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David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

David Burchett

Author and Speaker

Every dad leaves a legacy. I have learned a few things through trial and many errors about being a dad who is trying to leave a positive legacy. Previous installments (follow the links below) detailed two ways to leave a good legacy:

  1. Love Your Wife
  2. Affirm Your Kids

Today we will examine one more way to establish a positive legacy. And we are adding a very dangerous twist today. I polled my three sons about my strengths and (gasp) shortcomings as their father. Those knee-buckling results were both sobering and encouraging.

First, the third way to leave a positive legacy as a dad.

3.  Enjoy every mile of the journey as you model being a man

The best description I have heard about being a parent is this bit of wisdom:  “Parenting…the days are long and the years are short.”

In his book, Being a Good Dad When You Didn’t Have One, Tim Wesemann gives his readers a two-word piece of advice: “Lighten up!”  He says that adults laugh an average of 15 times a day while children laugh 400 more times. “Sometime between childhood and adulthood, we lose 385 laughs a day! That’s a great loss!” Wesemann says.  “Maybe we need not only the faith of a child but the funny bone of one as well.”

I agree. One of my favorite moments happened on a family trip. Brett is several years younger than his siblings. I was addressing his older brothers’ behavior when I snapped at the boys and said in my best dad voice, “You are acting like children.” Brett was only five, and he thought I was including him in the accusation. He pondered the comment and then said, “But I am a children.” The laughter from the backseat derailed my dad authority and it definitely lightened the moment. The family that can laugh together has a huge advantage in the journey.

The Psalmist wrote these words:  “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Sometimes it is hard to remember what a blessing those little ones are when they are throwing down a tantrum at Target. I encourage parents to enjoy every phase of their children’s journey. And I learned that what your children take away as favorite memories may be surprising. One of the questions I asked my sons was their favorite memories of time with me. I expected that they would remember the big trips we took together or some expensive outing. I was humbled by their responses.

Firstborn son Matt:   “My favorite memories are throwing the baseball/football in the front yard of our Pecan Valley house, going to baseball games and growing up around sports.”

Second born son Scott:   “Playing catch in the backyard for hours on end, even when your knees hurt.  Going to cut down Christmas Trees every November and stopping at the Dairy Queen on the way home.”

Youngest son Brett:   “You coaching my sports teams and going to cut down the Christmas tree.”

Silhouette of Father and Young Child Playing Baseball OUtside

It was the little things that counted for them. The memories that really mattered to them were things that cost me only time. Each one of the boys felt valued when they felt I had sacrificed or made a special effort to spend time with them. I thought the big things mattered the most but I was wrong.

Model what you are teaching. Here is a powerful quote from Clarence Budington Kelland:  “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.” Wow. I have seen that prove out in my own life. I can tell you exactly what my father modeled for me, but I would have a hard time remembering any of his lectures. I believe that is an overlooked component of the wisdom expressed in Proverbs:  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That training should include being a role model and then the verbal training will sink in. Being an authentic role model makes the message effective.

You are a role model for your children, like it or not. Your children will, to one degree or another, model their lives after you. You have inherited some of your father’s characteristics and your children are inheriting some of yours.

Brett wrote in his responses,  “you are my biggest influence for everything.”  Scary. Whether you know it or not (or mean to or not), you are influencing the lives of your children and your children’s children.

You are a role model and every dad needs to reflect on that responsibility.

When I asked my boys what I had taught them, this is what I read:From Scott:  “You taught me to love the Lord and trust Him with my life.  Your spiritual growth over the past decade has inspired me and taught me a lot about how to grow in the Lord. You taught me to be loyal and hard working in everything I’m involved with, and most importantly, to never give up.  Burchett’s aren’t quitters, even if they want to be sometimes.”

From Brett:  “You taught me how to be a strong Christian man and how to play sports.”

From Matt:  “Never quit something you started. Work hard. Do everything with excellence. Treat everybody with respect and genuine kindness.”

Before you think that I am some really great Dad, let’s return to the third question I asked the boys: what they wish I had done differently. Their responses were consistent and they saddened me. I share this in the hope that young dads will take this to heart.

Matt:    “I wish you could have been home more.”
Scott:  “I wish you could have been home more.”
Brett:   “I wish you could have been home more.”

That still makes my heart hurt. That is what I wish I had done differently. I wish I would have been home more. I cannot change the past. God is gracious and loving. My relationship with all of my boys is wonderful despite my misplaced priorities at times. Love does cover a multitude of sins. My sons know they are loved. They know they have my approval and respect. I am blessed by them.

Dave Burchett is the author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.

