The Inadequate Dad

Dan Smith  |  Article  |  Anxiety, Faith, Family, Humility, Jesus, Meaning, Purpose & Wisdom

Ask anyone in the Smith family which trait of my dad’s that was passed on to his kids that is the most cringe-worthy and you’ll probably get the same answer: “The Sigh”. You read that right. A long, deep, audible, guttural inhale and exhale. As a kid, my dad’s sigh was always in response to something stressful, bothersome or annoying. Instead of words, you would just hear a sigh. A loud, passive-aggressive sigh that made everyone roll their eyes. And yes, the moment my wife called me out for having inherited “The Sigh”, I responded with an even louder…sigh.

But you know what? I’m proud of it and it’s become an endearing source of entertainment in my family. Any time we catch one another in mid-sigh, we call one another out on it and all have a good laugh.

In the last few years I’ve begun to think a lot more about the things we pass on to our kids.

As a father, if there’s one word that comes to my mind a lot, it’s the word inadequate. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel inadequate, lacking the necessary qualities to be a truly good Dad. When I look at myself as a dad, all I can see are the flaws. The moments where I was quick to anger. The moments where I failed to give sage advice. The moments where I scorned when I should have consoled. The moments where I was silent when I should’ve spoken up. The moments where I spoke too much when I simply needed to listen. The moments I spent staring at my phone instead of looking my child in the eyes and showing them I value them. The moments I missed because I was pursuing my own dreams.

If I’m being honest, most days I feel like a total shmuck.

If you’re out their nodding your head in agreement with me, I want you to know… you ARE inadequate. We ALL are. We will never be perfect dads.

The only perfect and adequate dad is God the Father, and we can never be as perfect as Him. But we aren’t called to pursue perfection, are we? We’re just called to pursue…better. Every day. Just pursue being a little better today than the day before. Some days we may go backwards but the next day will be…better.

The Bible is bursting with wisdom for us as parents. There’s no shortage of good teaching from scripture that can help ground and instruct us as we try to be a better parent each day. One of the key verses that helps me come to grip with inadequacies is 2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Accepting that we are inadequate is the first step in accepting that in our inadequacies, Jesus’ strength is made perfect in my weakness.

As a dad, the best thing I can do is surrender and accept my weaknesses as opportunities for Jesus to transform me in to the best parent He wants me to be for my kids.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Ephesians 6:4 reiterates ”Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

While I certainly am a master in the art of exasperating my children, I think I’m starting to learn what the most important trait I am called to pass on to my kids is: my faith. Faith in God. Faith in Jesus. Faith in salvation. Faith in God’s Truth.

While the day will come where their faith must become their own, the greatest gift I can pass on to my kids is to cultivate faith in Jesus. Because once that seed takes root, that tree will produce the most incredible fruit. The mighty traits of godly character, like “to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) or to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) can’t truly take root without there first being a planted seed of faith.

My kids will inherit a lot from me and I secretly hope one of those things is the Smith sigh. But I also hope that as they see me pursuing a devoted relationship with Jesus that truly encourages them to desire the same life-giving and transforming relationship of their own with Him. That is easily the greatest gift I can pass on.

I will always feel inadequate as a dad and that’s okay. It’s not about being adequate. It’s about pursuing Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. As He makes me a better me, He will make me a better father and He will become everything to them that I can’t.