Navigating Fatherhood

I was struck by something late one special night. It was January 25, 2011. My daughter had just been born, and I became acutely aware of a shift that had just taken place in my life. It was an irreversible shift, a permanent shift—some would argue, an eternal shift. I had become a father. A 6-pound, 9-ounce helpless little girl lay there next to me on a cot at Scottsdale Osborn Hospital and I was paralyzed by the moment. I just laid there and stared at her sleeping body, overwhelmed by the thought that in the last 12 hours my identity had changed in some way. At some point I wasn’t a father and NOW I WAS!

What hit me most profoundly in that moment was that I would never NOT be a father again. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas from this day forward would have this little person involved in some way, shape, or form. I wasn’t just a husband at this point. I now had a new place in the world as one who was partially responsible for giving this little person, and her amazing little brother who would come along exactly three years later, everything they would need to tackle a big and scary world. An inflection point had just occurred in my life, and I’ve been steadily adjusting to it for the last 13 years.

What hit me most profoundly in that moment was that I would never NOT be a father again.

Fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. It takes everything we have some days, and on other days, some of the things we don’t. With this thought in mind, I was struck by the verse that I have heard for years in the book of Joshua. It reads:

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” –Joshua 24:15

“My house.” What does that mean for me? Do I have the type of loving leadership that is required to lead a group of people, that bear my last name, towards service in the Lord? Furthermore, am I focused on doing that? These questions are the things that keep me up at night sometimes, and when I feel that I am falling short, cause me to slip into fear and shame.

A very successful man, whose kids were close friends of mine when I was a teenager, once told me that his greatest regret in life was that he hadn’t raised his family to know and follow Jesus Christ. He had accomplished so much and amassed a huge fortune. He had given his family incredible strong values and set them all up for amazing success in this life. Each of his children were incredibly good people and I still call them all friends to this day. With all this in place, they still don’t know and serve the Lord.

When we look at our role as fathers, I don’t want us to get to the end our lives and have questions about what we were doing for all those years while we survived the late-night feedings, Jr. High teenage angst, or the helpless stress of parenting adult children. I sit with you in this as we all sled down this hill together. The only way I know to eliminate as much of the regret as possible for that finish line is to know the race I am running and measure the ongoing success of that race with the right metrics.

If my house is to serve the Lord, then I had better be serving the Lord. I am realizing that it is not enough for me to just give verbal assent to the fact that I love God and want His best for my family. My family needs to see that love for God on display in my actions towards them and the big and scary world I am preparing them for. This concept continues to be an ongoing and sometimes daily walk of asking the scary question, Am I leading my house to serve the Lord?

I am realizing that it is not enough for me to just give verbal assent to the fact that I love God and want His best for my family.

Take time this week to do several things. First, give yourself some credit for where you are striving to accomplish this overwhelming task in your home. Don’t judge it or overthink it, just praise what is good about what you are trying to do to point your family towards the Lord, even if it is a small thing.

Second, take some time to look at areas where you feel like you can add something of value in this process. It might be praying with your family more often or at meals, gathering for a simple Bible reading periodically, or just encouraging them in what a gift they are to you and the world. These little things go a long way when done consistently and over time.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. We are all going to stumble down life’s path in this area. We will be doing great for a while and then get distracted. Don’t beat yourself up! Be kind in the way you deal with you and you’ll find that you are kinder to the ones you are leading. In this situation, just say to yourself “that was a good thing that I was doing, and I ought to get back to it!” Don’t add to the task by heaping the feeling bad on top of it all.

In all of this I have one goal: that you might feel the pleasure of the Lord as you lead your family. God is for you in this adventure and longs to see you make headway. Don’t quit, and celebrate the little wins along the way. I can tell you that for me and my house, it has served us well.

Rustin Rossello

SBC Teaching Pastor

To grow in community with other men who want to lead their families well, check out Forge. Or to pursue a closer relationship with your spouse, join us for Re|Engage.