Matt Caporale from Dawsonville, Georgia, writes in to ask, “Pastor John, I have read several of your books and followed you for a while now. I would just like to share with you that this past year at the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference after you preached, I was able to see you when you went backstage. I saw you weeping, and the Lord used that greatly in my life. It was refreshing to see a man who does not put up a front on stage, but a man broken and humble before the Lord backstage. Here is my question: What is the one thing you would say to a man about to be, for the first time, a father of a son?”
Well, I am not sure the connection that Matt sees between tears behind stage and a question about what to say to a father of a new son, but one does not have to look far to find connections between tears and fathering a son.
Five Love’s for New Fathers
The way he asked the question triggers the way I am answering the question.
1. Love to weep.
Maybe the first thing to say to this dad would be, Are you ready to weep? That is, are you ready to love? There is no love in this world without tears — none. It is a world of sin and sickness and futility and calamity and suffering and death. All that will touch your son and you through your son. Of course, you will laugh and rejoice. You will laugh more than you have ever laughed, and he will make you happy. But you need little preparation for that, right?
What you need preparation for is the sorrows. He will be sick. And you won’t be able to fix it. He will have behaviors you cannot comprehend — right across the spectrum from oddities to Autism. And he can’t comprehend them either sometimes. He will be rejected by his friends, and he will endure sadness so deep, that you do anything to lift the darkness for him. He will suffer losses, and you will hold him on your shoulder as he heaves with sobs. He will lose his job — or worse — and you won’t have the power to give it back. And worst of all, he may lose his faith and lose his respect for his father. You will wonder what you have done.
So, my first word to Matt is, Are you ready to weep? Because if you are about to have a son, get ready to love, and get ready to weep. Get a vision of the sovereignty of God and the grace of God that will support you in the saddest times of your life. For that is what family means — the happiest and the saddest times of your life are on the way.
2. Love God.
Second, I would say to this new father, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Above all, love him with your heart. That is, enjoy knowing God. Enjoy belonging to God. Enjoy being created and bought and owned by God. Enjoy being addressed by God in his word. Let your boy see you reveling in the word of God. Enjoy being guided by God. Let the boy see that you, too, are ignorant and need a Father to give you counsel in his word. Enjoy being strengthened by God, and let the boy see you are weak and need a Father to help you. Let your whole life be full of God and full of glad responses to God, and let this son of yours see God in your enjoyment of God.
Let him see that God has standards — how to live. But let him see that it is an easy yoke, and it is a light burden (see Matthew 11:29–30) as his dad walks in these standards because of the work of Christ, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and because of the hope of everlasting joy. So out-rejoice all those who commend other gods to your son.
3. Love your wife.
I would say to this father, Love your wife. This boy will learn to be a man by watching you, and at the heart of manhood is how a man loves his wife. Cherish her obviously, verbally, manifestly with your hands and face and arms and the direction you lean and pull in. Lavish her with affection, and let him see it. Let him see daddy really likes mommy. Daddy enjoys mommy. Daddy respects mommy. Daddy helps mommy. Daddy protects mommy. Daddy leads mommy. Daddy is really happy to have mommy for his wife.
Don’t put on any shows for this kid. He will know the difference. Really love her, love her. Treasure her manifestly.
4. Love the church.
I would say to this new father of a new son, Love the church. Love the people of God. Speak well of the saints. Speak with joyful thankfulness of the history of the saints and the work of the saints and the fellowship of the saints. Lift up the heroes of the saints — dead and alive. Celebrate God’s faithfulness in the lives of saints.
Take your son to church, and love doing it. When he is tiny — a tiny tot —take him into the worship service. Don’t send him off to children’s church. Take him with you, and let him see you from the earliest years — three or four years old. Let him see you. Hold him. Let him see you worshiping. Let him feel your chest as you sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Let him see you lift your other hand that is not holding him so he can feel your praises. Let him see you bow your head in sorrow for your sin and rise triumphant in the assurance of pardon. Let him see you hang on the pastor’s words and write things down. And then when you go home, speak well of the leaders of your church, and let him see you love the church.
5. Love your enemies.
And the last thing I would say to this dad is, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). “Let bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Ephesians 4:31). “Count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) — friends and foes. Count them as worthy of your service. Let your son see you serving the people you don’t like. “Have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) who came to serve his enemies. He came a long way down. He came to die to save his enemies.
Let the boy see that it is a glorious thing to love your enemies. Let him see the difference between a wishy washy, spineless compromise and real love of those you disagree with.
In other words, I would say to this dad, Be a weeping, happy, loving father full of God, full of truth, full of joy.