I remember how I felt when the nurse told us we could take our new baby home. I remember her saying that mom and baby were doing great, and I remember not really believing her reassuring comments that everything was going to be fine. I remember that feeling of overwhelming responsibility and the overwhelming fear that I had no clue how to take care of a baby, much less get him safely to age eighteen as a godly young man prepared for life. This was our first child and I was clueless.
This experience is extra-unnerving for a father, for a man. We are supposed to know how to do everything. We don’t read the instructions, we don’t ask for directions, we don’t need help, but somehow this situation, holding a baby in my arms, felt way different.
I am always drawn to one father in the Bible, because I get the idea that he felt the same way many of us do when we stare fatherhood in the face, at that moment when his barren wife shared with him that an angel had brought news that they would have a baby boy. God looked down at His people in the book of Judges and saw that they needed a deliverer, a ray of sunshine in the midst of their sin and darkness.
Samson would be that deliverer’s name, and his name would mean “sunny.” Manoah, his father, would be tasked with raising this ray of sunshine who was meant to brighten and warm the people of God into a right relationship with Him, but in the process this ray of sunshine would burn like a wildfire and cause great pain in his own life and the life of God’s people.
Isn’t that what we need as dads—a desire to learn how to raise our children to be shining lights in a dark world instead of harmful burning rays of destruction?
Travis Stephenson, who helped lead the UNC-CH men’s basketball team to a national title in 1993, also won the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament and now runs a successful retail company, said this about his success: “I am not good at anything—but I am coached well.”
This is the kind of attitude we are to have when we come before our heavenly coach looking to be the best father we can be. This is called a teachable heart.
In Judges 13 in the life of Manoah, we see a teachable heart that I believe makes all the difference in the world for us as fathers. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, we are hard-wired as men to be unteachable, and this nature bleeds over into our fatherhood and is often at the heart of our failure as a dad.
Famed football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Players always listen to my advice, until they decide they want to do what they want to do.” This mentality is too often how we approach fatherhood and having a teachable heart before God.
When Manoah first learns of the wonderful news of a new baby boy and realizes that He has missed the instruction from the angel, he cries out to God, “Please, Lord, let the man of God you sent come again to us and TEACH US what we should do for the boy who will be born.” This word teach used in Scripture here simply means to learn, to become skillful, or to be diligent.
This kind of heart is essential as a father in raising the ray of sunshine that God has entrusted to us because this is one task, we must admit, that we are not well equipped for and often feel overwhelmed by.
Below are several indicators in the life of Manoah of his teachable heart and how we can make them a part of our lives as Dads.
» Spend Time In Prayer
The first thing that Manoah did, in verse 8 of chapter 13, when he found out the news of a new baby coming into his life, and the task ahead? He prayed.
When he pondered the gravity of the news before him, it drove him to his knees. The very nature of prayer itself is coming before God, admitting that we are in a position of need, that we can’t do it on our own, that we need help. An unteachable heart has no need to come before the one who has the answers because we think we have them all.
Statistics say the average Christian spends about five minutes a day in prayers. If this includes us, there is no way we are getting the instruction for parenting we need in that amount of time, and as we can probably guess, our heart is not teachable.
» Have a Hunger for His Word
In verse 8, we see that when Manoah realizes that his wife has been given instructions that he missed, he cries out to God, almost in desperation, for the angel to return so that he can hear this Word from God. Manoah rightly perceives that the Word from the Lord is true and that it will have a major impact on how He moves forward in the task of fatherhood.
Are we hungry like that for the Word of God in our parenting? Are we grasping at every verse, combing through every chapter, meditating on those specific precepts that instruct us on how to be the father he wants us to be?
We may study how to catch the biggest bass, watch every YouTube video about how to fix the car, or search the internet for the perfect basketball drill, but have we studied the Word of God to learn what God has to say to us about raising our sons and daughters? This hunger is paramount to a teachable heart.
» Enforce God-Given Boundaries
I am much better at putt-putt than I am at the making that ten-yard putt on the green at the golf course. Why? Because putt-putt has boundaries. Boundaries are a necessary part of each of our lives. They are like the guardrails of life that keep the car from veering off the road.
Part of our task as fathers is to enforce the God-given boundaries that God places in our children’s lives. This is one reason that being in the Word of God is so important—so that we can know what those boundaries are.
In verse 14 God gives Manoah the specific boundaries he wants Samson to be raised by. God knew Samson was going to be a Type A alpha male who would make a great military leader—or cause a ton of terrible trouble.
So God gave him specific boundaries that would help him to go deeper in his relationship with God, avoid unwise things, and provide a Godly atmosphere for him to grow in his faith. Manoah had a great desire to know what these boundaries were and how to enforce them in Samson’s life. Unfortunately, Samson would choose to overstep those guardrails many times, and so will our children.
It is our job as a dad to learn where our children are spiritually, emotionally, and physically and what boundaries God has laid out for them in His word, to help guard them from veering off the perfect path He has for them.
» Rest in the Lord
Manoah’s name means “rest.” As a father that word is hardly in our vocabulary, much less as the defining word of our character. As dads, we get very little physical rest, but that doesn’t mean we cannot rest in the Lord.
Manoah was a man who trusted God; he had no doubt in God, or His Word, or what He could do. He was secure in God’s sovereign plan for his son; he rested in the Lord.
Do we have that kind of trust in the Lord? A teachable heart is a heart that knows that the greatest teacher is worthy of our trust and His plan for our children.
» Give Credit to God
After hearing instruction from the Lord about his son, in verse 19, Manoah offers a sacrifice and worships God for the miraculous thing He had done. Manoah was humble enough to know who was in control, he was humble enough to know where this blessed gift of a child had come from, and he was humble enough to know where to turn for help. When God did this great work in Manoah’s life, that Manoah knew he was incapable of, all he could do was worship.
A true teachable heart will understand that God has allowed us to be a father for His glory and will be humble enough to give Him the credit and glory.
Verse 24 tells us that Samson would be born, he would grow, and God would bless Him.
I believe that God would honor and bless Manoah’s teachable heart in the life of his son, and even though Samson would make a ton of wrong choices, God would also use him to be a ray of sunshine in a world of darkness.
Is your heart teachable, as you come before God as a father, helpless and lacking?
Matt Martin enjoys doing anything outdoors and having fun with his three sons and wonderful wife Marcy. He pastors an amazing congregation and loves seeing people catch a heart for missions and sharing their faith.
You can read other posts by Matt at A Drink from the Spring at coolspringsbaptist.com/blog.