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On February 18, 2020 my wife and I were introduced to our firstborn child. It was a surreal experience. It was the holiest moment I’ve ever been a part of outside of the moment Jesus saved me. I have had many dads tell me about the birth experience, “There is nothing like it and it’s unexplainable.” They were right.

It’s now been over three months since William’s birth. Parenting is the toughest job I’ve ever loved. It has been a great joy to be a father.

Most mornings I take the first feeding. I typically will make my coffee and heat up a bottle for William. I get my place ready with a Bible, coffee, bottle, and most importantly, a baby. I read the Word and will sometimes read out loud over my son. On this particular morning my Bible reading plan was going through Proverbs. Proverbs 20:7 says,

“The righteous who walks in his integrity—
blessed are his children after him!”

The greatest gift for my son: integrity

When I read that verse I glanced at my son and thought to myself, “My integrity will be the most important trait I can pass to him. In fact, my integrity will ultimately be the biggest blessing I can give him.”

Integrity is one of those things that everyone admires but no one celebrates. It is often the least celebrated attribute of any leader, mostly because it is unseen and hard to measure. Integrity in its simplest form is who you are. It’s your inner quality. Integrity is like the frame within a house. No one can see it, but it’s holding everything together.

The scary part about parenting is that as William grows he will see me for who I am and not who I portray to be. He will see my integrity for what it is. I won’t be able to put on a good enough facade that he can’t see past. Overtime he’ll see the framework and that’s sobering.

As I sat in Proverbs 20:7 I started to assess myself and think, “Would I want William to be me when he gets older.” I thought to myself, “Absolutely not!” I get angered easily. I stuff my emotions and it often leads to bitterness and resentment toward others. I’m incredibly selfish and struggle with pride. I thought, “I don’t want him to be anything like me.” Fear swept over me knowing that all of those negative traits I just listed will affect his understanding of God and what it means to be a man.

It was frightening.

How do you build integrity?

In the same moment, I was comforted when the Lord reminded me that the treasure of integrity I long to build is not far from reach because Christ is near.

As Jesus gathered His disciples one last time before making His trek to the cross He introduced the term abide.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4, ESV).

Abide in its simplest form means no movement. Jesus was telling His disciples, “Don’t move on from Me and I will not move on from you. You can’t bear fruit if you move on from Me, so don’t move from Me.”

The key to integrity that will bless generations after me will be did I in some way, shape, or form stay with or move on from Jesus?

Avoid hazards

I’ve learned there are hazards to avoid that will have a negative affect on your integrity. One of the greatest hazards to my integrity is believing lies about myself.

Anger is always going to be a part of me
Bitterness will always be around.
Temptation to lust will always be there, I’m a guy, that’s going to happen
If I control things life is easier for me
If I always get my way I’ll always get what I want and be happier

Giving into these lies is like unleashing an army of termites on the frame of my house. From the outside everything looks fine for a period of time, but underneath a war is raging and the interior structure is being destroyed. Over time the frame will eventually become damaged enough that it will begin to show and the damage will be evident. Everyone who finds refuge and protection will be affected by it’s damage.

Ignoring hazards will have long-term effects on me, my family, and everyone I lead.

Build with the right material

However, allowing the gospel to speak in and over those lies anchors me to my Savior. It is the words and work of Jesus that are the materials to building a life of integrity.

I’ve had to preach to myself:
My story is not finished and my house is still being built.
My sinful tendencies will not identify me nor be a crutch to self-defeating life patterns.
My mantra will be the words of the Apostle Paul,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).

Building with the right material means I must believe the right things. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the righteous blood of Christ, my anger can be defeated and my unforgiveness can be healed. I can give up control because there is One who is in control.

What are the lies you are believing? Where does Jesus give you a better word? Process it. Believe it. Bring community around you to help.

Even in the midst of trusting in Christ and building my life on His word and work, I’m going to miss the mark. I will never reach a place of satisfaction. William will see things in me he doesn’t like nor will he want to imitate. However, I hope in the midst of it he sees his dad model repentance and faith. I hope William sees his dad admit when he’s wrong. I hope he sees his dad stand on his convictions even when it’s not popular.

However life works out, I hope that my integrity will ultimately point my son to what he needs to build a life of integrity for himself and his family—Jesus.

Mitch Tidwell
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