Mark and I broke out of the woods and paused for a moment to gaze up at the peak of the mountain in front of us. I was spending a summer in the Denver area, and climbing a fourteener was on my Colorado bucket list. Hiking through the woods had been enjoyable, but now that we were above the tree line, it was hard not to be discouraged by the task ahead of us. Even as we started hiking again, the top seemed to stare us down, ever in our peripheral.
I feel the same way sometimes about leading my family. My wife and I have a burning desire to parent our amazing two-year-old son and his future siblings well throughout their lives. And I have some great role models—my own father and the dads in my community. I see their family rhythms and want to emulate them. I want to show my sons their power and responsibilities as men through rites of passage. I want my daughters to know their worth and beauty and to work diligently toward being able to run their own household one day. I want my family to have a purpose, a mission, to be a part of bringing the kingdom to earth.
But those things seem so far off and out of reach. When I look at my family now, the gap between reality and the ideal is staggering. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I work hard to be the dad God has called me to be, but I can imagine it being so much better. I’m a first-time dad and I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility that’s been placed in my hands. It’s hard not to give up when the ideal seems so unattainable.
But parenting my child is just like climbing that fourteener. Even though my lungs were burning from lack of oxygen and the summit seemed so far off, the key to getting to the top of the mountain was focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. One step at a time.
I can’t despair over the gap between the reality and the ideal. I need to take a moment and wrestle with my son, even though I’m not sure yet how to teach him to be a man. I need to clean up the kitchen while my wife puts our son to bed, even though I don’t know how to ensure all the chores get done every week. I need to take the opportunity to correct my son instead of pretending I didn’t see him disobey, even though I don’t know the best method of discipline. One step at a time.
And God will see us through. He is deeply vested in our sanctification. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)