How many different ways are we fathered every day, even if our own dad isn't present? Everyone's life includes the qualities of a good father – strength, wisdom, discipline, shepherding...love.
June includes a celebration of Father's Day in the USA. Regardless of whether or not you have a father, or are a father, your life does include all of the unique character traits of a good father. And if you haven't felt the strength, wisdom, and shepherding of a father recently, then now is a perfect time to reconnect with these qualities and acknowledge their powerful and uninterrupted presence in your family's life.
A number of years ago when my three sons were ages four, seven, and nine, their dad changed careers, and instead of working at home, he began to commute two hours each way to his new job. Soon, the commute became so arduous and his working hours so long that he decided to stay near his work site four nights a week. This was a major change to our home-based way of life, and the boys were devastated by Dad's disappearance from their daily schedules. I prayed for a way to help them understand that their dad had not abandoned them, and loved them as dearly as ever. But as I prayed, I began to realize that the answer to those prayers was not a change back to Dad spending more time at home. Instead, it was to open my eyes to see how many different ways we are fathered every day, even if our own dad isn't present.
My sons had wonderful, meaningful relationships with two father figures just a stone's throw away on our street. One put them to good use tilling the soil, planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting in his huge vegetable garden and berry patch. Imagine the delight of digging dirt, spraying a hose, snapping asparagus stalks as you harvest them, and stuffing raspberries in your mouth right off the vine! The other neighbor regularly took the boys out to breakfast where there were life-sized stuffed animals seated next to you; taught them to fish and to smile with satisfaction even if you didn't catch anything; and introduced the boys to super-soaker squirt guns by engaging them in the best water fights of all time. To this day, more than a dozen years later, this man continues to shepherd my sons, listening to their career dreams, offering sage advice, and spurring them on to be their best at whatever they pursue and in all of their interactions with others.
Two grandfathers have also played active roles in the boys' lives, watching them play team sports, taking them to museums and the theater, encouraging them to think big, and inspiring them to pursue their interests. Then there's the pilot friend who took them flying in his private plane, kindling a friendship that has become a mentorship to one son who aspires to an aeronautical career. And there's the local senior citizen who gave another son his first job doing yard work for him, which turned into two years of weekly discussions about current events, WWII history, gifts for his girlfriend, choosing a college, and facing life's challenges (including the passing of a beloved wife) with an ever-ready sense of humor. Through all these growing years, the boys have had invaluable relationships with camp counselors and senior staff men, who have showered them with fathering qualities: discipline, order, tenderness, courage, determination, follow-through, a sense of competition that draws out the best in one's opponent as well as oneself, loyalty and commitment, inner peace – in essence, integrity.
All of us have access to these same fathering qualities. What's more, they are eternal and inexhaustible, and they exist independent of a particular person called Dad. As my sons and I began to take notice of all the different father figures in our lives, we gained a whole new appreciation for God's fathering of His children – all of us. As the boys and their dad have moved in different directions in their lives, we have returned many times to this idea of God as our one and only Father, and of the innumerable father figures who express His love, wisdom, and integrity every day throughout our lives.
There's no better time than right now to discover the father figures in your life and show or tell them how much you appreciate them! And then, thank God for being our one and only Father.