Three Things I Wish I Knew as a New Dad – Jason Clark

Happy Dad Intro

I can’t tell you how excited I am for this first guest post to the HappyDad community.

Jason Clark is one of those guys you just want to hang around. In my post on Living. Risk the Average Life for the Extraordinary I talked about how certain places have a certain vibe to them that calls us to be extraordinary. Well Jason Clark has a cool vibe to him and he calls me to be extraordinary.

His words and life are saturated in humility and love. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did and I pray that all of us can bring that special Clark vibe into our own homes.

Happy Dad

P.S. – I’m telling you right now if you haven’t read it already you’re going to want to get Jason’s book Prone to Love. Especially after you read this post.

Dad Stats

Name: Jason Clark

Experience: 16 years (Married 20 years)

Roster: 1 Boy & 2 Girls

Favorite Dad Quote: “It’s not poop, it’s chocolate” Me, after checking the brown smudge on a bathroom light switch. 

My Three Things
Identity Over Behavior

She was having one of those 5-year-old moments; she sat on the floor, her heart was heavy. Why, because she had lied to her momma and if that wasn’t bad enough, momma had caught her doing it.

Karen sat down on the floor with her and kindly said, “Eva, honey, you need to change…” Karen trailed off waiting for Eva to finish the sentence. But Eva had committed to the floor and the tears. Karen spoke more determined, “Eva, look at me. You need to change… what? What do you need to change?” Karen was looking for a specific answer and both her and Eva knew what it was.

While Karen lovingly disciplined our daughter I realized just how much our parenting had matured over the years. We have grown in our understanding that discipline is about revealing and empowering identity. We have discovered our primary calling as parents is not to teach our kids how to behave but to reveal to our kids who they truly are in Christ.

If Eva lies about something, our greatest desire is not for her to learn and understand the consequences of lying. Our greatest desire is for her to know that she is not a liar.

Our heavenly Father doesn’t see her as a liar. He sees her in the finished work of Christ as stunningly honest. So if she lies, she is not acting like how our Father sees her.

As parents, it is our privilege and charge to release and empower all our kids into the truth about who they are – their identity.

This means we have to teach true repentance. Repentance isn’t some ugly, self-loathing burden; it’s not a form of punishment but a beautiful privilege.

Repent simply means to change the way we think; it’s an about-face. Repentance is about changing our mind until we are in agreement with God’s. It’s the good news!

And that’s what we are teaching our kids. So when there is an issue where their hearts are self-focused, where they have lost their identity they will often hear one of us say, “Change the way you think.” And our kids understand that what we are saying is, “Start thinking about yourself like your heavenly Father thinks about you.”

Here’s what I have discovered: if we learn to agree with how our heavenly Father sees us in Christ, we will start acting like it. Why, because behavior always follows identity.

Karen was still on the floor with Eva. “Eva you are honest, that’s how your Heavenly Father sees you. You are kind and sweet. Eva, change the way…” Then Eva, who had just been given a necklace from her Aunt Aimee that read, “I’m a world changer,” looked at her mom and with a sudden sunny attitude and a mischievous grin, said, “The world?”

Change the world. Yes, that will work too! In fact, if you become brilliant at changing the way you think and agreeing with how your heavenly Fathers sees you then you can’t help but change the world.

Questions Empower Creativity & Freedom

Dad, “Honey, do you want some crackers for your soup?”

Maddy age four, “Why?”

Dad, “Cause crackers taste good in soup.”

Maddy, “Why?”

Dad, “Cause they are yummy soup crackers.”

Maddy, “Why?”

Dad, “Because the soup cracker fairy made them yummy for soup.”

Maddy, “What color is the soup cracker fairy’s dress?”

Dad, “Blue.”

Maddy, “No daddy, it’s pink and purple.”

If you are a parent, or have ever spoken to a child, you have laughed, sighed, had your heart expanded and your patience stretched to the max while attempting to answer questions.

If you are a parent, or have ever spoken to a child, you also know that questions are how our children learn.

Karen and I have discovered that creating a culture where sincere questions are valued and welcomed is so important because it not only helps our children learn, it also helps us discover who they are becoming.

The question reveals a lot about what is happening in the heart of our kids.

If you are a parent, or have ever spoken to a child, you have often responded to a question with a question of your own.

Maddy, “Mom, how do you spell dog?”

Mom, “What makes the sound duh?…duh?”

