There’s something compelling about knowing that no one else is going to do what you are supposed to do. I try to help out around the house but I know that I often take my wife and her efforts for granted.
Honestly, I don’t think it gets on my radar until she leaves for any extended period of times. No matter how often I look at the pile of dishes next to our sink, they don’t seem to be piling themselves into our dishwasher. Somehow, when my wife is home they seem to disappear so easily. Periodically, I will actually intentionally walk over to the dishwasher, empty the contents and, get this, fill it up with dirty ones. But when she is gone for more than a day there is no one else (we’re empty nesters now so I can’t even wait for the kids to “chip in”) who will empty the dishwasher and fill it up. It’s up to me and it really doesn’t matter whether I like to do those things or not.
Rewind about 25 years and hearing my baby son in the middle of the night cry and knowing my son needed to be fed (AFTER breast feeding 😉 I would actually get up when I was conscientious about my wife’s need for rest. Again, it wasn’t often (in fact my wife might not even recall it ever happening but I know it did at least once) but I did it, at least once. It was the same for changing his diapers. In fact I remember one time when his being a male was not to his advantage as he laid on the changing table and decided to relieve his bladder WHILE I was changing him. It was a perfect arc…nuff said.
Did I have a passion to change diapers? No. As adults, we end up having to do a lot of things we don’t like to do like emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, doing the bills on Sunday night, and a host of other things that we’d prefer to ignore or pray they resolve themselves. But, that’s not how life works, is it?
This morning I read a great blog post by Marcus Brotherton, an author of many books about post WWII heroes and blogger at Men Who Lead Well ( marcusbrotherton.com), called “Passion Vs. Willingness, Or What Forrest Guth Never Said From The Foxhole“. I’ve never been a big war movie fan or student of any of the “big ones” (Civil War, WWI or WWII). But, as I’ve gotten older and the stories of those who survived or died serving us have hit the big screen or the book shelves I’ve gotten much more interested in hearing about those events and the men and women who went through so much amid the horrors of war. Marcus shares a leadership principle in his post that he posited from Forrest Guth’s example during an incident he experienced during an invasion in WWII. That lesson is that maybe life isn’t always about pursuing passion but that willingness is as important a factor in living a life of purpose and making a difference.
As I read the post, I thought about my role as a man and dad through the years. I’ve often said that pursuing our passion is an integral part of finding our purpose and joy. But the path to passion is often paved with willingness, to use the terms Marcus used in his post.
Here are 3 major takeaways that I came out with from Marcus’ post as it relates to being a father:
Being a good father often requires that we do things we aren’t good at or don’t like to do but God has assigned those duties for us to do and not for anyone else.
Just like understanding when my wife left for a significant time and no one else was going to clean up the counter but me, there are fatherhood duties that I need to do, even if I don’t like it. When the kids are younger it might just be getting up in the middle of the night to take care of a messy diaper or prepare a bottle to help my wife. As they get older those duties include becoming the spiritual leader even if I don’t feel like Billy Graham. It might mean playing with the kids or taking them off of my wife’s hands after I get home from work, even if I had a miserable day and don’t “feel” like it…no passion to get it done. No matter the task, it really has much less to do with my “passion” but much more about my “willingness” to do what needs to be done since there is no one else that can do what I can do in my family as a father. That includes disciplining our children, taking time to be with them when we’re tired, planning events and doing what they want to do even when we may not want to.
There’s a big difference between want and need.
Do you know the difference between kids and adults? Too often it’s nothing more than their biological age. Mostly, it seems that the Apostle Paul understood that there were things that children did that were acceptable but at some point, it became important to go from childhood to adulthood:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)
When I think about the difference between being childish and mature the one characteristic that stands out is that a child wants what they want when they want it. And, they whine until either they get it or get punished. Now, they may “need” it as well as wanting it (e.g., when they are hungry as a baby and they cry to tell you because it’s the only way they can) but it is strictly based on what they want at the moment. When children get older, we start teaching them things like patience, perseverance, waiting, and delayed gratification. Absent those traits, things like addictions, indebtedness and irresponsible behaviors in general are likely the outcome. Jesus modeled this in word and deed. He often spoke about it “not being his time” and asking those who followed to persevere and wait. And, we have the story of the Israelites who wanted something other than manna for food. They were tired of eating the same thing. Instead of being grateful for having food, they complained so God gave them what they wanted. So much so (Quail) that they ate it until they were sick. So much for getting what we want.
Willingness is often the path to Passion
This often was manifest as bribery as we raised our kids. No dessert unless they ate all of their dinner, including the “yucky” vegetables. No friends could sleep over unless they picked up their rooms. It may have seemed like bribery but we were actually teaching them a principle that they need to mature: Sometimes, you do some things you don’t like to do because there are things that are more important than your desires. And, when you are willing, you often find your passion.
In the blog piece from Marcus Brotherton that I referred to earlier, Forest Guth stays to fight with his fellow soldiers even though injuries he sustained provided a ticket home. He chose to stay and fight. I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t because he was so enamored with going against the brutal German army. But, as Marcus points out, it was his willingness to enter into the battle that became his pathway to pursuing his passion of defending his nation with his foxhole friends.
Don’t get me wrong. I have not learned this lesson very well. I am too often moved by emotion and passion. And, I still believe very strongly that God has indeed designed each of us uniquely, with gifts and abilities that He’s given for His purposes. When we operate out of our strengths, pursue jobs, careers and activities that we are good at and we really enjoy we will do them better. Everyone wins. We will very likely do a better job when we love what we do and our performance is likely to be much better when we operate in our strengths.
But, to get that privilege of doing what we are passionate about, I think Marcus Brotherton hit it on the head…it’s as much about being willing to do the hard things as it about doing the things we like. And, as dads, we get the privilege of both practicing that raising our kids as well as training up our children to set those same expectations.
Jesus had to endure the cross in pursuit of his passion…doing the will of His Father. And, the Scriptures tell us He did that with joy. How could He possibly endure the shame, scorn and pain of the cross and consider it joy? Because He knew His willingness to go through the cross would ultimately lead to the salvation of millions of men and women through the forthcoming centuries. If Jesus was willing to pay the price to pursue His passion, it’s worth it for us and for us and for us to teach our children.
What do you need to be willing to do and to teach your children to do in order that you and they might pursue your passions with great joy?