His wife and he come to see me. Sitting in front of me during counseling, their back-and-forth may be the most frequent conundrum upper middle-class couples find themselves in. They went and got their priorities caught in success. She says, "I only want him to be home more often. When he's home I want him to leave work at work." Her confident estimation of the real problem comes with a smug look. She adjusts her tennis bracelet in anticipation of his answer. "I do what I do so you can have the life you have." He rolls his eyes upward, then looks at me. "There's no winning. You see what I have to live with?" I never answer that question. Abruptly, his finger rises to his earpiece. "Sorry. Hold on. I need to get this." She rolls her eyes back. I hurt for them. I think fondly of my wife and kids.

Too many men are identified by their careers, or lack thereof. Some flail about looking for one that will give them meaning. It won't. Others, over time, become better salesmen than they are fathers or husbands. They know their clients more intimately than they know their wife and kids. In each case, there's an imbalance.

Forgetting What We're Doing
While Doing What We Must

What most men never come to realize, or are never told, or forget, is that they already possess a calling and purpose. One that surpasses the specific industry they're in or job they have. It's given to them by God, their creator. It is tied to who they are as men and not the particular thing they do. There are priorities that God has called them to, responsibilities that are inherent in their persons, passions imbedded in their masculinity, and commitments intrinsic to their roles as men. There's no need to search for these. They're built-in. These are larger than specific careers. Awareness of these greater realities gives the day-to-day its more sustainable meaning.

Point is, we forget what we're actually doing while doing what we have to. What is work anyway? It's not who I am. I may be a salesman, doctor, or teacher, but that is just a means to an end. It's what I do. Who I am is a husband and dad saved by grace. One simply provides the opportunity to do the other. When we confuse the means and the end we inevitably fall off one of these two edges—a want of meaning or a misplaced identity. If my greater desire is to be successful rather than faithful, I'm in trouble. It's the greater reality that keeps the other in proper perspective. As a man, you have to be gripped by the greater to survive the latter. You must keep the means and end separate.

I absolutely love being a dad. Maybe it's my particular context that makes me so intense about it. Maybe it's not abnormal to think this way. Maybe it's the way it should be. Maybe it's the way all real dads feel. Regardless, I love it. In no way am I a perfect dad. I'm still learning and adjusting. It's challenging. After all, I have a teenage daughter—the equivalent of solving a Rubik's Cube in pitch-black darkness during a typhoon. Seriously, I don't get it. But even this I love. The responsibility of being a guiding force in my kids' lives overwhelms me.

Every day I live I'm thinking of them. Praying for them. I know them and fear for them. It's a dark world out there. More than once, like many other dads, I have been found on my knees next to their beds weeping for their souls and praying for their futures.

Men are created to be on their knees beside the lives of their wife and kids. It's part of God's design. Other creatures (wives and children) are designed to depend upon this trait in us. It's imbedded in our makeup, part of the structure of the relationship between husband and wife and an important part of how we bring glory to God as men. It's not simply finances and material resources we provide. What we supply is much greater than these things. We offer hope, trust, love, stability, guidance, service, and all those intangibles that come with our roles as fathers and husbands. And these are the realities that give our lives more meaning than careers ever could.