A friend of mine came home the other day just after his son had found a tiny horse shoe. He had watched his dad enough, a journeyman farrier, to know where it belonged. Putting two and two together, the kid crawled underneath the bouncy horse and started putting the shoe back on. Hammer and nails weren’t handy, but his toy toolbox with a standard screwdriver was. Despite his dad’s advice on shoein’, he had a method that he had decided upon after all screws hold better than nails. He was determined to put a shoe on his bouncy horse. My thoughts: “better the bouncy horse than trying to shoe the dog.”
I have known this kid since he was born, he wants to be just like, be around, and be next to, his daddy.
Another friend, this one an electrician, had been working in his coverall’s when he came home to his son traipsing around the yard in his new work boots and coveralls. In his words, he “just wanted to be like daddy.”
All over my facebook are videos of 3-year-old bull riders, 4-year-old ranch hands, and 5-year-old team ropers, who hone their skills for no other reason than they watch their daddy’s do it. They want to know everything about what their dad’s do and why they do it. What an opportunity that “why?”is.
Pharaoh has finally given in. In order to save his people (Ex. 12.33) and his land, he let the Hebrews go. The Egyptians were so scared that they handed over their wealth and possessions to make them go (Ex. 12.36). Like the last couple KU football coaches were paid millions of dollars not to coach, the Hebrews were paid a bunch of money to not work any more and to leave. So they took out from Egypt. Before they got too far out of town, God had some teaching to impart.
What’s the first lesson they learn on their own, out from under the dark shadow of Egypt? Don’t forget the first things! God wants the “firsts” of our lives. He wants the best offerings, the best time, the best gifts, the first portions, and to be the first priority. God desires our very best; our very first. These were the ones he took that night of the last plague.
At midnight the Lord Struck down all the firstborn i Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. (Ex. 12.29)
God took from Egypt and he asks from the Hebrews. Still the most interesting part of this teaching comes near the end. In verse 14 of chapter 13 it says:
In days to come when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn in Egypt, both men and animal. Thsi is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand. (Ex. 13.14-16)
“WHY?” is a question that didn’t just start with middle schoolers in the 21st century. The Torah is full of places where God explains how to answer “WHY?”. The responsibility we have as father’s is to help our kids understand the “why’s” of life, to journey alongside them as they ask (Deut 6.5), and to live as an example to them. Your sons already look up too you. They dress like you, walk like you, talk like you, and live like you. But still, the hardest question for me to answer is often “why?”.
The other day I was showing a middle school student how to cut down a tree using a chain saw. I showed him how to cut a notch, hold the saw, run it safely, and where it was going to fall. When it came to what part of the chain to cut with it was pretty easy to give a why! “If you don’t you will cut your leg off!” He didn’t have a response. It was much more difficult to answer his “why” question about youth group and church. I should have been more prepared.
Dad’s, heed the Lord’s advice and be prepared for the “why?” questions. The why questions are part of why we are here on this Earth. Answer with patience, answer with honesty, and answer with integrity. Think about the Dad in this passage who’s son asks him: “What does this mean?” (Ex. 13.14) Can you imagine the emotions and the joy with which the Father is able to recount to the son how a bunch of slaves plundered the mightest man on earth because their God fought for them? Can you hear the crack in his voice when he recalls the toil? Can you sense his pace quicken as he tells his son about the plagues? What meter does he have when the final plague hits and his former masters rush to his house to beg and plead with him to go? What a story this is that a father can share…someone should make a movie about it.
Think of the stories you can share with your kids when they ask a “why” question: a blessing story, a story of God speaking, a story of God’s faithfulness, a verse from God’s word. Our kids look up to us not because of some percieved image, but because we are their Dad’s (a central teaching relationship to scripture). I don’t know about you, but now I can’t wait for the “why” questions!