Have you ever heard that holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day are simply made up by the card industry?
I have no idea if that is true but as a mother, I like a day where my young son, prompted by his daddy, gives me kisses and a sweet card to say he loves me. And as a daughter, I love taking time out to call my dad and tell him I love him.
This year for me is a bit different. My dad, after 42 years of pastoring (33 at his current church), is retiring on his 70th birthday. And for this Father’s Day I wanted to share as a sort of tribute to my dad and a lesson to younger dads: how to be a perfect father.
I’m going to give away the answer now and say that it’s impossible. You can’t be a perfect father. Sorry! Only our heavenly Father is perfect. But I will say that my dad is the perfect dad for me. And these are the lessons I’ve learned from him. So dads, follow closely because these days we need a good example.
1. Make spending time in God’s Word a priority. Some of my earliest memories growing up are waking up early seeing the glow of the living room lamp escaping down the hallway. I knew my dad was up reading his Bible and praying on the couch. I would get out of bed and run and sit in his lap. Although my dad’s “job” was studying God’s Word, he always took time to spend personal time in the Word. His consistency in this has been a challenge and an encouragement to me in my adult life.
2. Always come back to your children and ask for forgiveness. To say I was a rebellious preteen and teen is an understatement. It’s a wonder I didn’t spend my childhood grounded. But something my depraved heart loved to do was get my dad upset. No one could lead him to lose his temper like I could. He would yell at me and leave the room in a huff. I always saw that as an accomplishment (see, I told you I was terrible). And without fail, he would calm down and come back to me and ask me to forgive him. The humility it takes to go back to your children and ask for forgiveness is not always easy but my dad did it and gave no excuses. I was still punished for my wrongdoing but I also knew he loved me and wanted to keep our relationship in right standing.
3. Keep your children in their rightful place. This really goes two ways. First is the permanent–temporary model with family. My parent’s relationship with each other is permanent. My parent’s relationship with us, their children, is temporary. And what I mean is we are now out of the house in our own family units. My dad never elevated his relationship with us higher than his relationship with my mother. Second, he kept us in our proper place by not elevating his job higher than his family relationship. This is hard for any man or woman, especially in a demanding job like the pastorate. Church members died while we were on vacation. Marriages crumbled and couples needed emergency counseling. This is simply the life of a pastor. But if we needed our dad, he was there. I remember calling the church and his assistant would say, “He is in a meeting but if you need me to interrupt, I can.” I never had to interrupt the meeting but knowing I could if needed was one way my dad showed my siblings and me that he was there, even when he was being pulled a million different ways.
4. Give advice when appropriate. This bit of advice applies to adult children living outside the home. I was the first of my siblings to marry and my parents made a conscious decision to not give their advice to my husband or me unless they were asked or unless they saw clear sin in our lives. This has helped my relationship with them in adult years more than anything. I know that I can go to them and they will listen and if I want to know what they think, I must ask.
There you have it. There is my list as a daughter of what it takes to be a perfect dad. My dad is anything but perfect. But as I reflect today on what I am grateful for, I realize that, even in his imperfections, he was the perfect dad for me.
I love you, Dad, and I’m so proud of you for leading us (sometimes kicking and screaming) as a family. You are a treasure.
What about you, what made your father the perfect father for you? Or how are you trying to be the perfect father for your children?