Let me tell you about someone really humble: me.
That joke never gets old. Maybe that’s what Paul is doing in Philippians. Even while calling the Philippians to humble themselves, he can’t help but point out that he is a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5). Apparently, it has always been hard to talk about humility without coming across as anything but humble.
That caveat aside, let me attempt to talk a bit about humility. Because being a dad is hard. With two sons, and a third on the way, I’m learning daily just how hard this calling is.
I’ve been dwelling in the Christ hymn of Phil 2 for some time, particularly on the words describing how Jesus “humbled himself” (2:8). I can’t help but think that fatherhood is an invitation to do the same and, despite the bad rap some fathers get, most fathers I know choose the Jesus way more often than not.
At a “Man-Child” campout a few weeks ago, 10 young fathers from our church set up their tents without help from the 20 children rampaging through the woods. Every few seconds a call of “Daddy!” echoed through the trees. In unison, all the dads would look up and inevitably one would head off in response, his half-assembled tent collapsing as he did.
Fatherhood is like that. The space for selfishness gets swallowed up by children who don’t care, frankly.
I love the old preacher joke: you know humans are inherently selfish because no child’s first word is “yours!” Nope, their first word is nearly always “mine.” That camping trip proved it.
I often tell couples in pre-marital counseling that marriage is an exercise in humility. When you become married you realize how selfish you are, as now you must compromise on all kinds of decisions. What I sometimes don’t tell them is that parenthood proves how selfish we remain even after learning to compromise. Turns out, your kid doesn’t care about that fancy three-syllable word. Good luck trying to compromise with a toddler.
So the dad faces a choice: be selfish or humble himself. Learn to become obedient to those selfless tasks or resist and do what you most want.
I know so many dads who fish less, play softball less, and go out with their buds less. I know so many dads who get up earlier, change diapers, and spend their Saturdays at soccer or t-ball games, where not one single player actually knows which direction they are supposed to run. They humble themselves.
That may sound like a sacrifice, and it is. But the joy of that sacrifice is so sweet. And in a world that that increasingly equates selfishness with joy, fatherhood is a welcome “no.” The Jesus way, the humble way, is where true joy abides.
Happy Father’s Day. Now, someone help me with this tent.
Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.