Within two years of marriage, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child. While joyful about the news, we were flooded with questions and concerns. The initial shock exhausted us as we began to anticipate the many necessary skills we do not have. As they say, you're never really "ready" to be a parent. As a husband, it's no small thing to learn to live with and lead my wife, but she can do most things for herself. It's quite another challenge to steward the life of a baby who can do almost nothing on his or her own. 

For us, this first pregnancy has been fun, tiring, exciting, terrifying, and everything in between. As a man, the revelation that I am called by God to lead my family is weighty. In fact, Paul tells Timothy that "if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8). I do not take these implications lightly. It is an absolute privilege for God to entrust a family to me.

Here are four things that I'm learning and hope to continue to learn with the Trinity as my blueprint.

1. God created this life.

The verse that came to mind when my wife happily surprised me with the news was Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." Amazing! As a go-getter, problem solver, and perpetual thinker, I needed to hear this word. In some spheres of life, these pioneering traits are good and beneficial. But I must remember that I cannot control his or her life any more than I can determine the rising and setting of the sun. A pastor friend—who has raised both a pastor and also a prodigal son—recommended that I simply be faithful to God in my character as a man, husband, and father while leaving the reins in God's hands. This child is ultimately God's, not mine. This is piercing to my pride but a treasure chest of truth. I need the constant reminder of God's sovereignty to both humble and also comfort me.

2. The Father shows me how to be a father.

I have been reading insightful articles and books on parenting in an attempt to lay some groundwork. But I will find no greater illustration than the Father's love for his children. He is willing to sacrifice greatly for their good (John 3:16-17) and train and discipline them for righteousness (Heb. 12:5-11). My own father did a phenomenal job of showing me what covenantal love looks like. He was consistently tender, compassionate, and even corrective much like God the Father is with each of his own. Indeed, everything done by the Father is for our greater good (Rom. 8:28), whether we recognize it or not. As I point my child to him who freely gives all things (James 1:5), I want to reflect those pure intentions as much as I can.

3. The Son shows me how to be a husband.

My wife now needs me in ways that she hasn't before. I want to serve my now-pregnant wife properly, so I shared concerns about my lack of knowledge with a few older women in my family. I received nearly the exact same response: I can't be Mr. Fix It. I have no clue what she is going through, and I shouldn't pretend otherwise. Instead, I must look to Jesus's love for his bride, the church. He says, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Though it is Jesus's yoke that my wife must take upon her, the more I look like him, the better I can help her. I will more fully represent him the more willing I am to lay down my own life for her, just as he did on the cross (Eph. 5:25).

4. The Holy Spirit is my guide.

I have the tendency to become self-reliant and bitter when things spin out of my control. A friend with four wonderful kids recently suggested that I drown my family in prayer. The purpose, he said, is two-fold: to give this situation to God and to remind myself to desperately depend on the Spirit. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit for a reason, and I should not ignore him.

This was perhaps the greatest instruction of all. How could I possibly seek the aforementioned characteristics without the supernatural work of the Spirit? The beautiful news is that I, filled with and empowered by the Spirit, can escape the temptation to dodge responsibility (1 Cor. 10:13) while being constantly reminded of God's perfect will for me and my family (John 14:26). Without him forging my path, I am helpless.

That's what I've been learning so far in this new stage of life. For all the dads out there far more experienced than I am, what tips would you add?

Brandon D. Smith serves in leadership at Criswell College, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, and the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. He recently edited the book Make, Mature, Multiply: Becoming Fully-formed Disciples of Jesus and is Associate Editor of the Criswell Theological Review. Follow him on Twitter.

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