My First Father’s Day: Reflections from Psalm 16:11

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Several weeks ago my wife, Shelley, and I dedicated our four month old son, Jacob, to the Lord in a service held by our church. It was a time of acknowledging both our need and desire for the body of Christ to join us in the work of raising Jacob up in to full maturity in Christ and praying that he would one day love the Lord our God with all his heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:4).

It was a special day that we hope is only the beginning of a long and rich life of Jacob following Jesus. As parents we were encouraged to select a verse for our son. This verse is meant to serve as a prayer, meditation, and summary of our hopes and dreams for God’s work in Jacob’s life. Shelley and I chose Psalm 16, verse 11:

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Our hope is that this verse will serve as a kind of creed for Jacob’s life, and that he will find life, joy, and pleasure in the favor and grace of our Heavenly Father. As I reflect on Jacob’s dedication to the Lord and as my first Father’s Day approaches I can’t help but dream about his life. What will he be like? Will he always have his mom’s beautiful blue eyes? How will the Lord use him? So many questions, but ultimately, my hopes and dreams for Jacob’s life are summarized in these three short statements from King David. These words have nourished my prayers for my son and I invite you as parents, whether a new or seasoned, to pray these words over your children.

1. “You make known to me the path of life;”

I find great comfort in the truth that I am not my son’s savior. David begins verse 11 by stating that it is God who bestows the gift of everlasting life, we are simply the humble recipients. Even with my wife and I being committed to passing along the faith, we acknowledge that it is the Lord who saves and guides his children to everlasting life. I pray each night that the Holy Spirit provide Shelley and I wisdom and guidance in raising Jacob. Our dream, like many parents, is that our son never know a day without Jesus. However we are but humble participants and not the primary agent. It is God who makes known to his children the path of life. Therefore I pray that God would lead Jacob to everlasting life and I bid you to pray the same, that the Lord would make Himself known to your child and that your child would find life in His presence.

2. “…in your presence there is fullness of joy;”

My son has the most infectious smile and one of the best parts about his smile is that it ignites at the sight of his mom and dad. The moment Shelley or I walk in to the room his entire demeanor changes and he lights up. There are few things I enjoy more as a parent than seeing my son look at me in absolute delight. Oh how I pray that Jacob would gaze upon the presence of God, specifically the person and work of Jesus, and find such joy. I realize that the world is already competing for his joy. We have enough toys to prove that. But what if Jesus were the object of his utmost delight? The joy that is found in Christ is a joy that is wrapped up in beholding and being beheld by the God of the universe. The joy is reciprocal! The Lord looks down on his children and sees the radiant righteousness of Jesus and He smiles at us with delight. We then, as objects of his delight, smile back in abundant joy. I pray that I, as Jacob’s father, would model such joy for him and that he would see me delight in Jesus as much as I delight in his mom, a good meal, or beautiful sight. I pray also that his smile would never cease, only that it would always gaze upon Jesus where there is joy everlasting.

3. “…at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

If the world is competing for my son’s joy, it is fighting-to-the-death for his pleasure. It is hard to look at today’s pleasure-laden world and not recoil in fear. The world around us prizes pleasure and will promise you a million different ways to experience it. However King David, in his final statement, offers another way. He simply states that true satisfaction and lasting fullness can only be found in the Lord. The pleasures we experience otherwise eventually vanish, like a dream that passes away. I pray that my son would find his pleasure in that which is solid and sure. I pray that Jacob would taste and see that the Lord is good and find refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8).

As you can see, these statements build on one another and paint a picture of a full life in Christ. Ultimately that is my hope and dream for my son, a full life of lasting faith in Jesus Christ. My favorite family moment each day is our bed time routine. Each night it’s the exact same script: bottle, change a few diapers, swaddle, and rock to sleep. It seems pretty mundane until you glimpse my son’s face when my wife hands him to me and says goodnight. The best way I can describe it is “contented delight.” He intently looks into his mom’s eyes and smiles. I take this moment as a simple but profound reminder of the privilege it is to be his father. Through his smile he shows me his love, thankfulness, and joy that comes from simply being our son. As much as I cherish this moment each night I hope that one day he will see it as mere shadow to the true life, true joy, and true pleasure found only in Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

As Father’s Day nears, whether your child is a day old or an adult with children of his or her own, our prayer as parents remains the same. We pray without ceasing that our children will find life, joy, and pleasure in the Lord our God. Keep praying and keep placing Jesus before them. And rest in the words of David:

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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