Years ago, I thought I was really on top of things spiritually. My wife, Gini, and I had been married about 12 years, and we had young children in the house from ages 1 to 7. Even though I was a full-time seminary student, we always seemed to make ends meet financially. The children were a great delight to us; we were involved in a growing church; my studies were rewarding. Life felt good.
I cannot remember what prompted me to do this, but I decided I would ask my oldest child, Leisa, about my priorities. I confidently asked, "What do you think is the most important thing in Daddy's life? Now, please, don't tell me what you think Daddy wants to hear; tell me what you really think."
I thought Leisa would tell me that Jesus was most important to me, or perhaps my family, but she didn't say either one of those. In fact, she told me something I truly did not want to hear. She said the most important thing in my life was … my hobby. (I used to spend hours reloading rifle shells for hunting and target shooting.) I was crushed.
I look back at this incident as the day I first took my "spiritual temperature." I realized the life I was experiencing was much cooler than the hot, motivated Christian life that I thought I was living.
Looking for blind spots
Taking your spiritual temperature means asking others—usually your spouse, children, or a trusted friend—to evaluate your spiritual life. It usually means asking pointed questions such as the one I asked Leisa. Some other good questions could be:
- "What are some things you think need to change in my life?"
- "How can I be a better husband?"
- "How can I be a better father?"
It's not an easy exercise—it's especially difficult when you involve your children—but it's healthy. God uses it to point out blind spots, to discipline us, and to correct wrong thinking or actions in our lives.
I remember the time I developed a "Lone Ranger" mentality. I felt that nobody in my family was responding when I attempted to lead the family. It seemed they wouldn't listen to me or do what I told them to do. After getting angry with Gini and everyone else, saying I was through leading this family, I finally calmed down long enough to gather all the children together and ask them why they weren't responding to me.
About a week later, they came to me with a list. Here is what they told me:
- We don't like to hear you and mom fight.
- We don't like your negative or critical comments.
- We don't like your language when you are angry.
- We don't like your reaction when things don't go your way.
I kept this list. It still sits on my dresser, serving as a reminder of how I had pushed my family away from me. Those four things were very hard to hear, but the Lord used them to get my attention about things He wanted changed in my life.
Humbling ourselves before God
Allowing God to check your spiritual temperature is not a task for the weak of heart. But I would suggest it to any father who wants to grow spiritually. Here are a few suggestions:
First, make sure you are willing to hear from the Lord when you ask your children to evaluate you spiritually. As men, we may tend to reject or ignore the counsel of our family members. After all, we are called to be the "head" of the household, so why do we need to listen to those under our protection and spiritual authority? But family members often know and see our faults and sins better than anyone else. If God speaks through our family members, we need to prepare our hearts to hear from Him. Believe me, He often speaks to leaders through those they lead.
Second, assure your children that you want to know the truth, exactly what they see and believe. Assure them that they should not tell you what they think you want to hear. Children want to please their father even if your relationship is not great. You may need to convince them that you want to hear from God through them.
Third, do not react negatively. Swallow your pride and receive what they tell you. If you want the Lord to show you your faults and sins, then you must be humble enough to receive what He tells you.
Write down what your children say. Listen, but do not reply. You simply cannot defend yourself or allow your emotions to surface during this process. There will be time for that when you get alone with the Lord.
Fourth, be ready to be alone with God and respond to His Holy Spirit. If you honestly want to be clean before your Lord, then you must plan to go to a solitary place where you can let God's Spirit deal with what you have written down after listening to your children. This is your opportunity to experience the reality of 1 John 1:9 which says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." As you review your notes, the Holy Spirit will most likely convict your heart and bring deep regret about the things you have done. Confess to your loving Father how you have sinned and cry to Him for strength to turn from your sin.
Finally, remember that the most powerful words that a husband and father can ever say are, "I was wrong … will you forgive me?" Men, if you will learn to use these words as frequently as necessary, your family will grow to respect you more than you could ever imagine. While it is difficult for us to admit we were wrong, it carries with it great blessings. As 1 Peter 5:6 tells us, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time."
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