If you’re making intentional changes to your health & fitness, beginning the journey to spiritual growth can be done at the same time as a whole body wellness plan.
Generation after generation, fathers have initiated their sons in the various facets of life such as their trade, how to protect their family, and what is the best way to provide for their family. This passing on of wisdom is perhaps one of the most important and rewarding aspects of fathering.
However, the most important facet of ones being, the faith, is often overlooked. Sure, we go to Mass and pray before meals, but do we really teach our children how to love God, to form a deep relationship with him, how to be the spiritual leader of the family?
It is of utmost importance for sons and daughters to see with their own eyes what their dad believes about God, how he prays, and why he lives a virtuous life. They learn who God the Father is through their own father. I believe this is part of the initiation pattern designed by the Designer, but it has been lost in our modern day culture.
We are a generation of teacher-less teachers. Most of us don’t have the first clue as to how to engrain these fundamentals into our children because in our adolescent experiences, Ned Flanders from the Simpsons was our only exposure to a Christian man.
We saw pious men as weak dweebs who were scared of their own shadow or who beat others over the head with their Bible. This is not authentic manhood! Our culture has lied to us about what a Christian man looks and acts like and our wives are left to pick up the pieces and try to lead our families to God because we don’t want to be that guy.
The men that God intended for us to be are courageous, dynamic, driven people who can change the world. Look at any saint and you will find they are not the stereotype our culture holds out; holiness does not mean blandness, they were no wimps.
Instead, they each have a unique charism that illuminates Christ through them. Take for instance one of my favorite stories about Saint Louis De Montfort. While preaching in a church one day he was interrupted by a noisy crowd of drunks in a nearby tavern. St. Louis stopped what he was doing and walked over to the tavern to confront the ruckus crowd. Fists began flying and at the end of melee, St Louis had “John Wayne’d” the place by himself. His opponents, gaining respect and maybe a bit of fear, followed him back to the church and sat in the front pew with black eyes and busted lips. Now that gentlemen, is a real man.
I’d like to share with you 5 ways that will help you encounter Jesus so you can begin the journey to be the servant leader you are intended to be.
1. Have a Plan
There are two types of plans which are utilized in business and life; a strategic plan and a tactical plan. A strategic plan defines your “why.” It’s important to think about the aim of each endeavor: where you want to land and the purpose for getting there.
For most people it’s easy to make a strategic plan for fitness and nutrition: more energy, better quality of life and less time in doctor’s offices. In the same way you need to consider your “why” for developing spiritually and living as a disciple of Christ.
Many people think that leading your family’s spiritual formation sounds like a noble thing to do, but we haven’t considered the reasons for taking on this role. What kind of disciple do you want to be? How will this benefit your family? Who do you know that has encountered Christ that you want to model? Why?
The next step is to develop your tactical plan, or what you do each day to accomplish your why. Just like planning out your meals and exercise, schedule times in your day to pray and think ahead of specific planned changes that you want to implement in your family’s schedule. Jesus wants a relationship with you, but just like the relationship with your wife or with your kids, if you don’t spend time with Him, the relationship will never grow.
To combat the day from flying by, begin each day by not only planning the meetings and work that needs to be completed, but when and how you will pray or practice the sacraments to deepen your relationship with our Lord.
2. Start with Morning Prayer
If you don’t have a habit of spending time with Our Lord, there is no better time than first thing in the morning. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than you get up now, grab a cup of coffee and a bible and spend some time in a quiet place in your home before the day gets rolling.
Pope Francis has been begging us to spend time with the Gospels. God’s word is inspired and each time you open the Bible to spend time with Him, He is communicating directly to you through those words. I recommend that you start in the Book of Matthew since it’s the first book of the Gospels. Don’t plan to read through this like it’s a novel, but only read a chapter or even a few lines in which you can then reflect and unpack.
Once you have read the passage, sit and listen. When we pray, we are good at asking for things, but rarely do we wait for a response… in silence. Before ending your prayer time, dedicate the day to Him in your own words. We perform better work and are more careful with our time and talent in our jobs and family when we are beholden to others.
This is a truth in how we are to live in humility, understanding that our lives are gifts from God and we should use our time, talent, and treasure to glorify Him. We don’t do this because He lords it over us, rather we do it because all that we have comes from God so we can honor him by living intentionally for Him.
3. Family Prayer
Praying in front of others can be awkward, especially in the beginning. Know however, that initiating a prayer life within your family will have a profound impact on your marriage and children. I recommend, as the father, initiating “Grace” or a prayer of Thanksgiving before meals, dinner especially. If you aren’t eating dinner together around a dinner table with the TV off, then start. If you can only do this 2-3 times a week due to extra-curricular activities, then plan those days so that you don’t miss them.
Pray at the end of the day as a family as well. This is a wonderful opportunity to give the kids a scheduled time to wind down and see their dad leading the family in giving thanks to God for the day. Lead a spontaneous prayer, offer prayer for those who are suffering or in need, speak from your heart so the kids learn how to talk to God. You can even pray a rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours “Night Prayer” (more on this later).
4. Pray with your wife
Begin and end of the day by coming together with your wife in prayer. This can be a bit awkward at first if you’re not used to it, but is a significant step in developing trust with your wife because it shows you are willing to be vulnerable in front of her and beholden to something greater than yourself.
Our wives need to feel safe, and nothing lets them feel safer than to know you are seeking a relationship with the the One who created you. Practically speaking, say a spontaneous prayer before you leave for work, and again in bed before you go to sleep. It is a great time to pray for your relationship, your children by name, and the things that you struggle with which have prevented you from living for God that day.
5. Mass and Confession
Jesus stated he would be with us always, and he keeps his promise in the sacraments of the Church which he instituted. Throughout your spiritual journey it is imperative to take advantage of these gifts because, let’s face it, we can’t become saints by pulling up our boot straps and doing it ourselves.
Christ wants to pour out his grace into you and does so through the sacraments. I highly recommend going to confession once a month and Mass as often as you can, even daily if it’s possible. If you haven’t been to confession in a long time, don’t worry. There is nothing you can say that the priest hasn’t heard before or that God can’t handle. If you worry about the form of what to say or how to say it, don’t. The priest will guide you through the process.
The name Jesus means “God Saves” because we need a savior! We are all broken and our desires are turned up-side down, but God can overcome if we allow him.
Make a resolution today to begin your walk with the Lord. If you fail, and you will from time to time, get up and try again the next day. The time has come, the time is now for us to realize true manhood in Christ and reclaim spiritual leadership in our families.
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