Read time: 9 minutes
Like most 20-something-year-old guys without children, I’ve spent most of my life going through the motions of Father’s Day, but never truly recognizing the significance of fatherhood.
I went to church with family. Took my dad out to eat. And aside from a few exceptions over the years, the celebration wouldn’t go beyond a simple gift or a round of golf.
It never carried the weight of other days – after all, it falls on a Sunday in the middle of the summer. No long weekends. There weren’t always special sermons at church. It was just another day that I would often forget about until the very last minute.
However, in the last year, my perspective on Father’s Day and fatherhood has changed.
That’s because about a year ago, I lost my dad to a sudden heart attack.
In an instant, my life had changed forever. My dreams of seeing a Texas Longhorns football game in Austin with him… our plans to go to a major golf tournament… my hopes that he would get to meet my future children and see me become a father… were all gone.
I was devastated. I had experienced loss before. But never something like this. It wasn’t just anyone… it was my dad. I was supposed to have years, even decades, left with him. However, in the span of hours, he was gone.
Only a few weeks after he passed, I woke up to Father’s Day facing the reality that he wasn’t there. It hit me then how Father’s Day had so often been an afterthought. And how all I wanted was to see him and celebrate him again.
Fast forward to my 29th birthday in November that same year, and another life event came that would once again change my perspective. My wife told me that she was pregnant, and it was my turn to become a dad.
My initial reaction was a mixture of joy, excitement, and anxiety. I was so thrilled about the idea of being a dad and raising a child. But it was also terrifying. Talking about having kids is one thing. Actually facing the tremendous responsibility of raising a child is something entirely different. And of course, I was again reminded that my dad will never get to meet my child this side of heaven.
With Father’s Day coming up soon, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about all the lessons my father taught me, processing the lessons I have learned from other dads in my life, and reflecting on the qualities I see in them that I hope to have as I start my adventure into fatherhood next month.
Because even though I may have missed it for all those years, here’s the truth: Fathers make a difference.
A Lesson from My Father
My father was an incredible husband to my mom. He emulated what the Bible talks about in Ephesians 5:25 when Paul directs husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” And I always admired my dad’s unwavering dedication to and support of my mom.
He was also an incredible father. He had the uncanny ability to find the positives in any situation. He wanted me to have fun, but also challenged me to be better – whether it was in the classroom, in sports, or in my faith journey.
But the attribute of his that I most want to reflect as I become a father is that he was present.
He was such a hard worker and was extremely well respected in his workplace – but when the end of the day came, there was very little that would prevent him from getting home for dinner and an evening together with the family. There were plenty of times throughout his career that he had side jobs, taught classes at the community college, or coached at the local high school.
However, no matter how busy or stressful life became, he always made time for family. He made time to be at my games and my choir concerts. He made time to take my phone calls in the mornings. He made time for me, and he prioritized me.
One of the most common misconceptions is that real parenthood is only about moms and that dads need to take a backseat. But that’s simply not true.
Don’t get me wrong – moms are superheroes. There’s just no other way to put it. I’m already blown away by the kind of mom my wife is, and our baby is still in the womb. The process of giving birth alone is a miracle, not to mention the integral role moms play throughout a child’s life.
That doesn’t mean dads don’t have a role in every step of the process as well.
In Benjamin Watson’s book, The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life, a central theme he points to is the importance of fathers being present “from conception to adulthood.”
It can be easy for guys to hide away at work and chalk it up to being the “provider” of the family. It can be easy for guys to plead ignorance and leave the messy work of parenting to moms. But God calls men to so much more.
After my daughter makes her debut, it won’t just be my role to be the “provider.” It will be my role to be active in her life. My role will be to raise her up, disciple her, encourage her, and prioritize her.
As amazing as moms are, children need their fathers to be present too.
Because fathers make a difference.
A Lesson from Other Fathers
Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed to know and be around other great men who have shown me more examples of what it looks like to be a godly father. And the common quality they share is how they love their entire family.
The most important relationship in the family is the parents. How parents interact with one another sets the tone and the example for the entire household. Without respect, patience, and love at the top, the rest of the family structure will be strained.
When these qualities are shared in their relationship, they inevitably overflow into the relationships with their children. And from there, the outpouring of love can be felt by others in their life.
The best examples I can look toward are the fathers in my wife’s family. Many of them are amazing examples of what it looks like to love their wives and their children well – and in turn, have that love come out to others in the family.
When I made my appearance into the family, that love was shown to me as well. I was accepted. And today, they are there for me as if I have been part of their family from the beginning.
Once again, moms tend to be viewed as the loving figure in the household. But fathers need to show love too – even when it’s shown in different ways.
As my daughter grows up, it will be important for me to follow the examples I’ve seen – to love my wife well and love my daughter well (especially during those teenage years…).
This love won’t just impact my wife. It won’t just impact my daughter. It will impact those around me.
Because fathers make a difference.
You Can Make a Difference
It’s been a little over a year since I joined the Human Coalition team, and still, one of the most shocking statistics I’ve learned is the significant impact men have on the women we serve.
In my role, I have the privilege of telling the stories of the women who come to our clinics seeking an abortion but later choose life. In many of the stories, the father of the child is not present, is not loving toward the mom and preborn child, and is not supportive of continuing the pregnancy. In fact, of the women served by Human Coalition, 74% say they are single.
On the other side, I have also heard stories of the impact the father makes when he is involved. When the fathers confidently lead and commit to being present and loving to the child, it can be a game-changer in the decision for life.
Throughout the Bible, God calls us to care for the vulnerable. Here are just a few examples:
- James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
- Psalm 82:3-4 says, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
- Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
As Christian men, one of the ways we can answer this call and serve the vulnerable is by being a role model for other men. If you’re a father, married, or seriously dating, you can be a role model in how you treat your significant other and your children. You can be a role model in how you disciple and build up other men in your life.
If you’re not in a relationship or not a father, you can still be a role model and father figure to other men. You can be someone who challenges other men to treat women with the respect they deserve. You can be someone who speaks the truth on the value of all human life – from womb to tomb.
Your example could change someone’s perspective. It could impact their current and future relationships. And in the case of an unexpected pregnancy, it could even rescue a child.
Because fathers make a difference.
As you celebrate Father’s Day this year, I hope you will take time to honor the fathers in your life. And that you will consider the impact you can make on other men.
Happy Father’s Day!