When I had boys I was scared to death. Growing up there was just my sister and I, and most of the boys I knew at church were wild. In fact, quite a few left the church as soon as they could. I just knew I would never be able to raise good boys.
I had never reckoned with Keith. He was determined to raise those boys “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” He never expected me to do it alone, and he started when they were young. Even if he could not nurse them, he got up when they cried in the night and brought them to me. He often sat there talking to them while they nursed, when he could have been sleeping, so they would early on associate both our voices with that comforting process.
Every evening he gave them their baths so I would have enough uninterrupted time to do the things I needed to do—wash the evening dishes, finish folding the laundry, and other necessary things. A few times he sent me out right after the afternoon nursing to “do whatever you want,” while he sat with them, usually playing or reading to them. Other times I would hear their voices wafting through the kitchen window, singing about the “wee little man.” while he held them up on the lowest limb of “the Zaccheus tree,” a sapling in the backyard
Play usually involved acting out Bible stories. It was so handy that Daddy was bigger than they, so he could be Goliath, or “the big fish,” swallowing them up by covering them with his body until they had prayed for “three days and nights.” As they grew older, the play became more spirited. “Let’s play ‘roll and wrestle,’ Daddy,” was followed by thumps and giggles, and muffled shrieks of laughter as they took turns tackling Daddy in the middle of the living room floor and then rolling around as far as they could without knocking something over. They never knew that Daddy was watching out for the furniture and carefully moderating his strength so he would not hurt them. They just knew that Daddy would get down in the floor and play with them whenever they asked him to.
My favorite snapshot from those days is the one I took standing in the front door looking down on three mud-covered bodies. It was summer and a soft, warm rain made it perfect for a mud fight. They went out and had the time of their lives, then knocked on the front door. I opened it to see Nathan on Keith’s shoulders and Lucas standing just in front of his legs, head about waist high, all three shirtless in grungy, mud-spattered cut-offs. I think. I did see three sets of eyes and grinning white teeth somewhere in all that brown mud. Clean-up was just as much fun since it involved using a hose before they could even step inside the house.
He didn’t just involve himself in their fun. He taught them how to work, how to be gentlemen, and how to study the Bible, among other manly pursuits.
Keith started being a dad before those boys were even born, and has kept it up. He was not above changing diapers. In fact, one of his own original sayings is that if a Dad cannot change the messy diapers, he won’t be much use in later years when the messes of life afflict his children either.
Keith will tell you that 90% of the convicted felons who sit across the desk from him did not have fathers in their homes. He does not bother to check out what kind of father, or whether the marriage was a good one. That makes that little fact even more important. Even the mere presence of a father can make a huge difference. Imagine the difference it would make if he were really trying to be a good one.
Dads, you know what you need to do today. The buck stops at you.
Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Eph 6:4.