If I could use my skill as a woodworker to be a better father, it would look like this.
Plan the size and shape of fortitude, faith, love, leadership and patience. Cut them out. Strengthen and repair the flaws with the Sacraments. Sand them down to reveal the real manhood. Chisel out the childhood wounds, bad choices and crippling fears. Join all the pieces together using God’s grace. Engrave God’s commandments on his heart. And finish with a coat of holiness.
And voila! A perfect Catholic father!
You see, I have all these ideas and inspirations about how to bring the faith into my relationship with my children, how to teach them about the faith and to walk with them in their faith journeys. I have this ardent desire for them to know God and serve Him when they’re adults.
But I found myself making all these excuses. “I don’t know how to teach people. I don’t know how to be a mentor. I don’t know how to control the outcome.”
Then doubts creep in. “What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not leading them in the faith? What if they choose to leave the faith?”
Before I’ve even started, I’ve already failed.
So unpacked all these and here’s what happened.
What’s Going on With This Control Thing?
Firstly, it’s a lie that I don’t know how to teach. Saying that out loud, it sounds ridiculous. I’m a dad. I have some experience being a mentor. I've been a mentor to my eldest son for 12 years. I mentor people at work.
The thing is, I can control work or at least I feel like I can control work. So going after something at work doesn't scare me. I don’t doubt that I’m going to be successful at work. With work, I can bury myself in a project that can consume me for long periods of time because I’m confident it will lead to the desired outcome.
But I don’t do that with inspirations I get in the context of bringing the faith into my relationship with my children.
Well, it’s not that I don't ever do it, it’s just that there are a lot of things I feel inspired to do that I’ve never pursued. For instance, we could write letters to our sponsored children, but we don’t. We could visit the retired people in the nursing home we donate to, but we don’t. I could take them to adoration more often, but I don’t.
The only answer that I could give is it’s because I can’t control the outcome. I’m pretty sure I know what I want it to look like and I also know it won’t look like that. I’m defeated before I ever step foot on the field.
Social Media Dad and Fear of Failure
I can’t believe I do this, but I do.
I look at all these “great Catholics” that have a public life that’s shared on the internet and I compare myself to them. All the things that they do as Catholic fathers and Catholic mothers that I don't. And because I don't do those things, I’ve already kind of disqualified myself. So the things I feel inspired to do are counteracted by this lie that I’ve already failed. So of course, it feels overwhelming to try.
At the same time, I’m desperately afraid that if I don’t do those things, my kids won’t have a relationship with God. And if they don’t, what’s that going to mean about my identity?
Fear of What I’ll Find Out
The hardest part of connecting with my children and digging in too deep is the fear of what I’ll find. There are topics that I haven’t spoken to my oldest child about and one of the reasons I haven't done this is I’m afraid of what I’ll find if I do.
I could be afraid to discover that he doesn't love God the way I think he should. Or we have nothing in common. Can I handle that reality? Is it worth opening that door? I’m too afraid of finding out the truth so it’s easier to just keep that door closed.
But Praise God for These Truths!
- God is not asking me to be this other person on the internet. He’s asking me to be me and a father and a steward of these children, my children. Not anyone else’s kids in any other home, in any other parish community, in any other country. I’m called to be Jonathan Conrad, husband to MY wife, and father to our three boys.
- God gave my children the freedom to choose. They get to choose how to love God. Isn’t that a beautiful part of who they are? That they get to make that choice? They’re going to relate to God however they choose to. And, get this… He will still love them no matter what they choose. And I should do the same.
- My sons will not have the same faith that I have. Thanks be to God, it’s not going to be the same! I can’t expect my three boys to have the same relationship with God that I have. Any more than two saints are similar. God made each one of us unique.
- God’s love and mercy brought me back in spite of everything that I did to myself and everything that my parents did or failed to do.
- I’m not perfect and it’s okay.
- I can focus on the things that I can control - how I show up for my children, how I love them, and how I share the relationship I have with God with them.
- It’s never too late and I can always start again.
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