It’s a word that most every parent is familiar with. It’s the one word response that serves as the default answer for almost every pre-teen and teenager:
“How was school?”
“How was church?”
“How’s the meatloaf?”
And so on. When you hear that word, as a parent, there are a number of different moves you can make next, but they really all boil down to two: Either you press further in, engaging at deeper level, or you simply let the answer go. Now in my own brief parenting experience, I’m learning that it takes wisdom to know when to press in and when to let it be because there might be any number of contributing issues to the answer of “fine.” However, if I never press in, and I always just let that answer stand, then I’ve got a problem. And it’s not primarily a problem with my child; it’s a problem with me. It’s the problem of passivity.
This is not a new issue. In fact, it’s a very old one, going all the way back to the garden. I’m certainly not the first one to point out the issue of passivity in the garden, but it bears repeating once again:
“Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6).
The great temptation came from the serpent, and it was too much for the first humans to bear. They questioned the trustworthiness, goodness, and generosity of God, and they gave themselves over to self-lordship. Instead of trusting in His design as their creator, they sought to become the charters of their own destinies. Because Genesis 3 begins with the serpent talking to the woman, we might think that the man was off doing the gardening that day. But notice clearly his posture – he was with her.
And yet he was silent. He was passive.
And so the trend continues. Today, for me, there are all kinds of reasons why I might be passive today. I might be passive when I see sin in my relationships because it’s none of my business. I might be passive in my marriage because I am resentful of my wife. I might be passive with my kids because I’m too tired from the day at work, or I’m too scared to dig deeper into that little heart, or I’m too self-absorbed with my own issues and struggles to try and take on someone else’s burdens.
This is when “fine” becomes a problem.
Dads, I can feel it inside me – this urge to simply let things happen. To assume a position of powerlessness. To take the easy road of being uninformed and uninvested. But this is not the road of fatherhood that God has charted out for us. This is not the road that He Himself takes on behalf of us. God is a Father who is actively engaged, not passively aware.
So must it be with us.
Dads, you can’t do everything. You can’t coach every team. You can’t make every assembly. You can’t tutor every math class. You can’t be on every date. But you can resist the urge to let everything just be “fine.”