by Charlie Dean
Charlie is the father of four boys, Lead Pastor of Imago Dei Church in Peoria, Illinois, and has become a good friend. Over the past two years, he has been on a spiritual journey that has resulted in running a marathon and losing over 70 pounds. Charlie and I bond over our love for food, practical theology, & the fact that we’re both recovering people-pleasers. You can follow him on twitter here, and read his blog here. You’ll love his blog below. Enjoy!
I once overheard a young man voicing frustrations with the church he attended. His frustrations went beyond “I don’t like the music,” to deeper issues of a disconnected soul. When asked why he stayed at that particular church, the father of three replied, “because they have such a great kids program here.”
All of us fathers have made similar choices at one time or another. We’ve opted for macaroni and cheese (out of the box even!) because it’s just easier than making our kids eat grilled steak & asparagus, what with their tiny teeth and overly melodramatic taste buds. And while we’d prefer to watch anything else on television we instead watch the same Curious George episode for the 500th time because it’s what our kids want. This, of course, is at the heart of parenting; when we chose fatherhood, we chose to lay down our preferences and desires for those of our children.
Obviously a solid kids ministry is to be preferred over a poor one, and sometimes in a moment of desperation, mac n’ cheese is the right choice, but at least equally important is that my four boys see me on a spiritual journey of my own. My boys will get more out of seeing me excited about my faith journey than they will a thousand good Sunday programs with crafts, treats, & silly songs.
Of course it’s a balancing act. There are times that I willingly, gladly give in to their preferences for food, music or free time. But, there are other times, that I need to be on my own journey, if for no other reason than they are watching everything I do. And more than the words I say, or what they hear at church, they will become what I am.
Two years ago, I began one of those journeys for myself when I decided to tackle head-on the issue of my health. In the past I had dieted, quit and gained the weight back numerous times, but my motivation was different after my wife tactfully, bravely warned me that our boys would become what I modeled for them. Gulp.
And so, over the course of 18 months, I lost nearly 70 pounds, ran my first marathon, competed in my first triathlon and completed 2 “century rides” on my bike. Of course, all this running, biking, & walking has meant that there are times where my exercise has taken preference over time with my boys. And there are many times that I feel conflicted as I head out the door for a long run, “shouldn’t I instead be throwing a ball in the yard?”
But a week ago my 10-year old and I were driving home from a late baseball game together, and my normally quiet, reserved, doesn’t-say-much son said to me, “dad, I like it that you’re skinny now and that you run and exercise.”
I have no idea what inspired him in that moment to say those words. But it affirmed to me that he’s watching. And because of the choices I’m making, because of what he sees – he’ll be more likely to do the same as he grows into adulthood.
So, this Father’s Day drive a stake into the ground. Go on a journey, switch churches, start running, change jobs, begin a project, write a book, take a risk, bite off more than you can chew, do something that scares you. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your dreams to become the best version of yourself. In short, become everything that you want for your children to become someday.