This past week we finally had to put Buddy, our 14-year-old dog, to sleep. He was crippled and incontinent, and it was time. The process didn't take very long, but holding him while he died was one of the harder jobs I've had to do. There was never a question of who would take him. And when the vet asked, "do you want to be present?" there was never a question that I would say no. I'm the Daddy, so it was my job.
This week, AMC network has run all 5 Dirty Harry movies over and over again. I happened to be flipping channels early in the week when the original show was on, and heard "why do they call him Dirty Harry?" The answer: "He gets every dirty job that comes around." When you get married and have kids, it's easy to see some of the benefits to being a Christian husband and father. You're the "head of the household." You're "spiritual leader of the home." You have "God-given authority." Although you may be too polite to actually use the word, you're well aware that Ephesians 5 orders "submission" to your leadership. To quote Mel Brooks from History of the World, Part I, "it's good to be the king."
But there's fine print in that contract. So long as I'm dropping pop-culture references like Dennis Miller on speed, it's best summed up in the quote from Spider-Man's Uncle Ben: "with great power comes great responsibility." Being the Daddy means being the bad guy who says the final "no." It's being the one who has to say (and mean) "this spanking hurts me more than it hurts you." It's little stuff like being stuck with the crust of every half-eaten sandwich, or passing up the last donut so every kid gets the same number. And it means cradling your crippled dog while his life slips away. Someday, it'll mean putting Mary Elizabeth's hand in the hand of some boy who's almost (but not quite) good enough for her and saying, "her mother and I do."
Someone else wrote about being the king besides Mel Brooks. C.S. Lewis, in The Horse and His Boy, puts it this way, as old King Lune explains to his twin sons what it means for the eldest to wear the crown:
"Hurray! Hurray!" said Corin. "I shan't have to be King. I shan't have to be King. I'll always be a prince. It's princes have all the fun."
"And that's truer than thy brother knows, Cor," said King Lune. "For this is what it means to be King: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there's hunger in the land (as there must be every now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land."
Having taught nearly 1500 students, I've seen lots of kids without Daddies, plus many with not very good ones. And it must be said, God can equip single moms to do a very good job with His help. But that's a backup plan. God's original, best plan for the family still works best, in spite of all the input to the contrary from our culture. I pray I'm a good Daddy. And I pray that my boys learn the proper lessons of how to be a Daddy from my example.