Humbled Himself: A Father’s Day Reflection
Let me tell you about someone really humble: me. That joke never gets old. Maybe that’s what Paul is doing in Philippians. Even while calling the Philippians to humble themselves, he can’t help but point out that he is a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5). Apparently, it has always been hard to talk about humility without coming across as anything but humble.
That caveat aside, let me attempt to talk a bit about humility. Because being a dad is hard. With two sons, and a third on the way, I’m learning daily just how hard this calling is.
I’ve been dwelling in the Christ hymn of Phil 2 for some time, particularly on the words describing how Jesus “humbled himself” (2:8). I can’t help but think that fatherhood is an invitation to do the same and, despite the bad rap some fathers get, most fathers I know choose the Jesus way more often than not.
At a “Man-Child” campout a few weeks ago, 10 young fathers from our church set up their tents without help from the 20 children rampaging through the woods. Every few seconds a call of “Daddy!” echoed through the trees. In unison, all the dads would look up and inevitably one would head off in response, his half-assembled tent collapsing as he did.
Fatherhood is like that. The space for selfishness gets swallowed up by children who don’t care, frankly.
I love the old preacher joke: you know humans are inherently selfish because no child’s first word is “yours!” Nope, their first word is nearly always “mine.” That camping trip proved it.
I often tell couples in pre-marital counseling that marriage is an exercise in humility. When you become married you realize how selfish you are, as now you must compromise on all kinds of decisions. What I sometimes don’t tell them is that parenthood proves how selfish we remain even after learning to compromise. Turns out, your kid doesn’t care about that fancy three-syllable word. Good luck trying to compromise with a toddler.
So the dad faces a choice: be selfish or humble himself. Learn to become obedient to those selfless tasks or resist and do what you most want.
I know so many dads who fish less, play softball less, and go out with their buds less. I know so many dads who get up earlier, change diapers, and spend their Saturdays at soccer or t-ball games, where not one single player actually knows which direction they are supposed to run. They humble themselves.
That may sound like a sacrifice, and it is. But the joy of that sacrifice is so sweet. And in a world that that increasingly equates selfishness with joy, fatherhood is a welcome “no.” The Jesus way, the humble way, is where true joy abides.
Happy Father’s Day. Now, someone help me with this tent.