This Little Chap That Follows Me


Poetry is an amazing thing. It allows us to encapsulate feelings and thoughts in a way that sometimes prose just can’t do.  I once heard a poem about fatherhood by James Gibbons. It sums up my own thoughts on how I should be as a father. It goes like this: 

A careful man I want to be;

A little fellow follows me.

I do not dare to go astray

For fear, he’ll go the self-same way.


I cannot once escape his eyes,

Whate’er he sees me do, he tries.

Like me he says he’s going to be;

The little chap who follows me.


He thinks that I’m so very fine,

Believes in every word of mine.

The base in me he must not see;

The little chap who follows me.


I must remember as I go

Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow,

I’m building for the years to be;

The little chap who follows me.


Father with his newborn sonAndrew and Atticus during our first family photo session. 


I heard this poem when I was a young boy during a sermon given by Clebe McClary when he preached at one of the churches my own father pastored. Clebe was a Marine officer that my dad knew in Vietnam when my dad was a Navy chaplain serving Marines. (If you’ve never heard of Clebe McClary, I urge you to look up his story; it is truly inspiring. But that is for another post.)  Clebe changed the poem slightly and used the line “A careful Marine…” so the poem is special to me on a couple of different levels, but the core message is simple: I am a father of a little guy that is going to be looking up to me. I am his first example of what a man should be.  This is a huge responsibility, and it causes me to look at the examples of what a man and father were when I was growing up. It also makes me look at the men that are my friends and see what kinds of examples they provided for me. There are benefits to being the last of ALL your friends to get married and start a family! I have plenty of examples!

First and foremost, I want to show my son, Atticus, what it means to be a godly man. I want him to know how God wants him to live his life. So, how does one do that? 

First, I must pray. Every day and without ceasing. It’s easier said than done, and I will admit that completely. I find myself getting distracted by everything you can imagine that the world can throw at us. Work, particularly for me, is a huge issue. After a career in the military, I find it difficult to remember that I’m not on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I find that I get so caught up in work that I forget to take the time to pray for my family.  My wife and son deserve the full attention of my prayer life. So, when I have my priorities in order not only can I pray for my family, but it allows for an opportunity for Atticus to see me pray.  He’ll understand that it is an essential part of his father’s life. Granted, he is a very precocious three years old, so our prayers are simple and direct, but he is understanding that you must talk to God.  It is a major part of our lives and praying with me and praying with Aleksandra allows Atticus to build a foundation in this hugely important act.

Second, I need to study scripture. Scripture is an amazing resource because all the guidance we need in life can be found there. Scripture allows God to speak to us in a very real and concrete way.  Again, as with prayer, this can be sidetracked by the myriad of tasks and distractions that crop up in daily life. For me, I find that it is easier to sit down with one of my beloved history books that, while important, do not have eternal ramifications like studying scripture does. As Atticus gets older, I’ll need to make that study a priority, not only because he needs to see me doing it, but for my own edification as well!

Lastly, we as Christian fathers must have friends that are just as dedicated to following Christ as we are. We can learn from other men like that. I’ve been fortunate in my life that I have so many examples to look up to and glean knowledge from. First and foremost, there is my dad. He has been an amazing example.  Not only has he been a true man of God by being a pastor for sixty years, but he has also been a great example of what a husband and a father should be. His example and witness were so entwined into who he is, that it is hard to separate all those different threads. He pastored churches, he served as a Navy chaplain including, as I already stated, time in Vietnam with the Marines. He made this look easy, and he was always there for those deep theological questions. But not only did he fill the role of a religious mentor, but he was also one of the most fun men I’ve ever met. He was always ready for a fun project, such as building a BMX track complete with a start ramp and jumps, with a shovel. He made countless forts. He and I climbed over trains, watched airplanes take off and land, played football in the yard, and pulled so many pranks that I think my mom lost count. He was at every sporting event, and every band concert, and he did it all with pure joy. There are so many amazing facets to my dad that I will be spending the remainder of my life trying to understand them all.


Father and newborns sharing a special moment with each other. The life of a Christian father requires prayer.


And then there are my friends. I’ve had incredible spiritual friends that have served as mentors and examples. One friend taught Bible studies better than most seminary grads could ever do. I lived for an extended period with another friend and his family, and I got to watch how a Christ-centered family operates. They prayed together, studied scripture together, attended church together, and I will never forget how when their son was only nine months old, each night they would pray for his future wife, wherever and whoever she was so that she would be watched over and protected by Christ. I had never thought of doing something like that. I have known friends that were true prayer warriors, people that understand that we as believers are supposed to look after each other. I’ve watched my friends cherish their wives and the mothers of their children, and I remember taking mental notes knowing that someday, I would want to treat my future wife the same way. I have learned so much from these individuals, and I hope I can pass those lessons on to Atticus. I hope that he can see me interact with those people and know that Christian friends are amazing gifts from God.  

Atticus will be watching me. He does already. It is an amazing but rewarding responsibility to have. Living my life for Christ will give Atticus a foundation on to build his own life. It will allow him to know Christ himself.  As the poet says: “I’m building for the years to be; the little chap that follows me.” 

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