Lessons of fatherhood from the greatest Father

Published 7:30 am Sunday, June 19, 2022

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Someone has described the three stages of a father’s life – he believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus. Or as one author put it, “A father carries pictures where his money used to be.”

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong,” clergyman Charles Wadsworth has written. Another minister has stated, “The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

“We can never afford to forget that we teach our children to call God Father, and the only conception of fatherhood that they can have is the conception which we give them. Human fatherhood should be molded and modeled on the pattern of the fatherhood of God,” said author and theologian William Barclay.

I once heard an inspiring story about a father and his 11-year-old son who went canoeing down an Arkansas river. It was a rare opportunity for the two of them to be together. As they floated downstream, they unexpectedly came upon some white water rapids. The current grew rougher and the wind picked up.

Soon the canoe flipped over and each of them struggled to stay afloat while being pulled under the cold water. Gasping for air, the father frantically searched the water for his son. Just then, he caught a glimpse of the boy’s head going under about 10 feet away.

The father exerted all the energy he had to maneuver toward the boy. After some extreme effort, he reached him and pulled him close. Still struggling, the father saw the panic and fear on his son’s face.

Immediately, the father stopped struggling, wrapped the boy’s arms around his own neck, looked his son in the eye and told him, “No matter what happens, don’t let go.” And the boy didn’t let go. Somehow the father navigated them through the rough waters and safely to shore.

To this day when that boy tells about that experience, he says he was rescued and saved because his father was in control and he didn’t let go. The father taught his son a life lesson, literally and spiritually. During times of crisis when overcome by fear, turn to God the Father, “Whatever happens, don’t let go. Hold on to Him.” He has promised He will “never leave you, nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

A recent documentary on the importance of fatherhood shared statistics about children from fatherless homes. They are 32 times more likely to run away, 10 times more likely to use drugs, four times more likely to live in poverty. Some 85% of youth in prison come from fatherless homes.

General Douglas Macarthur once remarked, “By profession, I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder – infinitely prouder – to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys….It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battlefield but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ‘Our Father who art in Heaven.’”

— Jan White is author of “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”