Everyone — excluding Jesus — has a biological father. But life experience is very different. What everyone wants, and many never have, is a present, supportive, exemplary father. He doesn’t have to be cool or clever; if only he would care.
A college student visiting in my home said, “I look like a man on the outside, but I’m a broken-hearted 14-year-old boy on the inside.” At that age he called his AWOL father just to talk. The man hung up on him.
My own dad’s father never hugged him or told him he loved him, criticizing him at every turn. But my dad refused to be a victim, and lavished us with love. He was always the same, at home or in public.
Once he made a snap decision without all the facts. Sitting on the end of my bed, he apologized, then said, “We don’t get practice kids, you know. We’re learning to be parents as you’re learning too.”
Although I’ve been a very imperfect father with my seven children — children were never more gracious than mine are to me — there are some fatherhood lessons I saw in my dad that I’ve tried to live as well.
1. Be faithful yourself, but be gracious to others. My dad, a very disciplined man, had been an air force officer. In our house, the drill was: “Obedience means now.” But he knew the difference between kids being careless and carefree. He set high standards but showed grace, a winning combo.
2. Be frugal yourself, but generous with others. My dad rarely spent anything on himself, but even in the lean years found enough change to take us for an ice cream cone on a summer’s evening. His brogan shoes were resoled over and over, but our needs were always met. We were poor, but rich in the ways that matter.
3. Be friendly in family life, but don’t forget you’re the parent. My dad was a great story-teller, life-decorator, memory-maker. But we never forgot who was responsible to God for us. Well, actually sometimes we did forget, but not for long!
4. Be forgiving, but don’t ignore the consequences of bad choices. My dad repeatedly explained that we get to make choices, but we don’t choose the consequences. Modern society tries to separate action from consequence, but we knew “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal 6:7)
I wish everyone had a dad like mine. Unfortunately that’s not the case. But everybody CAN still have a wonderful Father! “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me,” wrote David. (Ps 27:10)
Contrary to a common view, however, God is not everyone’s Father automatically. He’s everyone’s Creator, but we must choose Him as our Father. Of Jesus it was written, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (Jn 1:12) Other world religions have no concept of a loving personal Father-God. So what Jesus said is really true: “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn 14:6)
My dad’s been gone for many years, but thankfully I still have the best Father in the universe looking after me. You can, too.
Jabe Nicholson and his wife Louise invested in 7 children instead of stocks and bonds. Reach him at [email protected] or visit www.uplook.tv.