“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8
My dad was 24 and had recently graduated from USC when he received the news. The cute punk-rock girl he had met through a mutual friend was now pregnant with his child. This was an unpleasant surprise. Something about this girl (who would later become my mom) attracted my dad. She was young, pretty, and a bit of a rebel who liked to talk smack and tell stories. She also thought she was hot stuff. My dad, on the other hand, liked a challenge – which is why he pursued her in the first place. But becoming a dad was not the challenge he had in mind. Besides, he liked my mom, but he didn’t really know her. She was just a fun girl who started to show up at kickbacks and the local bar.
So, what was my dad’s response to the news that he was soon to have a child? He. Freaked. Out. He wasn’t the only one who was unsettled by the announcement, either. His parents were freaking out, and so were his close friends – whose general response went something like this: “Dude, you messed up big time. Your life is pretty much over. How could you knock her up?” This didn’t help.
Overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, my dad distanced himself from my mom. He still saw her from time to time because they had several mutual friends and they were still seeing each other to some extent. One day, he saw my mom hanging out at the local bar – the usual hangout spot. This was not uncommon. But something was different about her. As she turned – perhaps sitting on the bar stool or standing in the crowd – my dad caught a glimpse of her profile and saw the curve in her lower abdomen. Her pregnancy was beginning to show. Seeing my mom’s protruding stomach did something to my dad. It awoke in him a sense of personal responsibility. In the weeks and months that followed, my dad spent more time with my mom and accompanied her to the doctor’s office for her periodic checkups.
A few months later, my dad found himself sitting in a delivery room at the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. My older sister was about to be born. Being the go-getter that she is, my sister decided to come out six weeks early. She probably felt suffocated in my mother’s womb and decided to move out in hopes of becoming more independent. That’s just the type of person she is. Sitting down in the delivery room, my dad was looking to the ground and nervously rubbing his hands together as he anticipated the arrival of my sister – an event that would change his life forever. Suddenly, the doctor caught my sister in his arms and lifted her up toward the ceiling – similar to Rafiki lifting up Simba in The Lion King – and joyfully declared, “It’s a girl!”
Supporting my sister’s head, and looking into her pink, wrinkly face, my dad accepted his responsibility as a parent. He wasn’t ready to be a dad, and he still had much of his youth left to enjoy; but he made choices, and those choices had major consequences – life conceiving consequences. He knew he had to own up to these decisions and be a father to this fragile, defenseless baby girl. After all, my sister didn’t have any say in my parents’ decision making, nor did she ask to be conceived. She was innocent in all of this. So my dad took responsibility and committed himself to start a family and raise his child. He became a man – a godly man.
He later married my mom and together they had three more kids – all boys. My dad has now been a father for 28 years, and a single father for about half of that (My parents divorced soon after my youngest brother, Ronan, was born). Is my dad perfect? No. But never once did he neglect his responsibility as a father. At my sister’s conception, he could have walked away. During my parents’ nasty divorce, he could have bailed. In the years when he had to face his own inner demons, he could have left. But he didn’t. My dad has told me several times that there is a lot of joy in being a father, but there are also a lot of challenges. Nonetheless, he has always been a father and a provider to my siblings and me – one of the manliest and godliest traits a dad can have. He’s also pretty good at being a dad; he’s affectionate, supportive, caring and fun to be around.
Watching my dad’s example, I learned that a godly man takes responsibility for his actions, especially when kids are involved. A godly man does everything he can to support his family emotionally, spiritually and financially. The righteous man does not run away from responsibility – he embraces it. That is what my father taught me about being a godly man, and – if God ever gives me a family of my own – that is the kind of man I will aspire to be.
To be a godly man is to lay down one’s life for his family – something my dad has always done.