“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
A Father to Leave a Legacy
I have always loved symbolism. It brings to life a deeper level of understanding and connection to a concept, idea, or story. With that said, many years ago, I was strolling through a whimsically quaint tiny town known as Hardy, Arkansas. It was there I came upon a unique gift shop. While perusing the store, I began chatting with the fascinating Native American store owner. I asked him if he might consider fashioning a lovely quiver and several arrows for me. He agreed. Months later, his remarkable craftsmanship arrived, and I hid my treasure away for the proper day of revelation. Years later, the time came for me to announce the joyous news to my husband. I read this verse to him:
“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” – Psalms 127:3–5
Excitedly, I unveiled the treasure I had hidden, these many years, in anticipation of this day. Elatedly, I handed my husband the quiver and uttered the words, “This is a quiver, and here is your first arrow because we are pregnant.” With the declaration of those words, instantly, he knew a new title was bestowed upon him. The title of Dad.
It is remarkable, when reading the scriptures, how the language of family is so frequently used. There are references to brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, children, but mostly the loving name of Father. Fathers hold such a vital role within God’s design for the family. They are charged with the responsibility of leading, teaching, exhorting, providing, and protecting. Fathers instill within their child an immense sense of value and worth. And when their influence and presence is absent, the ripple effects are seismic.
Tragically, the grievous truth is that there are far too many sons and daughters who do not live with their father, much less have a father in the home. According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 19.7 million children throughout our nation live in fatherless homes. That staggering statistic translates to a ratio of one in four children residing in a father-absent family. With that heartbreaking reality in mind, Father’s Day can oftentimes bring about reminders of rejection, abandonment, bitterness, grief, and despair. One critical component of a father’s role is that of instilling self-worth and value into their child. Their absence can painfully create a cataclysmic void that might never completely be filled. And for many, questioning their sense of significance can be a daily struggle. Deeply understanding this painful truth, being a father to the fatherless is also a necessary and vital role the Lord has bestowed upon each of us as Believers.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
What is a Father?
Being a father to those who are the most vulnerable is a beautiful way of expressing, exhibiting, and modeling the love of the Father while instilling great value, worth, and significance into these precious children.
Over twenty years ago, my husband was a youth pastor at a large church in the south. This season of our lives encompassed some of the most memorable and amazing years of our marriage. One Sunday evening, during a core group meeting with our leadership students, we began asking an assortment of questions, one of which was, “What characteristics and qualities do your fathers possess that made you feel loved?” Interestingly, I was recently afforded the opportunity to meet with another group of teenagers, and I was able to ask them the same question. What I find fascinating is that their answers remain the same as they were twenty years ago.
- They are fully present and not distracted during conversations.
- They enter my world by asking questions about my life.
- They show an interest in the activities I enjoy, and they want to be involved.
- They create space and time to spend with me one-on-one.
- They notice the small things.
- They compliment me.
- They see the importance of, not only saying they would do something with or for me, but following through with it.
- They care about being a man of their word.
- They strive to be consistent in their day-to-day lives.
The qualities and characteristics the students expressed that made them feel a sense of value and importance struck an astonishing familiar chord in my mind as the ultimate example of one who was engaged, intentional, and reliable.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
Fathers fulfill a vital role in the lives of children. It is a role God the Father has bestowed upon them that is unique and different to that of a mother. The world needs fathers. Our children need godly men who will lead the youth of our communities by example, encouragement, and inspiration. Like the foster parent ad says, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” Translation: children spell love T-I-M-E.
Fatherhood presents itself through a myriad of opportunities. Enjoy and embrace the privilege of loving not only your child but many children by wrapping your arms around those whose fathers might have passed too soon from this world. Perhaps spend time with a child whose father is absent or even one of your children’s friends who simply need a safe place and safe space. Possibly, choose to intentionally neighbor, tutor, start a Bible study with the children from your son or daughter’s sports team, or another activity. Or perhaps, fatherhood may present itself through foster care or adoption.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10
Opportunities will present themselves; you only need to be mindful of them and act upon them. Being a father who builds a lifelong legacy seems to simply require three qualities and characteristics, which are engagement, intentionality, and reliability, but mostly just model the ultimate Father, Abba.