This week I am doing a brief series on leaving a legacy as an earthly father. Every dad leaves a legacy. The only question is what kind. The first step to leaving a positive legacy is to love your wife. For some readers that already has not worked out. That does not mean that you cannot leave a positive legacy. There are many ways to redeem the father/child relationship. The second part of leaving a legacy that endures is to be an encouragement to your kids. Paul wrote this simple instruction to the church at Colossae.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21, NIV)

The Message translates this verse  like this….

Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.

I cannot remember hearing a lot of teaching on that verse over the years. It is really easy in this success mad culture to discourage your children. Nearly every dad wants his child to be successful. What is wrong with that desire? There is nothing wrong with that if we balance that desire with love, encouragement, and awareness of your child’s unique design. Sometimes we forget the journey we have traveled in our own lives. Frank Clark said that “a father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.” Ouch.

I came into this whole dad thing wanting a star athlete. But I had forgotten one little detail. Where did I expect they would dig up those genes to be an All-American quarterback or college basketball star? I deepened my gene pool considerably when I married Joni but she can only contribute so much.

What I got were three guys ranging from average to very good athletic ability. What God gave me was three godly men of integrity. Men that are kind and loving. I have been blessed more by their character and wisdom than I could have possibly have been blessed by awards and trophies.

The dad factor may be more critical than we ever realized. Christian author/speaker Josh McDowell commissioned a study that involved 2,000 children ages 12 to 17, and 1,000 parents. The study revealed that children raised in a SINGLE PARENT home were 30% MORE LIKELY than the national average to be involved in drugs, alcohol, and violence. I can almost hear some of you saying, “That’s no surprise. I’ve always felt that divorce was the major cause of youth violence. I’m glad WE have two parents raising our children.”

Read on.

Adolescents raised in TWO PARENT families in which the father had a poor to fair relationship with his children were 68% MORE LIKELY than the national average to have problems with drugs, alcohol, and violence! That floored me. Two parents in the home are no defense against the problems we’re discussing unless the father is close to his children. If he is not, his children are at more than twice the risk of children raised in single parent homes.

Teenagers raised in two parent families in which the father had a good to excellent relationship with his children were 96% LESS LIKELY than the national average to become involved with drugs, alcohol, and violence.

These statistics show us that many of the things that we have assumed would protect our children will not necessarily do so. You can raise your children in a two parent family in a “good” neighborhood, send them to a “good” school, and even take them to church. But if there is a lack of emotional attachment, if there is no loving bond between the children and their parents, particularly the father, children of every background are at some risk.

I am not talking about being a perfect father. These kids (and even many of us) are simply looking for the affirmation and blessing of our earthly fathers.

When Scripture says that God is our Father, it is telling us that these needs can be met by Him. This is where our role as Christian dads becomes so important. There are no perfect earthly dads. But it is critical that we understand the impact that we have on our child’s relationship with God. Some may find it hard to get excited about the scriptural descriptions of God as a father because of the imperfect models of fatherhood they have experienced here on earth.

Some remember a father who was too wrapped up in his job, his buddies, and his hobbies to provide much support or affirmation. He might have been one of those men who believed that their only job was to bring home a paycheck, while Mom was responsible for everything else. Others might recall a dad that was demanding, cold, and unapproachable. Children can tend to transpose their father experience when they think of God as Father.

I have talked to many men my age who are still desperate for the approval of their fathers. And I know that is true for women as well. Jim Valvano, the now deceased coach, said “My father gave me the greatest gift that anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

Yesterday I noted that I had asked my sons to critique my performance as a dad…both good and bad. Here is one comment from eldest son Matt.

The biggest lesson you taught me was to believe in my ability to accomplish things I never thought possible.  From the kid who got C’s in 8th grade math to going to graduate school at a great university. I could never have accomplished this without parents, and a father, that believed in me.

Don’t EXPECT your children to be perfect. Don’t expect them to meet all of your expectations…to fulfill all of your goals for them…to be what you want them to be. Be grateful for who God made your kids to be. Too many fathers try to live out their own lives through their children. Every child is different. They are not a clone of you (Thank God!).

My son Scott wrote about something that he wished I had done differently.

I wish that you would have made more of an effort to understand me and my personality at an earlier age.  I think Mom did a good job at this, but that might have just been because I opened up to her more.

This is a great example of how husbands and wives are a team. Joni told me that I needed to spend more time with Scott. She sensed what I did not. She made me mad, hurt my feelings and made me feel like a bad dad. And thank God she did that. I became intentional about coaching Scott’s teams and being with him. It still took a few years for us to really understand one another but I believe Joni’s loving intervention saved our relationship. Today our relationship is awesome. Who knows what would have happened if my bride had not challenged me about that shortcoming in my relating to Scott.

