No substitute

It doesn’t happen often, but a new thought struck me one day. I was showing my daughter how to shoot a basketball through the hoop when the thought came. There is one person on earth for whom there is, in my case, no replacement. My friends in Africa, Tennessee and Texas can find other friends, I suppose; if I should pass away, my spouse might (and probably should) seek happiness in another marriage relationship.

But for my little daughter, there would always and only be one Dad. I was irreplaceable. In the event of my death she might be lucky enough to have a good man become her “stepfather,” but I was her one and only “Daddy.”

I was staggered by the responsibility of this thought. Was I worthy of such prominence in this child’s innocent life? Probably not, but I had no choice. I could choose to be a father who was attentive or dismissive. I could choose to leave a hollow place in her heart by abandoning her, or fill it with the light of a Christ-like example. I could choose what type of father I would be, but as for being her father, I had no choice, for neglectful or loving, I was her father already. Whether I was good or bad for her, I would always be her Dad.

She needed the benefit of my time, given graciously and fully. She needed my Christian example, for there were so many examples of ungodly men available. She needed me to teach her about life, integrity, and about her Lord. Our children ask so little of us, really. Time and attention, love and patience, and the gift of an example that exemplifies undivided loyalty to God.

“We will not hide from the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord…so the next generation will know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn will tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:3-7).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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