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What Is a Father?
By Terry Schwartz - June 16, 2004

"Because we represent God during our children's formative years, we must strive to acquaint our kids with God's two predominant attributes: His unfathomable love and His perfect justice." - Dr. James Dobson

I ask myself this question today as I have asked it throughout my life; "What is a father?" Webster's Dictionary says: 1. A male parent; esp., a man as he is related to his child… Well, that is a rather dry and sterile answer, and not what was hoping to find. Then I looked in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, but alas I found nothing to satisfy this question. I then perused the pages of my Little Brown Book of Anecdotes, but again as I lifted my eyes from the pages of this book I was completely unsatisfied with the answer.

From the Mouth of Babes

The first Father's Day was observed in Spokane, Washington, in 1910The first Father's Day was observed in Spokane, Washington, in 1910

I then turned to three experts on this subject who were playing in the Rock offices one evening in June. I posed the question to them; "What is a dad?"

Sierra, six years old, jumped up, clapped her hands and exclaimed, rather loudly so as not to be interrupted. "He is my friend, he plays with me, takes me to the park and movies, and teaches me about Jesus."

Catalina, a four-year-old angel, and her brother Dominic said, "Our dad takes us out and plays with us." Dominic rose to his feet and said in an excited voice, "He takes me out to eat and buys me stuff." Catalina looked into my eyes and with a bright smile said, "We read the Bible together about Jesus."

My Dad Loves Me

But the thing these children said with the most certainty and conviction is that their dad loved them. Sierras told me, "Make sure that you write that my dad loves me," and as I walked away, Catalina ran up to me and in a sweet four-year-old voice said to me, "Remember to tell them that my dad loves me!"

The Older Kids

I then walked down the hallway to Nick Turrietta's office and posed this question to a group of aspiring authors; "What is a father?"

Nick answered that, "A father is someone that takes you to baseball games, makes you tough, and kisses your mom."

Teri Muckleroy said, "A father is somebody that gives you a confidence in yourself."

Erica Ramirez, thinking of her husband told me, "A father is someone who fills in the gaps."

"A father is someone that passes the Dr. Pepper!" John Masse exclaimed with a broad smile.

Then proudly Amanda Opperman stated, "A dad is someone who can beat up everybody else's dad."

Mike added, "A father is someone who is there for you."

Jean Landry closed with, "A father is someone who sacrifices so their child's dreams can be accomplished."

Speaking about the greatest gift of a father, Pastor Chuck Shores once said, "The greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother completely. In this way a child will feel safe and secure."

Two Stories

It wasn't until 1966 that Father's Day was declared a national holiday in the U.S.
It wasn't until 1966 that Father's Day was declared a national holiday in the U.S.

When I was in Russia serving with the Comission, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson shared two stories with us about earthly fathers who reflected God's awesome love:

One day at the Special Olympics there was a race to be run, and all of the competitor's parents were in the stands waiting to cheer their children on. While sprinting down the last leg of the race one of the young men fell and hurt his leg, and remained on the ground in defeat. Tears of frustration rolled down his cheeks, because he had so very much wanted to make his dad proud. Out of the stands his father walked down onto the track, lifted his son up and put his arms around his shoulder - and rather than take him off the track that father helped his son across the finish line.

One summer day Dr. Wilkinson and his wife were at a park with their little son who was playing on a small slide with squeals of delight, but the boy kept looking over at a bigger slide watching the big kids slide down. He ventured over to the big slide and started up the stairs. Halfway up he looked down and froze, Bruce's wife said, "Oh honey, go help him." Bruce said, "Let's wait and see what he does." The children behind him began to yell, then climbed around him, while he remained in place petrified in fear. After a while he cried out, "Daddy, help me!" Bruce went over to the slide and helped his son up to the top, then set him between his legs and the two of them slid down the slide together. After this the child no longer had any fear of this slide, because he knew his father was there to help him.

In both of these stories we can see an aspect of God's fatherly love. As we run the race of faith, or climb up the slide, our Lord God will come to our side to help us. Not to take us off the track or climb back down the slide in defeat, but rather to help us finish the race set before us, or to climb to the top of an obstacle and slide to victory. That is the kind of God and father we have and serve.

My Father

Both the quotes from the children and adult children and the touching stories told by Dr. Wilkinson show the unfathomable love of God as demonstrated through their husbands and fathers. Sometimes we may not experience this in an earthly father but we can through our Heavenly Father. The Lord said in Psalms 68:5 that he would be a father to the fatherless, and I know this from experience. I feel I can relate to the fatherless since I never knew the compassion of afather; the only father I ever knew was the Lord God, and that was more than enough. Now allow me to relate one of the many stories of God's love and fatherhood to me:

A dad can be a great example of our heavenly fatherA dad can be a great example of our heavenly father

While I served in Russia as a short-term missionary, I experienced the love of a father, as I never had before. Five months into my first tour of duty my mother called me at about 3:30 in the morning and in tears said to me, "Joshua is dead." Joshua was my son. I listened in disbelief and said, "How, what happened?" After she told me what she knew I hung up the phone, fell to my knees and wept. At that moment I felt complete hatred toward Satan, and an intense love toward God. A deep love born from the memories of a life marked by the deliverance, and the presence of my Lord in times of trial and victory.

I felt the Lord take me in His arms, and let me weep as He held me close to His heart. And He just said, "I love you, I'll never leave you." At that moment I knew a depth of the Love of God that is beyond words, beyond peace, beyond hope, beyond imagination. I understood the unfathomable love of our Father and God, and this is the same attribute that an earthly father can demonstrate toward his children.

What is a Father?

As I listened to children, wives, adult children and my own life experiences, I came to find that the answer to this seemingly difficult question can actually be summed up in one word. One word exhibited in different forms; a ball game, a movie, someone who fills in the gaps, a man who is there for you or passes the Dr. Pepper. As the children said, "A father is one who teaches us about Jesus." Is there a greater role for a father than this?

What is a father? A father is love. This is an attribute of our Heavenly Father that he demonstrates and shares with our earthly fathers. That is the sacrificial love of a father.