As I sat there, holding my empty mason jar, tears flowed down my face and splashed into the bottom of the hollow cavity that was once filled with such hope and innocent dreams. My little boy was now a man.
A mason jar, you see, holds exactly 936 pennies — one penny for each week of our child’s life from birth through age 18. Unfortunately, I learned this only after he was gone and out on his own.
On baby dedication Sunday at the church I pastor, I challenge new parents to make each week and every moment count. I give parents a jar with 936 pennies and ask them to remove a penny per week and, figuratively, invest it wisely until all the pennies are gone, as mine are now.
As I reflect on my own parenting journey, it seems like only yesterday that my wife, Tiffany, and I brought home our first son to his Noah’s ark-themed nursery. Now, he was moving into his college dorm. Where did the time go? How could those years be just a memory now? How did I invest those pennies?
The moment the finality of my son’s childhood actually became a reality to me was as I perused our church bulletin and saw that the “college student of the week” was my little boy, with his own (grown-up) address. He no longer lived in my home, he no longer fit in my arms and he no longer needed me like he once did. There was his new address, in black and white, smudged now by the steady flow of tears running down the page. I could hardly breathe!
Our number one ministry is not at God’s house, but in our house.
As we prepare for Father’s Day, I would like to offer a challenge to dads and husbands who want to be a godly example in their homes. This challenge stems more from my own failures than from my successes, but my challenge is simple — redeem the time!
Redeeming the time means making the most of the journey and making each day count. Don’t discount the value of a single penny or moment that you have with your family. God blessed our home with three more children through the years – two more boys, Brooks and Jay, and a baby girl, Leah. I see each of my children with their own jars being half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective). I have determined to appreciate each day with them — to laugh more, to live more and to love more — because the pennies are running out.
I have discovered the reality that life truly is like a vapor — fleeting, fading, temporal and precious! The days between the many “firsts” and the many “lasts” go by in an instant. How can it be that the days in between all happen so fast?
The days in between those “firsts” and “lasts” are the days we must redeem. Those are the days of great investment that dads must never neglect. I must admit that there were times when I just wanted to go home rather than sit through another Tuesday night baseball game, but now I long for another game to watch. I cannot even drive by the local ball field without tearing up. How I miss those days!
So, dads, whether your jar is full or empty, or somewhere in between, may I challenge you to invest each penny wisely and passionately by training up your children in the Lord. In obedience to Scripture, never provoke your children to wrath. Be the head of your home and an example of godliness to your family. Love your wife as Christ loves His church. Do not just speak of the things of God, but live them out each day. Concentrate as much on discipleship as you do discipline. Commit to “doing right” rather than just “being right.” Show your children what a biblical marriage looks like. Be the kind of father and husband that God instructs you to be.
In Latin class many years ago, I learned that “carpe diem” means “seize the day.” Men, it’s time we value our families above anything else — above our hobbies, our sports, our careers, our possessions and, yes, even our ministries. Our number one ministry is not at God’s house, but in our house. Our churches will get another pastor or deacon or teacher one day, but we are the only father our kids will ever have.
Redeem the time. You’ll be glad you did.