Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Ex-as-per-ate: To irritate intensely; infuriate.

Lately, I’m very guilty of disobeying this Godly charge to all fathers. No excuses, no rationale and certainly nothing good can come of a household where continual exasperation of your children is taking place, and unfortunately I need to confess to this and repent.

It is not easy being a dad, especially if you are selfish like me. I want things the way I want them – usually neat, tidy and quiet – and having children puts you at odds with the very things that filled the void that existed before kids came around. The other challenge is finding some good and healthy balance between letting the kids be who they are while gently guiding and correcting them when they do things wrong. My problem is that between being worn down by life and oftentimes decidedly dejected by hours spent in a place that absolutely hates the Light, I will walk into our happy home, all abuzz with activity and excitement, and I am simply not prepared to handle things gently or objectively.

But again, no excuses.

Balance. I have to find it. There is comfort in God’s holy Word, which reminds me in Romans 8 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, so I am free of the bondage that had previously defined me. There is so much freedom in that line of scripture, yet I often find myself wound so tightly that I am no picnic in the park for anyone to be around, especially family, with whom I hold back nothing, warts and all. And it is in those moments, when I’m demanding clean rooms, pens and papers put away, lecturing, pontificating as though being right is to be confused with righteous, that I become a burden to my family instead of its spiritual head. And then things quickly unravel.

I tend to let my circumstances dictate the type of husband and father that I am, and we all know how that goes. Circumstances are merely opportunities to be refined and rely on God more, yet when circumstances turn into feelings and then feelings into reality, well, you just become the nightmare of a person that forgets about being a new creation in Christ, that the old is gone and the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Yet in these awful moments, when I am more dictator than dad, more loathsome than loving, I have unfortunately rendered myself as good as dead to the people around me who need me the most.

The good news is that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead – God’s Holy Spirit – is alive and living in me, giving me life (Romans 8:11), and compelling me to rise above the self-imposed pit of despair and to stop dragging my family into it.

God revealed to me very recently that the “Sunday Blues” that I have been experiencing for the last year really had very little to do with the fears and apprehensions of working a new job, along with the doubts and difficulties of facing another troubling Monday. What He showed to me was that I have been wandering aimlessly through our weekends together as a family, being wound so tight and with unrealistic expectations of my children that I hardly enjoyed our time. Oh sure, we definitely had great moments of love and laughter, but with an almost cruel precision I would inject demands of clean rooms, toys put away and deliver lectures on the virtues of neatness and order, as if I were an authority on the subject or something. This would happen multiple times between Friday when I returned from work and Sunday night before going to bed. Then, I’d hit the ground running on Monday and be overcome and overwhelmed by massive pangs of guilt and regret for having put my family though such an ordeal. This is a very recent revelation to me, and God in His grace and mercy brought it to my attention, allowing me the opportunity to be further refined and transformed.

I am forever grateful.

Because this happened so very recently I have yet to perfectly alter my approach to the weekends, but I can assure you dear reader, that I am much more mindful of my tone, intent and responsibilities as a father these days. My words are much more encouraging and I’m finding myself truly treasuring my time with family rather than harshly dictating chores and homework assignments. Sure, rooms need to be cleaned up, toys picked up and put away, reading, homework and other responsibilities tended to, but as I noted, there has to be more balance in my approach with the kids. No more fire-breathing commands and harsh stares. No more regretful Mondays.

My blood pressure may actually be at a healthier level as a result.

But more importantly, Emily and Trevor know that I love them. I know that they knew this even through the harshness, but now it is so much less dictatorial and way more fatherly.

They are grateful that they have their earthly daddy to love on them. And they most certainly have our Father in Heaven to thank for his transformation.