What Does It Mean To Be A Dad?

With Father’s Day just passed, I was reminded of how the definition of “Dad” differs from person to person.

I was fortunate. I had a very engaging dad who worked hard at knowing who I was, along with my two sisters and brother. He never lumped us together as “the kids”. He saw our individuality and celebrated it.

I’ve watched my husband as a dad. A kind, gracious man who is generous-hearted and deeply compassionate, his kids have always known they’ve been significant to him. A quiet man, he doesn’t fill their world with words; he chooses to show love through his actions and attitudes.

I have one son and five sons-in-law who’ve proven what it means to be men of character, respect, and love. Their families thrive under their compassion.

A dear friend asked how one should celebrate a crappy dad. One low on relationship, high on demand.

Her husband said it best: you lament.

Fathers have an incredible opportunity to build character into their children in a way the nurturing mom doesn’t. They tend to be the figure of authority that their kids learn respect from, the voice of reason in differences between siblings, the example of how others–especially women–should be treated. Fathers often don’t have the quantity of time with their children, but the brevity of interaction makes what they do significant.

I’ve been around all kinds of fathers. Those who seek to engage well and those who choose to let Mom do the parenting while they provide the paycheck. Those who are present in body but absent emotionally. Those who take their authority too far and are hurtful to both wife and children, emotionally, verbally or physically. Those who had no father figure themselves to seek as an example and do their best to love well.

There are dads in biology only. Those sperm donors who offer women an opportunity to be a mom without ever having to take responsibility for raising a child. Marriages exist with reality.

The term “deadbeat dad” reflects those who walk away from responsibility, who choose to abandon rather than work out challenging relationships or situations. Not a qualifier often given to mothers.

The image of a good dad today changes with culture, economics, and ethnicity.

We need our dads to love us well, to teach us how to work through hard circumstances and relationships. How to persevere.

For all that haven’t had that experience, the one Father who is always present, always aware of our needs, always has our backs, is God.

He’s the Father who yearns for us to let Him love us. Who pursues us in compassion, forgives us with grace, who doesn’t put conditions on our relationship with Him.

He is the Father to the fatherless.

Dads will let us down, no matter how hard they work at doing their best. They’re limited in understanding, patience and the skill sets needed to handle our difficult situations.

God, in His perfection and greatness, stays with us, no matter what. Loves us through and in our mistakes, and chooses us no matter how far we wander from Him.

Perfect love.

That’s a Dad I can cling to.


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