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Confessions of a “Fix-It Father”

What would you do if one of your children decided to become a cross-cultural missionary? The kind that wants to move to dangerous places to share Jesus with people who follow a different God. The kind of young believer who follows the news and still says, “The Bible says go; I need to go.” Your initial fatherly response might be confusion, pride, anger, fear, or some other strong emotion. I faced this same situation a few years ago, and among the many things I’ve learned since, I’ve realized that even though I love being a “fix-it father,” there are limits to what I can, or should, do for my kids.

 

My wife and I have six (now adult) children. Like most families, we attempted to have some regular routines to help provide structure for the kids. A discipline chart was on the refrigerator so the kids would know what was expected of them. There were morning devotions before school, evening prayers before bed, and as many teachable moments in between as we could take advantage of. We wanted our children to be secure in our love and ready to receive the love of God.

God’s love for our children is far greater than any love we have to offer.

We moved around the county. A lot. Ministry/mission mobilization/Christian education took us to quite a few places, and it seemed like no matter where we lived, there was always something to be fixed—our cars were old, our bank account was slim, and no matter where we lived the plumbing (or other mechanicals) seemed to always need attention. As a result, I became a seasoned “fix-it father.” Sometimes, the fix went smoothly, but it often required multiple trips to the store. Sometimes, my “fix” made it worse before it got better. Can anyone else relate?

 

Our children grew up in a variety of states, climates, and cultures. They were exposed to different languages, food, clothing, customs, music, and more. We never told our kids that they had to become missionaries, but we did stress that they needed to find a way to participate in the Great Commission. Even in the midst of constant changes and amazing learning opportunities, I remained a fix-it father for our family, and I also embraced a fix-it mentality as a pastor. If something was not flourishing, I was challenged to fix it.

 

I remember when one of our daughters and her husband moved into a low-income apartment complex with the desire to reach their other-culture neighbors with the gospel. The apartment was small, they had little privacy, and they were not living in a very safe area. I saw this, and the fix-it father in me wanted to step in and protect them from all that could go wrong. Of course, I wanted my child to follow Jesus, but when I saw what it was costing, even right here in the U.S., my protective fatherly instincts kicked in. My heart was in the right place, but I was failing to grasp how God’s heart was also at work. God had fixed it (he is sovereign) so that unreached people would hear the Good News, and he was using my daughter and her family to do it.

God so loves the world that he will deliberately send his children into difficult and dangerous places to enlarge the size of his family. 

One day my daughter called to tell me that she was planning to take a trip to visit a Muslim people group that she and her husband had been praying for. She was seven months pregnant with her first child. You can imagine the emotions that ran through my mind. I tried to be the fix-it father by reminding her of the risks of traveling to that part of the world (it’s often still in the news), the risks of traveling while pregnant, everything I could think of in my well-intentioned attempt to fix the circumstances so my daughter would be kept safe. Can you relate to that fatherly desire?

 

I was stopped cold when my daughter finally said, “I’m just doing what you raised me to do.” Wait a minute—did I really raise her to be a life-risking young married (and pregnant) woman who would fly halfway across the globe to consider future ministry among a group of people who followed a different God? Truth is, that’s not what I raised her to be—that’s what God called her to be. My wife and I raised her to love the Lord her God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength. We raised her to hide God’s Word in her heart. We raised her to know the voice of the Spirit as he guided her. He did guide her, and I realized that my desire to make sure everything was fixed had to yield to the desires of the One who knew her before she was born. We were caretakers of this child of the King, and he was calling her out of our comfort zone and deeper into his service.

 

There is much more to this story, but here are a few of the things we’ve had to remember:

 

  • God is the Father of all believers. Those who are blessed with children are caretakers of his children. We are merely stewards; he is the Master of the house.

  • We dare not attempt to mold our children into our own image.

  • We may think we can protect them, but that is an illusion.

  • My desire to be their fix-it father had to yield to the rule of the One who gave them life.

  • God’s love for our children is far greater than any love we have to offer.

  • God so loves the world (sound familiar?) that, yes, he will deliberately send his children into difficult and dangerous places to enlarge the size of his family.

 

Anybody else appreciate the challenge of being a loving father (a real fix-it man) while also yielding to the will of the heavenly Father as he calls our children to take their place of Kingdom service?

 

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