I’ve done my best as a Christian father. I sang hymns and worship music to my daughter when she was awake in the middle of the night as a baby. I began reading the bible to her when she was an infant, and I’ve continued reading it for 10 years. We do devotions in the morning (albeit not every morning – who has that kind of discipline?) and we play worship music in the car when we drive. Throughout her life I’ve taken time to teach about the Lord Jesus in our every-day lives – what he thinks about politics, what he thinks about generosity, what he thinks about racism. I have attempted to take seriously the admonition to the Hebrews in Deuteronomy 11:19 that as a father I should speak openly and frequently with my kids about what God has done.
Last night my oldest daughter was baptized. I was so honored to be the one to baptize her. After all, I’ve planted, watered, weeded, and tended the garden of her young heart the best I know how. As we were preparing for her baptism, I was telling her the story of my own when I was 14. I nearly electrocuted the three of us in the baptistery…baptismal font…tub…thing. I also preached my first sermon since they were silly enough to give a 14-year-old the microphone. Once it was all said and done my parents and I went to Steak ‘n’ Shake for supper.
Since there is a Steak ‘n’ Shake near our current church I suggested to my daughter that we could go there after church. We both thought it was cool to have both gone there after we were baptized 21 years removed. However, when we got there after church yesterday, it was far from cool. There were only 3 young men working the entire restaurant, and it looked deserted. I was informed by the waiter that it would probably take more than an hour just to get our food since there was only 1 cook, and there was only 1 server to take care of us. So rather than force the nostalgia, we left and went to Red Robin.
I was a little sad and frustrated not to have my daughter share my experience, and as I was fuming in the car on the way to Red Robin –
“I’m writing her story, Chip.”
The voice was concise and incisive, so I knew it couldn’t be mine.
“What do you mean? I’ve been doing all this stuff, trying to lead her to you. I just wanted her to share a little bit of my story by going to Steak ‘n’ Shake. Is that really too much?”
“Chip, I’m the Author. You’re a main character in the show of her life, but I’m the Playwright. Let me tell her story to the world.”
This little exchange reminded me of Hebrews 12. The writer of Hebrews was encouraging his listeners to keep the faith and stay strong. He had just demonstrated that throughout the history of God’s people, there are standouts, men and women who endured suffering for their love of God. He commemorates them in Hebrews 11 as a lasting tribute to lives of faith lived in spite of a faithless generation. Then Hebrews 12 points to the reader and says,
1Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Here’s the Chip paraphrase. “You too! If they can do it, so can you! Be strong and rely not on your own strength but on the one who carries you. Don’t trust to yourself, but lean further into the object of your faith, Jesus Christ. He started your story. He’s the author of Chip – A Life Story or Jermaine or Anthony or Angie or Candace – A Life Story, and he wants to finish it.”
There are a couple lessons to learn from these verses.
First, Jesus is the author and finisher. When we’re looking at him, he’s also the star, the main character. He’s not the goofy, bumbling friend or the hard-to-get love interest. When we let him write our story, he becomes the star of the show.
For all my plans, all my dreams, all my prayers, all my strategies, life lessons and teachable moments with my daughter, I cannot write her story and she will not share mine. I can only do what the father does in this show and support what the Lord Jesus is already doing. I can only watch the Actor at work in my daughter’s life and try to act in the same way on her behalf. After all, she was his daughter before she was mine.
Second, we are surrounded by a great cast of people. In God’s providence, he has surrounded us with a history that is rich with people trusting God in very dire circumstances. He has placed us in churches with people who trust in Jesus for their hope and their future. And in my daughter’s case, he’s given her a mom and dad and extended family who love her and want to keep showing her Jesus. Sure, some of the supporting cast puts in mediocre performances, and there will also be villains and ever-thickening plotlines, but on the whole my daughter has every chance to keep walking with the Lord because of the great people in her life.
Last, and this is the hardest, we learn that we must keep our eyes on Jesus. I can’t live her life for her. No matter how much my father’s heart longs to keep directing her back to the Lord, protecting her and insulating her from the evils of a fallen world, her looking at Jesus isn’t my job. It’s hers. I can only try to show her Jesus as much as I can in the short time I’ve been given, and I want to take advantage of every moment, but someday she’ll be beyond my help and beyond my counsel, and I must entrust her story to the Author, the Actor, the Director and Producer.
And anyway, I happen to believe her life will turn out better than mine. Case and point, when Steak ‘n’ Shake fell through, Red Robin was a definite upgrade. Yummm.