about comfort? Maybe comfort is all we're aiming for. If this is the case than what right do we have to be captain of anything at all? Children settle for comfort! Men seek to provide comfort to those placed in their care. Do you not know the duties of the captain? He isn't served by the ships staff, on the contrary it is the captain who lays down his life in order that those under his care may find their comfort under his watch and protection.
In 2012, Francesco Schettino, failed in his duties as the captain of the Costa Concordia. Because of his actions, his ship hit rocks and was shipwrecked; killing 32 people. Since then, he has been dubbed "Captain Coward", not only for being derelict in his duties as he chased comfort over care...but also because he placed self-preservation over saving the lives of those under his watch as he abandoned the ship while 32 of his passengers died.
Men, regardless what is said about us at the end of our lives, may it never be said that we cared more about our own comfort than the comfort of those whom God placed under our care. May we never give room or evidence for our wife or our kids to believe that we are more concerned about a life of ease than we are a life wringing ourselves out in order that those we love may be put at ease.
To state it differently, Pastor Matt Chandler, says it this way:
"Why are men going to bed these days with so much energy? That's not what God designed you for. God designed you to go to bed tired...We work hard at work for the glory of God...and go to bed exhausted, wrung out for the kingdom of God. That's not how so many men are going to bed. We have tons of energy. It's why so many of you are getting yourselves so jammed up, because God has not designed you for a bunch of free time. He has created you to make war, and you're punting on that."
WE HAVE A GUIDE
Feelings, appearance, control or comfort should never be as stand-alone tools for plotting our family's course towards godliness. Elevated to a position of guide over gauges, all of these things have one built-in weakness: they tend to serve the captain at the expense of his ship and its passengers. In the end, we know this way of living will lead to destruction both to our home and its occupants. There is no lasting reward for pirates (i.e. those with selfish ambitions).
However, there is a trustworthy navigational tool that is available to us all; a resource that offers safety security, joy and freedom as we rightly plot our course. This resource always points to true north and will never lead us astray. This source is the Word of God and in its pages and by its power, God has granted to us "all things that pertain to life and godliness."
The question then becomes, what will we do? Will we settle for the fleeting treasures of selfishness, which will eventually leave us hanging (spiritually speaking) from the gallows, or will we lean into the tried and true source of godliness, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
OUR KING HAS GONE BEFORE US
We must never forget that it is the Gospel that shows us the way. The King of the universe, seeing the wretched and helpless state of his people, became man. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Our King, under whose flag we live, laid down his life in order that we might have abundant life. He has set the example of what it means to be a man of God. He stepped down from his thrown in order to provide joy to those whom he loves and cares for.
This is how we are called to live. We are called to lay aside our own selfish desires (even good desires) in order that we might love and serve our families for their good and God's glory. Our mission, in spite of what the world in which we live tries to convince us of, is to wring ourselves out for the good of our wives and our kids and our churches and our communities.
This is the example that our King has set for us and this is what he invites us into as he gives us the responsibility and the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, to captain his ship filled with his people. Our wives and our children, though fully ours, do not belong to us. They are God's and he has entrusted them to us in order that we might lead them to him.
OUR FAMILY IS PULLING FOR US
In closing I offer this nugget of hope and encouragement: our family is pulling for us. In most cases our wives and our children are our biggest fans. As much joy as it brings me to see men stepping into their biblical role as husbands and fathers, my joy pales in comparison to that of the members of the family who are directly impacted by the man choosing God's way. Yes, it may take time to earn the trust and the faith of those whom we have hurt over the years, but with consistency and humility our family will begin to turn into our greatest cheerleaders.
My point is this. God is faithful and the Gospel is glorious. When we repent and turn our ship towards Jesus, he promises to help us get to where he desires for us to go. He who began a good work in us has promised to complete that work in us! This is really good news. As God begins to shape us into the image of his son, our family will begin to see that the "new" promises we've made really mean something and they will begin to believe that they can once again trust that we care for them. When this happens, the storm clouds will eventually begin to dissipate and the sun will once again rise; all the while our bond as a family gets stronger and our aroma to those outside our home becomes increasingly pleasant.
Brothers, be marked by godliness. Be intentional in setting your family's course towards the Savior and watch as God blesses your efforts and uses them to bless others through you. The joy is lasting, the victory is sweet, and the evidence of God's work in and through you will be compelling to others. Our culture and our world have a significant man crisis and what is needed (now more than ever) is men who are willing to humble themselves, grab the helm of their family's ship, and set their course (true and steady) on Jesus!
For His Glory,