How to be More Intentional as a Dad (With the Right Stuff) - Part Two

written by J. A. Hart
Last week, I posed that the biggest barrier between you and your son may be the condition of your hearts. I claimed- if you want to be intentional about the right stuff, pursue their hearts, not their behavior. I shared some of my family’s story, and where my dad changed from fathering our behavior to fathering our hearts. We are going to focus on that change this week.

Let’s begin with the heart. Remember our new definition:

According to the ancient Israelite writers of the Bible, ‘Lev’ (or the heart) is where your internal life happens; it is where you hold desires, emotions, understanding, and beliefs. Your outer life flows from this inner chamber; your choices, how you treat others, and how you live reflect your ‘lev.’

***

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Invite Jesus into your heart.”

It’s tacky, cliche, and confusing. What do you mean by ‘heart’? How do I invite him into an organ? As a kid, I imagined a little throne inside my left ventricle where Jesus sat. Even with the weird image, I think we can recover this phrase. Let’s change our filter; what happens if you change your heart to lev.

“Invite Jesus into the inner place where you store your desires, emotions, understanding, and beliefs.”

Do you see the difference? The first phrase is abstract; it sits up in the clouds while the other is tactile, real, and practical. You can stick your hands in it, sift through it, and talk about it. You must know what you believe, what your desires are, how you understand the world, and even if you don’t know how to handle emotions, you at least know what they are: anger, jealousy, lust, hate, love, happiness, hope, etc.

Now imagine your Lev makes up the interior of a house. Your beliefs are your furniture, and you have rooms dedicated to each desire. The books on your shelf showcase your understanding of the world: It’s a Bad World Afterall, Parents are Just Manipulative, Here’s to Not Caring, Etc, and finally, your emotions are the color of paint and decorum on the walls, shelves, and mantle.

Be honest, if this was true, what would your home look like? Would you let anybody into that house?

I sure as heck wouldn’t. Are you kidding me? My emotions alone are a jumbled mess. The walls would be a thousand colors. I’d have books with abhorrent titles, and all my furniture would sit wonky, falling apart the moment you sat on any of it. Hodgepodge would be my style.  Pile on top of that the dire disappointment I experience at times in life, and my guests would leave confused and frustrated.

But isn’t this how our relationships look? Confusing and frustrating? Do you see what I am getting at? Often the condition of our hearts stands between us and others- you and your son.


***

Every day, you explicitly and implicitly show your son how to live. The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” hits the bullseye. As a dad, if you want to focus and show your son that his heart matters, you need to live like YOUR heart matters.

If your son walked in today, what condition would your house (Lev) be in? And do you ever take a moment to even wonder for yourself, what is the condition of my house (Lev)?

Maybe you never have, so how can you pursue your son's heart if you don’t even pursue yours? How can you ask him to care for something you don’t care for?

Right now, life is shaping your son’s heart. Trust me; it begins young. I was seven years old. I sat isolated in a dark hallway, thinking to myself, “I am alone, and it’s because something is wrong with me.” If your son is between 13-17, he is building his Lev. If he is 18-24, he is trying to defend it against the cruelty and pain of the world. And if he is alone, I can assure you; he is struggling. He needs you, but you are not in the condition to help him.

You are both wounded soldiers on the frontlines.

So, what now? Is that it? Is there no real way to pursue my son’s heart?

Remember what I said about my dad last week when he moved from fathering my behavior to fathering my heart:

The ‘man’ my dad once was isn’t at all the Son and Man I know today. He’s changed.

How?

Because he learned to live in relationship with the person who knows and cares for his heart best.

***

This is the offer made to you. Today, you can step into relationship with the One who knows your story and the current condition of your Lev. You can learn to care for your heart by Him who knows best. All you have to do is open the door and let him into the house. Allow Him to be Himself with you. Let his sight give light to the reason for your heart's condition.

You see, your house tells a story- every detail is there for a reason. Some rooms are locked; there's a reason. Some books lie torn apart; there’s a reason. Most of your closets are full; there’s a reason. If you are like me, you aren’t truly sure why, so you form a narrative that interprets the chaos enough to get out of bed. You sit up each morning, saying to yourself, “This is me. This is my life. This is how the world works, and this is how I am going to live as a result.”

You’ve formed your narrative from years of living- each day, new events solidify your heart’s condition. Now, you stand behind a barricaded door in your house; no one is allowed to see your inner life, ever. The only problem is- this interpretation you gain from your narratives influences you, your wife, your kids, your friends, and for our purposes here, your son.

If you desire to pursue your son’s heart, you must step into the process of transformation. It took years to get here, and it is going to take years and years of intentionality to recover, redecorate, and restore your house. But you have a heavenly Dad who sees clearly. He sees where each core memory is, where you formed your beliefs. He desires to take you back, pull the veil away, and show you.

But friends, this only happens in a relationship with Him. You and I don’t have what it takes to do this alone. Who would want to? It would be crushing. The beauty of our Dad is this; he knows the weight and desires to carry it with us, one step at a time. This is a process; I love how C. S. Lewis describes it:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

You need relationship with God, so you can begin to pursue your heart intentionally. As you pursue your heart, you will pursue your son’s heart. This is how you are a more intentional dad- with the right stuff.

Invite your heavenly Dad into your house. Invite Him into your heart. Pursue relationship with him first, above all else, even relationships with your friends and family.

This may seem radical, and it is, but don’t let that scare you from the road ahead. You are not alone. You have a good heavenly Dad, a faithful Older Brother, and the Ruach Ha-Kodesh who want to walk with you. You are never alone.

Calibration:

Be intentional about this exercise. We invite you to take the barricade down and open the door into your heart (Lev).

1. Find a quiet, peaceful place.  
2. Take five deep breaths; hold for a moment after you breathe in. Release any tension you hold in your body. Notice. Be present to where you are and the posture of your body.
3. Invite Jesus to be next to you right now. Invite him to be present as you walk through your heart maybe for the first time.
4. Now, imagine you and Jesus are standing in front of a house. This is your heart. Inside, every room is connected to a part of your story. Every element of design is connected to a belief you hold, a desire you have, some understanding of the world, and the emotions you wrestle with on a daily basis.
5. Ask Jesus to lead you inside, and ask him to show you the house from his perspective.
6. Where is Jesus leading? What is his posture? Did he go into a room or stop to look at a painting? What is he saying? How does he say it: tone, word use, look?
7. Be open to what he does and says.
8. Stay with him as long as he wants.

If you finish, hearing condemnation, accusation, or anything else that is not of the Father (does not align with who he is in his Story), pray this prayer and then return to the activity above.

Heavenly Dad, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I bring my heart, soul, and body under your authority. Jesus, you have all authority over the heavens and earth; I submit myself to you. I rebuke every foul word and spirit from my heart (name them specifically: condemnation, self-hatred, shame, loathing, cursing, etc.). I claim my life and heart in Jesus’ name, and I invite you, Holy Spirit, to fill me, mind and heart, with who you are. Reveal my heart to me. Give me eyes to see clearly the way you see me. Lead me into what you offer, healing, renewal, a new life, peace, joy, etc. Show me the path through pain into your embrace. I love you, Jesus. In your name, I claim your truth over my life. Amen.

You may need to pray this a few times before returning to the activity. Once you finish the activity:

1.  Ask Jesus to reveal the truth behind what he showed you.
2.  Spend time journaling about it.
3.  Find a trusted friend and invite him into the experience. Share in the moment together.

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