In Praise of Fathers

Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them…       Hebrews 12:9a    (NASB)

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.   1 John 2:13  (NASB)


Those who have read In a Mirror Dimly know that my relationship with my father was difficult. I spent so much of my young days wondering why I wasn’t like the others my age, revering and loving and being loved by their fathers. But you also know how that all has turned out for me.

We are all the sum total of our experiences. And God is gracious, seeing that I had many mentors and “substitute” fathers who cared for me and led me. As I write this, I think about each of them: my paternal grandfather who made certain I was in church every week, who made certain I learned what every little boy needs to know, and who taught me to love the outdoors, to hunt and fish. My uncles who modeled for me what fathers should be and showed me how sons should be treated. Many fathers of close friends who stood by me when I needed someone; some of these even into adulthood exhibited the best of fatherhood to me. And then as I began my career older physicians who took the time to mentor and teach me how to care for the patients I would serve. For all of these, I give thanks. Each was a “father” to me.

As my own children came along, I knew that I wanted their experience to be different. I’m still not sure how I did. My daughter Brande came along as I entered medical school, not the best time for me to exhibit fatherhood. I felt guilty for many years that I hadn’t been the father to her that I should have been. Then, I adopted Sally’s two sons, Michael and Tommy at ages 8 and 12 while I was struggling to build a practice and a career. And then along came Matt, our youngest. Suddenly at age 28 I was father to four children! After not really knowing what being a good father meant.

God knew that I needed help! And He gave me Sally, the best mother I’ve ever seen. She helped me understand parenting. She had a close, loving relationship with her dad, and he became a model for me. Now I will be marrying Debby, another woman who loved and revered her father as a Godly example.

As I matured in the Lord I began to see the wisdom of the verses above: our earthly fathers have very specific roles defined by our heavenly Father. And He has told us that He is our abba – our “daddy.” The message crystalized for me – we have very specific roles as fathers; and we have very specific roles as abba.

Now I get to watch my sons as fathers to their children. What incredible fathers each of them have become! I watch Tommy with Thomas and Elizabeth in awe of the love and wisdom he shows. I see Michael with Andrew, Patrick and Elliot following in his footsteps, loving the Lord and their family. Matt has led John and Graham in a Godly life, praying with them daily. I stand truly amazed.

I realize that He created man to be fathers. He gave us the love of our children, to lead them in His way. He commanded us to be the head of our households. There is a profound message here. The fathers of our parents’ generation worked with calloused hands to give us a better world than they had. My generation labored to do much the same; but then things started to fall away. Too many men are not fathers to their children, their time spent at lesser things. And a current generation of young people have never learned how to be a father from their own.

Men, hear it from our Heavenly Father. Our children must see that role modeled and lived before them. Be a father to your children. And then they will honor and revere you as the Father of all intended.

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