On Being a ‘Good’ Dad This Father’s Day: Joe Koo

Ahead of Father’s Day (Sunday 4th September), we’ll be sharing stories of Christian fathers and how the gospel shapes their parenting. In this interview, Joe Koo shares the joys, challenges, privileges and responsibilities of being a first-time Dad. He also shares how becoming a Christian and being given a new gospel identity has reshaped his views on what it means to be a ‘good’ Dad.

Photo: Joe with his wife and son

1. Tell us a bit about yourself!  

I’m Joe, a new dad to my son Elijah. I’m married to my beautiful wife Edwina, and we also have a child in heaven called Nathan who we lost during our first pregnancy. I work in Digital Advertising Sales for Google (so you can thank me for the YouTube ads), and spend my free time either playing basketball, reading or playing games. Since becoming a dad, I haven’t had much time to do many of those things! I attend Gracepoint Presbyterian Church and have been there since I became a Christian in 2010.  

2. What are the joys and challenges of being a first-time dad?  

There is nothing that prepares you for being a dad. Despite people saying I would be “great” or “ready” because of my terrible Dad jokes and love for kids, I felt overwhelmed. Imagine hunting for your first job, and the requirement is for previous job experience, but you have none. This is 100% like parenting—learning on the job as you go.  

There are innumerable joys in being a first-time dad. Watching Elijah grow up and learning a new skill each week has been incredible. Nothing makes my day more than seeing him smile and laugh at random things. I am also humbled to see the growth and amazing servant heart of my wife as she embraces motherhood. 
Equally humbling are the challenges of being a first-time dad. It has been eye-opening and a shock to the system discovering how selfish I am. Having the internet is both helpful and unhelpful—with so many people sharing different advice, must-do’s, must haves, and every ailment under the sun seems to have the same symptoms! For this reason, it’s been easy to become overwhelmed with information, and with minimal sleep, to become cranky, short tempered and frustrated at my son and wife.  

3. You did not grow up in a Christian family. How does knowing God the Father shape the way you parent, and how is this different to your own experience of a childhood without God?  

Knowing God and my new identity in Christ has completely reshaped and challenged my thought process in relation to how to be a good parent. I grew up in a household where independence, competence, and excelling at academics were always first priority. From learning a musical instrument, to going to tutoring and attending a Selective School, all aspects of my childhood were geared towards making me a “well rounded” person with a matching resume to earn a good job, good pay and have financial security. In my home, failure was not an option, and a hierarchy was established where parents had to be listened to and questions were not allowed.  

My preconceived notions and expectations of Elijah have already been challenged as I strive to raise him in the faith. Societal values change according to cultural trends, but the Bible provides an unchanging foundation of truth to use as a framework. Being grounded in my faith and knowing God’s love for me frees me from the pressure of needing my son to be a high achiever. Because our security is found in Christ, we don’t need to find it in worldly possessions or achievements. Knowing that I am a sinful human also means that I will inevitably fail as a parent. I don’t need to be the perfect Dad because there is grace and forgiveness in the gospel.  

I know without a doubt that I will not get this right all the time, and there will be times that I fall back on the values that I was brought up with, assuming that this is how children are to be raised, but I trust that together with Edwina, we will strive to teach Elijah God’s unfailing love for him despite the fact he is a sinner, and that there is abundant grace, forgiveness and mercy found at the cross.  

4. What is something God has taught you since you’ve become a parent? 

I have been struck with the weight and responsibility that comes with being a dad and being called to account not only for my sins, but also the faith and sin of my household. It’s daunting and humbling to think that God will call me to account one day as head of the household.  

In the Bible, there are many examples where God’s wrath and judgement extends from generation to generation, but on the flip side, so too does his mercy and grace. While the world and culture will impact our children’s upbringing, the responsibility and largest impact will come from the family. From the home, Elijah will pick up on what is most important to me and any hypocrisies relating to how we live and what we teach.  
We recently presented Elijah for baptism and as part of the preparation, Edwina and I read through the book Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children, which took us through the importance of and the reasons for baptising our children. One quote that stood out to me was how Charles Spurgeon’s mother prayed; “Lord, Thou knowest if these prayers are not answered in Charles’ conversion, these very petitions will have to bear witness against him in the day of judgement”. This was such an incredibly confronting yet humbling reminder of my primary duty as a father: to steward my family and point them to the far greater Father who is deserving of all praise and worship.  

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