Father’s Day might be a great time to give a gift back to your children. You can give the gift of forgiveness. Or you can ask for forgiveness.

Remember that all children want the approval of their fathers. If you have not done so, I encourage you to give the gift of approval this Father’s Day. Give your children the gift of believing in them. Step 2 to leaving a positive legacy as a Dad is simple but powerful. Encourage your children and believe in them.

Dave Burchett is the author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.

Occasionally people will observe our three wonderful sons and ask something like this. “What did you do to parent such great kids?” My response is simple. “I married Joni. The rest is a blur.” There is a little too much truth in that answer. She was and is remarkable. But we did partner in this grand adventure called parenting. Along the way I learned some things mostly by error and stumbling trial. Over the next two days I will share what I have figured out with the disclaimer that I do not claim to be an expert. It is with humility and grateful appreciation to God that He has given me the gift of this family.

Ken Druck and James Simmons in The Secrets Men Keep discuss six major secrets men have. At the top of the list is that “men secretly yearn for their fathers love and approval.” This is often without their conscious knowledge that this yearning manifests itself in the drive that many males have to prove themselves. The authors say:

It may surprise us to know that the most powerful common denominator influencing men’s lives today is the relationship we had with our fathers …. Of the hundreds of men I have surveyed over the years, perhaps 90 percent admitted they still had strings leading back to their fathers. In other words, they are still looking to their fathers, even though their fathers may have been dead for years, for approval, acceptance, affection, and understanding.

This series is not about being a perfect dad. If it were, I would be completely unqualified to write it. This series is not about piling guilt on you for mistakes made. I am not looking for the result like the boy who said to his preacher on the way out, “Boy, that was a good sermon. My dad slumped way down today.” This series is seeing what God’s plan is for leaving a positive legacy as an earthly father.

The first way to leave a good legacy is found in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (NIV, Ephesians 5:25) The translation in The Message says this.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church–a love marked by giving, not getting.

The number one way to leave a great legacy for your children is very simple:

Love your wife.

If you are already 0 for 1…or 0 for 2…hang with me. God is a God of grace and compassion. We will see how He can work even when the ideal is no longer possible in upcoming posts.

The idea of marriage as an absolute commitment is an endangered species. Actor Brad Pitt has confessed he knew his marriage to Jennifer Aniston would never last. He said in a recent interview that he never expected to be wed forever. He described his high-profile breakup as “beautiful.” Pitt seemed frustrated about the public perception… “It’s talked about like it failed. I guess because it wasn’t flawless.” Now comes Pitt’s wisdom about marriage: “Me, I embrace the messiness of life. I find it so beautiful, actually. The idea that marriage has to be for all time – that I don’t understand.”

Our culture has devalued marriage to the point where far too many people enter relationships on a trial basis with no expectation that it can last. I will guarantee you one thing…that mindset will make it much more likely that it will not last. Had Joni and I shared that value we would be a stat and our children would be from a divided home. Why should followers of Jesus believe that marriage is for all time? A report by Warren Mueller revealed that where both parents attend church regularly, 72% of their children continue in the faith. Where only the father attends, that percentage drops to 55 percent, but where only the mother attends, just 15 percent of the children remain involved in the church.

Theodore M. Hesburgh wrote that the “most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”.

Your children watch how you treat their mother. They watch … and they are learning and forming their concept of marriage from you. You are creating a pattern, a blueprint for marriage with your children. I struggled as a husband because I had not seen that blueprint in my parents’ marriage. My Dad was a good dad but my parents did not have a good marriage. Joni and I had to break the cycle because she also came from a difficult family situation. Because we broke the cycle our kids have seen a marriage that survived, and not only survived but is very happy. But we had to do a lot of learning on the job.

Part of my preparation for this series was a survey of my three sons. I asked my sons three questions and not one of them was “What is your quest”.

What were their favorite memories with me?
What did they learn from me as a dad?
And what do they wish I had done differently?

Yeah…that last question scared me for one major reason. My sons are truthful. But I figured if I had done something really wrong in their eyes I wanted to seek forgiveness now. Plus I would have a written document so if they turned up on Dr. Phil someday I could say I gave them a chance and they didn’t say anything. Seriously, I thought the exercise would make them consider how they could be better fathers someday…how they could break more cycles.

Our oldest son Matt wrote a little extra in his letter:

And thank you for being committed to Mom.  It is a rarity to have a family that is not broken.  But you gave up bigger things to make sure we stayed together and that has made all the difference.

I loved how The Message gives a fresh twist to Paul's familiar words to the Ephesian Church.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. (Ephesians 5:25, The Message)

If you are still able to control this one move it to the top of your list. The first step to leaving a good legacy as a dad is to love your wife!

Dave Burchett is the author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.