Pastor Nick Cleveland

I’ve been a dad for 10 years when our oldest has his birthday next week. We have 3 children so we’ve had someone in diapers consistently for 10 straight years… a decade of diapers. Diapers… the dirtiest and most humbling aspect of being a parent. Is there anything more symbolic of the lessons of parenthood than a diaper? And we’ve been in this land for 10 years!

As I write this, we are cleaning out our house in preparation for a garage sale. We drug out 10 years of toys, cars, stuffed animals, and clothes preparing to sell in order to save some, spend some, & share some of the profits. And as I perused the piles last night I felt like Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation when he found the old family movies in the attic and started watching them. Memories flooded my mind and I realized we are in transition from baby-land to kids-land.

I don’t even want to consider the sale we might have in 10 years from now and how much will change, but I thought I’d pause and put together a list of what I’ve learned from this decade of diapers. So here are 10 lessons for all of us that being a parent has taught me:

#10  –  We are selfish people

Nothing has revealed this more and challenged me more than putting the needs of 4 people before me every single day. It’s like the guy in the State Farm commercial who says he’ll never get married, have kids, buy a van, or move to the suburbs. I need to always remember that it’s not about me!

#9  –  We prefer to control what we can’t

I think I knew this before parenting but becoming and being a dad has put a bright spotlight on it. Our kids’ arrivals taught me that I wasn’t in control. God is sovereign. I’m not. I need to focus on what I actually can control and trust God with what I have no power or business trying to control.

#8  –  We tend to correct the behavior rather than shepherd the heart 

It’s easier to correct the behavior. We think that our kid’s behavior reflects us! We take too much credit when our kids behave and too much blame when they misbehave. I need to remember that the condition of their heart will direct the decisions of their life.

#7  –  We give a foundation to them in the faith we possess

This is so powerful. Our goal as parents has been to raise our kids to know Jesus personally. And there are many theories and opinions about how to do this.  But the best teaching is in the lab of life. My personal expression of faith will serve as the foundation for my kid’s faith! That’s convicting!

#6  –  My wife is a remarkable woman

I have no idea how my wife does it. Her patience, sacrifice, humility, and character put me to shame. Our kids are getting a treasure from her and I’ve had a front row seat to watch it. I knew I married up, but my love grows deeper and stronger daily for Vicki as we parent together as a team.

#5  –  We all mess up and are tempted to quit but its not too late to start again

Every parent is flawed. We all screw up. The key is to own it. Get on their level. Look in their eyes and say, “I’m sorry, would you please forgive me?” Then, start again in the direction you should have been going prior to the mistake. I’ve done this more than I care to share over the last decade.

#4  –  We are on stage and they’re watching

Rodney Atkins told us this in his song “Been Watching You”. And it’s a big deal. So many of our faith and life lessons are caught more than taught. They’re watching how I treat their mom, the person in traffic, and people who frustrate me. I should be the person I want them to become!

#3  –  We can’t protect them so we should prepare them

We love our kids so we don’t want anything bad to happen to them. I get it, but you don’t have that much power. Our kids will get hurt from time to time and in those moments they need to be prepared for how to respond, how to recover, and how to thrive in life!

#2  –  We have 2 options:  worry or pray

The apostle Paul told us to pray continuously. Parenting makes that verse jump off the page. I’ve learned to rehearse my worries, insecurities, and fears as a parent to God. He’s the only One who can do anything about it anyway.  And Paul promised that when I do that the peace of God will guard my heart.  Prayer works!

#1  –  We are loved more than we can imagine

This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned as a dad. As a Father, I LOVE my kids.  I’d give my life to save them. I want to bless them and make them happy. And what I’ve discovered is that God is our Father and He is good! He loved me so much that He gave His only Son so that I could be forgiven and made right with Him. That’s how much God LOVES me… you… and the world. I knew that 11 years ago before children, but I get it now.

What a gift being a dad has been. I’ve learned so much about myself, others, and God.  The Psalmist put it plainly in Psalm 127:3 “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” (NLT).

The last decade has taught me a lot… now to live those lessons out over the next 10 years!!!