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Lessons from a new father

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–My wife, Lisa, and I sat across the restaurant table from each other in stunned silence. We had just returned from seeing our family physician, who had confirmed our fondest wish that we believed might always elude us. We were pregnant! We were elated but shocked and full of questions.

After 18 years of marriage, we yearned for a child but did not think one could be born to us. We had received infertility counsel and undergone physical testing but with inconclusive results. We contemplated fertility options but decided simply to pray and trust God. If He wanted us to have a child, He was well capable of enacting this. If He did not grant us a child, we would be content with His plan.

Three years ago we rejoiced over news that we had conceived, yet we had many questions and apprehensions. Could Lisa carry the baby to term? Were we too old to be parents? At age 43 what kind of first-time father would I be? At her age Lisa was considered to have a high-risk pregnancy. How would all of this turn out?

On July 4, 2003 little Camden Isaac was born perfectly healthy. As I stared through bleary eyes at my long-anticipated son, I breathed a prayer. “Dear God, for many years, I wondered what this moment would be like. I wondered whether my being a father was in Your plan, but You have now graciously granted me the privilege. May I learn how to be a daddy from the greatest Father of all … You.”

Little did I realize how deeply and specifically God would answer that birthing-room prayer. After 18 years of marriage Lisa and I had become fairly set in our ways. Camden changed all of that! To my amazement, I discovered a new world.

I have always admired the faith and commitment of the biblical character Job. After his trials, the dialogue with his so-called friends, and God’s response to him, Job saw God differently. In Job 42:5 the Old Testament saint declared that before his experiences, his ear had only heard of God. After his world changed, Job said his eye saw Him. In no way do I compare the life-changing event of having a late-in-life son with Job’s tragedies. But, I now view God differently than when I was childless. My ear had only heard of God, but now my eye sees Him.

For 27 years I have worked in vocational ministry and for 23 of these years served as the senior pastor of a Southern Baptist church. Yet only after I became a father did numerous characteristics of God become real to me. The most powerful lessons I learned about God were not from a religious textbook or in a pastor’s study. I learned them from a brown-haired, brown-eyed little boy.

So what did my son teach me that any degree I hold didn’t?

— How much God desires to spend time with me. Each Friday, on my regular day out of the office, Camden and I pile up in bed and watch every move of “Little Bear” or “Franklin” or “Diego” or “Dora the Explorer.” If I were just relaxing by myself, I would not choose these television shows. But when I am with my son, each episode enthralls me. Why? Because I simply enjoy spending time with Camden and enjoying what he likes. Before I became a father, I had never viewed from God’s perspective my daily devotional time with Him. I focused on the benefits I would derive: growing in my faith, being empowered for service, and becoming Christlike. But now I see how God actually longs to spend time with me, His son. Now, my devotional time is much more of a relationship as I focus more clearly on both of us.

— How accepted I am into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ. In the wee hours one morning Lisa and I startled awake in the dark to find a shadowy figure beside our bed. Who had invaded the privacy of our bedroom? If this person was a stranger, then this would be a criminal act. We would have scrambled to call 911. If this person was a friend, the act would be curious and boorish. Of course, the early morning visitor to our bedroom was Camden. We had no cause for alarm. We simply reached out for him and placed him in the bed between us. It was our son. He is welcome in this most private setting. When we become God’s children, we are welcome in His presence. We no longer are strangers. We are His very own.

— How intently God watches over me. In 2000 our nephew died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Of course, when Camden was born, the possibility of SIDS scared me, since little is known of this tragic syndrome. Would our son be at a greater risk since his cousin died of SIDS? After his birth I watched over my son constantly, especially while he slept. Then, on one of the many sleepless nights when I had positioned myself beside his crib, a marvelous realization dawned on me. As carefully as I watch over my son, God watches even more intently over me. My watchfulness is limited, but God constantly watches over the details of my life! Amazingly, after that I felt much more secure in my relationship with God. Just another experience of how my eye now sees my loving Heavenly Father.
Greg Ammons is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Garland, TX, and author of the new book, “Now My Eye Sees You: What a Doctorate Did Not Teach Me About God … My Son Did,” available from Hannibal Books at www.hannibalbooks.com

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  • Greg Ammons