The Invaluable Presence of Dad

stick family

The other day I was driving when I noticed the vehicle in front of me had one of those stick figure families on the rear window. These decorations are hardly uncommon anymore, but something caught my attention about this one – there was a dirt-crusted silhouette in the shape of a stick figure dad where the father sticker apparently used to be. Alongside the missing dad was a mom, three kids, and a dog. Sadly, this is a very typical North American family.

I don’t want to jump to conclusions about what happened to dad in that family. Maybe he passed away; maybe he ran off with another woman; maybe someone simply stole the sticker. But the real-life implications of what this simple sticker family represented is all-too-common these days. Many families are devoid of dad.

As we hit another Father’s Day I am reminded of how important the role of dad really is. I think about the influence that my father has had on me, and also the influence that my grandfather had on him, and even back to my great-grandfather, who was a man of God that died at age 102, and even started the church that I grew up in. I don’t know much beyond great-grandpa John, but I do know that his legacy of faith and godliness has had a major trickle-down effect that is resonating even in my own life and, I hope and trust, will carry on in the life of my own son.

Looking at these men in the Edgar family tree – great-grandpa John, grandpa Syd, and Ken, my own father – there is a few things that stand out to me about the value of a good dad. The first is that these men are not remarkable by worldly standards. My great-grandfather survived the great depression, both world-wars and scraped by like most in his era. Grandpa Syd worked mainly in the local steel plant, while raising 7 kids with grandma Jean. My own father runs his own tow truck company and has raised 6 kids alongside my mom. None of these men were or are affluent, highly-educated or well-traveled. They are by all accounts very ordinary men. Yet because of their character, dependability, and example of faith, these ordinary men have been able to do extraordinary things.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible shows that God uses ordinary men to accomplish his will. The scriptures are packed with the common man, the disabled, the lowly, the outcast, the uneducated, the poor, and even the young who God uses for his purposes. Many of these men make their primary influence – for good or bad – as fathers. Imperfect as they all are, God is able, in his wisdom and power and grace, to work beyond their shortcomings to do amazing things. God wants his men, and especially his dads, to be faithful to the calling he has placed on their lives.

Another thing that stands out to me about the men in my family tree is that their presence has been invaluable. In fact, that is perhaps the most crucial ingredient to being a good dad – simply being present. Nothing can really replace a dad who is there. A dad who shows up to ball games; a dad who isn’t dominated with side hobbies; a dad who takes time to talk and listen with his kids; a dad who tucks the little ones in at night; a dad who puts down the phone and shuts off the tv; a dad who drives the family to church every week…these, and countless more, speak volumes into the lives of kids. Granted, every father has limited time to offer. The demands of work are often a great hindrance to this. Yet most children are understanding in this way. Dad has certain obligations to fulfill, and so he is given grace. The presence of a dad really means something when it comes in this shape: if dad can be there, he will be there.

I am deeply saddened when I think of all the families who don’t have dad in their home. Try as they may, mothers and children can cope with this loss only so much. Having a father-figure who steps into that role is an enormous blessing, but I’m not sure that it completely covers up the wound of a missing father. No one can fully replace dad. But I give kudos to the men who have stepped into roles that other men have vacated and done their best to provide a father-like presence for children. God will reward such men accordingly.

This Father’s Day, I want to encourage all of the dad’s out there to be present in their families. Be active and involved with what is going on. Don’t leave everything on the shoulders of mom. Discipline your kids. Pray with them and for them. Show your wife affection in front of them. Read and teach them God’s Word. Show your daughters how beautiful and valuable they are. Raise your boys to be men of character. Demonstrate what hard work looks like. Be a man of grace. Show them how to commit to things. And most importantly, pass on a legacy of faith in Christ that is your number one priority.

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