We do this because our question positions our kids to discover the answer. We create opportunity from their question for them to think and pursue and expand their hearts and minds into the answer.

By valuing the question, by stopping and guiding them into an answer, we help them learn how to process freedom and creativity of thought. We give them permission and encouragement to explore the answers. It helps them mature. If you think about it, that’s what Jesus did with His followers.

Jesus rarely answered a question directly? When He was asked questions, His response was often to either tell a story or ask a question of His own.

That’s because questions are one of the best ways to empower a culture of creativity and freedom. And using a question is one of the best ways to communicate with a free people. Jesus was absolutely intent on releasing people into greater freedom. That’s why He lived, died, and rose again.

God absolutely, and without even the slightest hint of deviation, loves our freedom. He will not compromise even a fraction when it comes to protecting it because freedom is the atmosphere in which love exists. It’s my desire to do the same for my children.

Discovering His Presence In Every Moment

I lay in bed with Ethan, his head resting on my arm. We listened to the storm blowing just outside his window. Ethan was nine.

Ethan loves football. He thinks about it at least half of the time. For years our bedtime routine has involved a homemade game. I lay on the bed and he sits next to me. One of us will throw a football up to the ceiling and then we play receiver/defender and wrestle over the ball while Ethan gives the commentary—“Interception!” or “The ball is loose,” or “Clark has stripped the ball away,” which we both giggle at because we’re both named Clark, or “Touchdown,” and “The crowd goes wild!”

Normally bedtime becomes a frenzied father-son wrestling match. But on that night we just lay motionless, mesmerized by the wind- whipped rain that was being hurtled against the house. Earlier we had stood on the front porch spellbound by the power of the storm. To us it seemed a small miracle that the trees in our front yard weren’t ripped out of the ground and flung like matchsticks at the neighboring houses.

I finally broke the silence. “Ethan, what’s your heavenly Father saying to you right now?”

“He loves me?” he said, looking at me for conformation. 
I confirmed it with a hug. “He does! Do you believe Him?”
My beautiful boy grinned, “Yes.” And he did. I could see it all over his face.

“Do you know that He is pleased with you? Do you know that He finds you amazing, and His greatest desire is that you believe and know His always-good love?”

Ethan listened quietly; we were having a God-moment. “Do you know that He is in this room, His very presence?”

We lay a while longer, peaceful in the midst of a storm.

Finally Ethan asked the question I’d set up. “Dad, how do you know when God is speaking to you; how do you know His presence?”

“Bud, our heavenly Father’s presence is always with us and He is always speaking to us. And He is always saying one thing: ‘I love you.’” I waited a moment, as the storm continued its powerful display, to let it settle and then added, “Our heavenly Father is always asking one question too. Do you know what it is?”
He shook his head. “He’s asking, do you believe me? Son, if you want to become more aware of His presence in every moment, it starts with believing that He loves you.”

I have discovered that to know and become aware of Gods presence in greater measure, we must become convinced of one thing; God is love and He is always good.

When we lean into this faith, when we live expecting His goodness regardless of our circumstances, then our hearts are open for an encounter, a revelation, a new experience with the power of His loving presence.

I have learned that the extent to which I’m convinced He is love is the extent that I can recognize when Love is in the room. And He is always in the room!

I am growing daily in my awareness of Gods love. It’s my life’s one true ambition. It’s Ethan’s as well. And this journey into His love starts with simply saying yes. It’s the same yes we all said that first glorious day we knew our salvation.

I don’t want my son or my girls to know the names of God but never experience the interpretation. I want them to know closeness with Gods love, His presence. I want to create opportunity for them to grow sure in His affection.

Recognizing and saying “yes” to His love is the most profound and impactful thing we they will ever do. Of this I am convinced. Knowing His loving presence is the key to living fully free, a life of faith, a life where every dream is available and every impossibility is made possible.

As my kids dad I want to be a catalyst to their encounter and discovery of Gods perfect love for them, of Gods daily presence. It’s my greatest charge, joy and honor.

May we as parents grow sure in Gods perfect love and empower our kids to know their identity and become sure in His love as well.

Blessings,

Jason Clark

Some of this article is pulled from the pages of my latest book entitled Prone To Love

From Happy Dad: If you want to learn more about Jason or have him come speak at your next event or conference, be sure to head on over to JasonClarkIs.com as his schedule fills up fast.