“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:19
“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21
Growing up, I had a very absent father. As a child and into early adulthood I had no understanding of how the role of my father was going to impact the rest of my life. As a little girl, I remember how much I enjoyed going to my best friend’s home. Her dad was home every night and made it a point to sit with his family for dinner. My dad, on the other hand, had taken a job two hours away in a larger city so he only came home on Sunday to eat lunch with us and watch whatever sporting event was in season. I can count the number of times he arrived early enough in the day to go to church with us, as he usually arrived just before noon. During those Sunday visits there was very little conversation, as my brother and I did not know our father well. Our relationship was strained rather than familiar. We went through the motions, but a foundation of trust was not being built through our relationship with our dad. The longer my dad chose to live away from us the more he and my mom grew distant. This caused a divide of loyalty for my brother and I between my dad and mom. By the time I was in my teens my parents had divorced. Sunday became the day the judge granted my dad to come and visit. In my book, nothing had really changed. I began to find ways to avoid those Sunday afternoon visits. I began to build a wall in my heart toward my father. I had no idea how that wall of embitterment would cloud my image of my Heavenly Father, who intended such good for my life.
I attended traditional church and Sunday school every Sunday morning until being confirmed at age 15. Even after attending church almost every Sunday morning until I graduated from high school, I had no idea how much God loved me and that He was trustworthy, even if my dad was not. My heart had grown hard, yet God did not give up on me. In His goodness He provided two committed father figures in my life. Looking back, I am so grateful for God’s provision. The first was my Uncle Butch who invested in my life. He lived just blocks away and often picked me up on Saturday mornings to help him with some chore or errand. He was also the face I looked for each Sunday morning as we entered our church. I could count on Uncle Butch to be standing tall waiting to usher my grandmother, mom, brother and I into our favorite seats. He encouraged me to attend church and made me feel loved with a big hug each Sunday morning. I also had Jim, who married my closest cousin when I was just three years old. He was a soldier and so he and my cousin Sam often lived very far away, but when we were able to be together, he was intentional about spending quality time with me. Jim was the father figure who took me on special dates and encouraged me to think about my future goals and plans. Just as the Lord encourages us to trust Him with the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Even now, Jim continues to an integral part of my life.
Both of these men hold a very special place in my heart, but their love for me did not stop the wall of embitterment and mistrust that grew inside of me because my own dad chose not to be involved in my young life. Not until I surrendered my heart and life to Jesus did I begin to understand the important role of a faithful father. The lack of a trustworthy father in my life went against God’s design for the family. Genesis 18:19 says it the best. God has chosen each father and directed them to teach their children the ways of the Lord to do what is right and just. God calls the father to lead his family, to be the spiritual leader of the home, and he intends the role of the father to be an example of His heart of unconditional love and forgiveness. He calls fathers to teach their children His ways so the message of hope and truth will be passed on to the next generation.
By God’s grace, He never gave up knocking on the door of my sinful heart. He extended His love and care for me through these two father figures, but it took my repentance and surrender at the age of 22 to really begin my journey of understanding that the ultimate father was found in Him. As God revealed Himself to me and I responded, God allowed healing to begin and the wall of mistrust in my heart began to fall.
The most important gift God has given me next to my relationship with Himself has been the gift of my husband. A man of faith in Christ since he was 20 years old, he surrendered his heart and life and quickly got involved in a group of Godly men who encouraged one another to grow in their faith. Even though my husband was a sophomore in college, he chose to make the study of God’s word his top priority. This was the man God had planned to be the father of my children. What I have come to understand is God used my uncle and cousin to demonstrate character qualities of excellent fathers, but my heart finally understood the significant role of a father as I watched my husband parent our daughters. I finally realized it was not the fact that my dad was gone all the time that mattered. My husband’s profession as a soldier required him to be gone all the time. Yet, our girls adore their dad. I came to realize it was not the quantity of time he had with each one but the quality of their time that has built their relationships. My husband took the role God had called him to as a father seriously. He was intentional from the moment our first daughter was born. He made it his mission to hold her close and let her sleep on his chest each evening. All the things he learned to do with our first he built upon with each daughter after her. He has been a trustworthy father in word and actions time and time again. Even when deployed to a war zone he found time to type out family devotions for us and write personal letters to each daughter. Some of our girls still have these letters as reminders of their father’s love and commitment. He has demonstrated a life of sacrifice, not only as a soldier but also by putting the things that were important to our girls ahead of his own desires. A great example was he became a dance dad. He attended every dance recital without complaining. If in the country, he never missed a daughters sporting event either, even volunteering as a soccer coach during a rare assignment at Ft. Leavenworth, KS.
I never had a devoted and trustworthy dad, but God knew I would get to watch my daughters have such a precious relationship with their dad. As I have witnessed the heart of my husband as a father, it has brought healing eight times over to my heart that so desperately needed it.
The most important role my husband has demonstrated for our girls has been as the spiritual leader of our home. My husband has been a dad for 32 years. He is not perfect but with the help of the Lord, he is still demonstrating these qualities to our daughters, three of which still live at home. I asked our daughters to share how the role of their father has impacted their lives.
The following words were written by two of our adult daughters about the influence a strong father has had in their lives:
“It gave me the confidence I have in myself and helped to establish the way I see myself. My true worth and beauty not for my outward appearance but for who I am and for what is in my heart! I have always seen the face of Jesus to be much like Dad! His faithful love gave me the image of my faithful Father! I have always rested in the love of my earthly and Heavenly Father because of how Dad loves me! I have always known he would be there no matter what, and that is the Love of Jesus for me as well!”
“Having a strong father definitely gave me the confidence that no matter what I may face, he would always be there to help me. I always believed that no problem was too “big” for dad to figure out or handle. I also think he set an example of what it looks like to protect fiercely but love unconditionally. I have always felt that making dad proud of me was worth more than anything. Which also translates to making the Lord proud by being obedient and loving others. Ultimately to one day hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
My hope is for their words to encourage you to pray for your husbands as they fulfill the important role God has given them as a father. If you do not have a husband, trust God to be the ultimate father in the lives of your children, providing father figures to invest in them as He did in my life.