Fall 2018 / by J. Mark Fox

I remember when I was seventeen, driving my father’s Oldsmobile in Charlotte. I had gone with two high school friends to check out the university. I remember it like it was yesterday, driving down Independence Boulevard, feeling like I might as well be in New York City because I had never driven in traffic like that before. It was rush hour. I was nervous driving with two friends and not respecting the seriousness of the moment when it happened. I turned left at a stoplight, right into oncoming traffic. A city of Charlotte truck hit us broadside and smashed up the Olds, but I am thankful we were not hurt. That wasn’t the worst of it. I ran over to the trucker to see if he was okay, and the man waved it off. He said, “Yeah, I’m fine,” got out of his truck, assessed the damage to the front end, and got back in. I went back to my car and waited for the police to arrive. As soon as the policeman arrived, the truck driver got out of his car and was limping like he had a compound fracture in his right femur. I told the officer that the man had gotten out of his truck two minutes earlier and walked, not limped around it, but the officer told me not to worry about it. So, I didn’t. That wasn’t the worst of it. I had to call my father and tell him that I had a mental lapse just for a second while driving and wrecked his car. That wasn’t the worst of it. Six weeks later there was a knock at the door, and my father was served with a lawsuit because of the wreck. I thought I was going to pass out. Again, the whole thing happened because I had taken my eye off of my responsibilities, just for a second.

I remember when our fourth child was born in January of 1991. We were excited to welcome this little guy into the family, and I stayed in the hospital with him and his mom for a few hours. And then, I left them to teach a class. You see, I had just gotten a part-time job at a local college a few months before to supplement my income at the small church I pastored. I couldn’t imagine not showing up for a class. When I got there and told my students the good news about our brand-new baby, just three hours old, they looked at me with shock. One of them even said, “Professor, what are you doing here?” I found out later that my wife was asking the same thing to herself and that I had hurt her feelings with my selfish choice. It got worse, as I became consumed with my two jobs to the point that I took my eyes off the most important job I had as a father and husband. Cindy was homeschooling two children at the time while taking care of a two-year-old and a baby. She had reached her physical and mental limit, and I was checked out.

I can’t tell you how many times in thirty-six years of marriage I have found my wife crying because I have taken my eye off of my responsibilities, and she has ended up having to carry something or take care of something that I was supposed to do. They say that a woman notices when there is a leak in the roof, but the man doesn’t notice until the roof caves in. That can apply to actual leaks, or it can apply to problems with the finances, child discipline issues, homeschooling, problems with the marriage, and problems with the spiritual environment in the home. That’s why Paul wrote this: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

Be watchful. Watchful is not a passive word that would describe something like watching television. If that is all that God requires of men, then the country is ablaze with His glory. Men everywhere are watching, but not in a biblical sense. In fact, watching television is probably the exact opposite of what this word means. The word is a command to wake up, to refrain from sleep, to engage in what is going on around you. You cannot be on autopilot in your spiritual life and be fulfilling this requirement of the Lord.

Be watchful, dads. Stand firm in a growing faith in God. Don’t take the eyes off your responsibilities to your wife and children. Not even for a second.

Mark and Cindy Fox homeschooled seven children all the way to the end, by God’s grace. Mark pastors at Antioch Community Church in Elon, teaches at Elon University, and he and Cindy enjoy spending time with five (soon to be seven) grandchildren. You can subscribe to Mark’s blog at jmarkfox.com.