Another big lesson that I've learned as a dad is the importance of actively and naturally speaking words of encouragement to my kids. It has been said that, in order to thrive, people need a lot more affirmation for their good choices than they need correction for their poor choices. (As a pastoral counselor over many years, I have been made keenly aware of this deficiency in people's souls. This lack has led many people into being unable to receive almost any constructive criticism. They have a "knee-jerk" reaction to anything that comes close to correction. I believe that this is often because of the paralyzing feelings of extreme shame they came to associate with the overly-harsh corrections that they suffered at the hands of angry parents.)
In our culture, we reserve "eulogies" for people who have died. I wonder how many people have been allowed to peer over the balconies of heaven (please don't scrutinize the theology here too much!) and say, "Why didn't they say all those wonderful things about me when I was alive on the earth?" Actually, in Scripture, the word "eulogy" is used many times and it refers to verbally "blessing" a living person. We should be "eulogizing" one another every day--while we still have a chance to make a difference in each other's earthly pilgrimage. And make no mistake, our power to bless another can change a person's whole course of existence--even a stranger's. Still, I think that this power increases all the more when it is "verbalized", in action and word, from parents to their children--their very own flesh and blood. Parents wield a "terrible" power--for good or ill.
One of the Sullivant "traditions" that has naturally emerged in our family culture is to intentionally speak words of affirmation to a family member who's "special day" is being celebrated. Typically, we are sitting around our big table (after a true feast!) and, one by one, all the family members look the one being honored in the eye and tell that loved one something about her or him that they have come to respect or cherish or that has touched their heart. In all seriousness, some of the most profound things that I have ever heard told, have come from the lips of members of my own family speaking sincere words of blessing to other precious members of my family. (We have also had the joy of having friends, from time to time, "eavesdrop" in on one of these events and they have universally commented on the impact it has had on them.) After so many years of doing this, it is still very rare that tears do not flow freely at some point in this exercise of verbal affirmation.
It especially during these times that I remember that I am a wealthy man.
I'm amazed at the progress that is been made in the digital information world to connect applications so easily. And the cost has also come down a lot.
When Terri and I had been married (August 27th, 1977) for about a year
and three months, we were resting on our bed when a very strange
feeling came over me. It was a kind of “loneliness” that I had never
felt before. As I shared these feelings with Terri, I dawned on me
that it was a desire to become a father that was rising in me. We
shared that day about our mutual desire to become a parent. Almost
exactly nine months later, Luke was born–August 1979 in Little Rock
Two years later in August, Lisa came into the world. Then three years
passed and Sam burst onto the scene–again in August . After moving
to Kansas City, via a short time in Michigan, and when Sam was almost
four, Mike was born–a July baby. And finally…last, but not least,
Steve arrived after another three years–hey, how did October sneak
into our family calendar?
Needless to say, we were thrust headlong into a very long stint of
parenthood. When we first talked about having kids, Terri thought we
might have two! She has been an amazing mom to our kids and I respect
her so highly for this. (One thing that she determined early on was
that she would never sacrifice our family on the altar of church
ministry. She set aside many of her God-encoded aspirations and
capacities for a more “public” kind of ministry–speaking, writing,
traveling, leading–to focus on just being a great mom who viewed her
kids as her first “ministry priority”. This is one of her life
messages that I hope you’ll get to hear more about in the days ahead.
And…those God-given dreams for a greater impact in ministry for
Christ?…they are now beginning to be fulfilled in her life. So watch
When I share about parenting, I usually begin with referring to Psalm
127 verse 1:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders (us!) labor in vain.”
This is a Psalm that is much to do with God and family–and His
“senior partnership” in the enterprise. I have observed that many
parents who are Jesus-followers, are afraid and uptight about how
their kids will turn out and that this fear has long-term counter-
productive effects on the chemistry of their family relations. Sadly,
sometimes “Christian” books on parenting have only fueled the fears–
The first lesson that I have attempted to incorporate as a dad has
been to really trust the Lord (down deep in my guts–really, really,
really) with my kids’ lives and futures. This ability is empowered by
a belief that we are just their parents and that we are not the Holy
Spirit. His job is simply too big for us–duh! We have to create an
environment about our family that makes room for God to be God to our
kids, and also…for us to be us–imperfect parents who are still in
process. God has never entrusted a baby to a totally wise and mature
parent–isn’t He amazing? But He has no other choice…right?
No, being a successful dad is not about being infallible. Covering up
our immaturity, failures and weaknesses as parents drives our
children’s hearts away from us. Being transparent, honest and humble
about them actually, and ironically, endears them to us (Don’t you
“hate that”?). They instinctively know that we haven’t been and
aren’t yet perfected in God’s love, and they become experts at
discerning pretense–especially when they become teens. So lesson
number one is the need for dads to be vulnerable before God…and also
before our kids. It’s really a great kind of relief and release when
we “go there” as fathers.
Thank God, there’s more to us than our weaknesses (and more needs to
be said about this), but God does give grace to the humble.
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.