Ten months ago my life changed forever. After 10 years of marriage, my wife and I welcomed our very first child into the world and I have never been the same since.
Perhaps the biggest influencer in the change I experienced is that for the past 10-months I have been a stay at home dad. Day-in and day-out I spend every waking moment with our daughter. Through sleep-strikes, uncontrollable wailing because her poor teething gums hurt, to bumps and bruises as she learns to stand on her own, even throwing the food she finds unacceptable in my face, the moments of joy and laughter, the moments of tenderness and care as I watch her fall to sleep in my arms or smile at the silly faces I make; I have had the privilege of being there through it all. These past 10-months have contained some of the most joyous and yet most difficult moments of my life–yes, even more difficult than when I was a pastor. Being a stay-at-home parent is hard. (I can’t imagine doing it with more than one child–bravo to those of you who are able/capable of such extraordinary feats of strength!)
You could say that the difficulty from being a stay-at-home parent stems from the transformative shaping that occurs within. Never before have I been thrust into a situation or lengthened period of time where I have had to grow more and faster in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control–you know, the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5). This is why I was so surprised to find out from a prominent pastor (Mark Driscoll), that I have in fact “denied the faith” and become a “Godless Man.” (Video Link*)
Let me summarize the video for you in a couple of sentences: Condemnation. This condemnation is specifically for all stay-at-home dad’s, ‘Peter Pan types’ who simply don’t want to grow up and instead choose the lazy route as a stay-at-home dad rather than being a real man who provides for his family. This is a role that no woman can respect.**
The challenge of these condemnatory statements are at least two-fold.
First, the basis for Driscoll’s statements derive from a misquote and a misunderstanding of his prooftext 1 Timothy 5.8, which reads (from the English Standard Version–Driscoll’s translation of choice):
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
The misquoting of the passage happens when he inserts gender into a passage where none exists. The original Greek for this sentence is gender neutral (which the ESV captures in its translation), yet Driscoll insists on making this about men instead of the intended universal truth that is for all Christians regardless of gender: “Provide for your household.”
The misunderstanding comes from a narrow interpretation of the word ‘provide’. Dricoll has chosen to narrowly define the word ‘provide’ to merely financial terms. However the word here actually contains a much broader understanding of provision extending into the realm of physical, emotional, and spiritual care. It is a word that lays out an expectation of continuous responsibility to one another, a covenantal relationship.
As a stay-at-home dad, I am upholding the universal truth of this passage by staying home and caring for my daughter. I have been providing for my family what is necessary in this season of life, and it has been a sacrifice on my part to do so.
Second, I take issue with Driscoll’s assertion that being a stay-at-home dad is a lazy role for a man. If that is the case, then what does this say about women who choose this role for themselves? Is he really implying that this is all they can handle? Being a stay-at-home parent is not easy (I’ve said as much already), however to liken it to laziness and then say that this is really all a women is suited for is a horrible degradation and a completely skewed understanding of gender roles within the home.**
Today (May 14, 2013) is officially my last full day as a stay-at-home dad. I get to re-enter the “work force” in the next couple of weeks as a pastor. These past 10-months staying at home with my daughter have been truly amazing. Moments that I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. In fact I can honestly say, despite how hard it is, I will miss this. I will miss our spontaneous mid-afternoon “daddy-daughter” dances, taking her to Giants games in the middle of the afternoon, going for walks around the neighborhood creating silly songs along the way. And sure, I’ll still be able to do these things but it will be different. I won’t be with her every waking moment of the day… and that will be a drastic change that will take getting used to.
Being a stay-at-home dad is difficult and even more so in the face of our success-oriented, career-focused society. It is a counter-cultural sacrifice that shows the extent to which you are willing to give of yourself to your family. You, the stay-at-home dad, have my respect. You have not denied the Faith but instead have walked full bore into it. You have not become Godless but as the Fruits of the Spirit grow from within, you have become more like Jesus. And that is the true measure of a man.
* This is a clip from a sermon by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle in 2008. I would love to assume that someone has lovingly talked with Mark about his comments and perhaps even changed his view. However, the video of this teaching remains up on the Mars Hill YouTube Channel (as of May 14, 2013), so I don’t believe he’s backed off his statement. And if he has, he should at the very least have the video removed so that articles like this one become irrelevant.
** Not to mention that this is a horribly narrow understanding of masculinity!