by Brandon Clark
“Everyone has a unique father story. Whether positive or painful, it’s always personal and can deeply affect the core of our identity and direction of our lives.” – Show Me the Father
Sit with this for a moment.
What is your “father story”? What has your experience of fatherhood been like?
I’ve been pondering these questions in my heart for the past week, wondering what Jesus would like to do with them.
It all started with my position at Covenant Eyes, where I co-host The Covenant Eyes Podcast. Recently, we interviewed Alex Kendrick of the Kendrick Brothers. He has acted in and produced popular Christian films like Fireproof, Courageous, Overcomer, War Room, Facing the Giants, and Lifemark.
He also helped produce their first feature-length documentary last year called Show Me the Father.
Given that the topic of the podcast was about fatherhood and leadership, I decided to watch this documentary to see what I could glean from it for some potential questions.
What I didn’t expect was to be deeply moved by the beauty of the true stories of fatherhood showcased in the film and to reflect on and pray through my own father story.
I was also taken aback by some of the statistics that were shared:
- 90% of the homeless come from fatherless homes.
- 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes.
- 71% of pregnant teenagers come from fatherless homes.
- Children of fatherless homes are 10x more likely to use drugs.
- Children of fatherless homes are 32x more likely to run away.
It’s clear to see as we look at the world around us that we have a crisis of fatherhood. When the father is not around, chaos ensues.
Why? Dr. Meg Meeker says that fathers are the central figures in the identity formation of a child.
Without a father, children grow up not knowing who they are and who they were created to be, especially as beloved sons and daughters of God.
And let me clarify: You could have a father physically in the home but not present.
That was my experience of fatherhood.
I had both a mother and a father, and they are together to this day. I was raised in the Church, attending Mass most Sundays until I got my license at age 14. At this time, my father stopped going to Mass. After a couple of years, my mother stopped as well.
By my junior year of high school, I was experiencing complete confusion about who I was and if this Catholic faith I was brought up with really mattered. If it did, wouldn’t my parents make every effort they could not to miss Mass?
We didn’t talk about God in our home, other than offering the occasional, “we’ll be sure to pray” when someone would share that they were experiencing a difficult time in their life.
Sure, I was trained to work hard, but there was another piece to that puzzle that was missing. Shouldn’t we work AND pray?
Imagine what it can do to a boy to not know who he is as a beloved son of God, to not know that he is loved infinitely by our Heavenly Father, not to have a father who is seeking to win the hearts of his children, and to not have a teacher, training his children in the way he should go and going that way himself.
Once, just once, I would have loved to hear the words, “I’m proud of you, son.” I knew my father was happy with my accomplishments, but those words would have won my heart. They would have been a blessing in my life.
I must mention, though, that I do not blame my dad. I can say without a twinge of doubt in my heart that he was doing the best with what he had. He wasn’t given the keys to fatherhood by his father. How could I expect that he was going to be the father I needed? It hadn’t been lived out as an example in his own home as a child, either.
I love my father, and I try to spend time with him when I can, enjoying his company over a meal or maybe even a game of pinochle. We’re not going to get into any deep theological conversations or talk about personal relationships with Jesus, but I’m at peace with that. I can still give my dad the gift of quality time. I can still find ways to be grateful for the blessing of having a father.
It took a while to get to this point. I had many wounds to heal on account of my ‘fatherlessness.’ What unlocked the keys to forgiveness and healing was an encounter with the fatherhood of God and coming to embrace my identity as His beloved son.
God wants to be our loving father. He will love us unconditionally. He is perfect and will never let us down.
Taking these truths into our hearts can change the trajectory of our lives.
No longer do we have to wander, searching for who we are. No longer do we have to wonder if we are truly loved. No longer do we have to wonder if we belong.
With God, these answers are all “yes,” times infinity. The word “father” itself means “source.” It’s fitting, then, that God is the source of all creation and the source of all fatherhood.
Every child needs a godly father, one who can introduce his children to God the Father. This father doesn’t even have to be a child’s biological father. He can be an adoptive father or maybe he is a coach or a mentor.
As I think about my father story and how that affected my core identity and the direction of my life for many years, it cements in my heart the need to be the father that I didn’t have. I don’t have to carry on the legacy of fatherhood that has been handed down to me.
I can be a provider, protector, leader, teacher, helper, and encourager. I can win the hearts of my children and speak blessings into their lives each day.
Even while writing this blog, my 19-month-old came in, asking “are you?” I knew she meant, “Where are you?” After she found me, she noticed a stuffed groundhog puppet that was sitting nearby. She handed it to me, and I put my hand inside and started talking and teasing her with it. She laughed and gave it a big hug. My heart melted.
I could have let her know that I was busy right now and that I would play with her later. But what message would that have sent?
Of course, there are times when I am working, and I truly cannot drop everything to play. This time was different. I did have a choice to stop what I was doing to invest in my relationship with her. So, I did.
I will now cling to that precious moment every time I see the stuffed groundhog puppet.
Being intentional in my relationship with my daughter (and soon my son) is one of the most important things I can do as a father.
I want my children to know that my love is authentic, just as God the Father’s love is authentic. I want them to know that I will always love them, just as God will always love them. I want them to know that, while I may discipline them, it is out of love for them and I will always forgive them, just as God has mercy on us. I want them to know they are a beloved daughter and son of a perfect Father in Heaven.
I remind my daughter of these truths each day and I will soon remind my son of these truths as well. If we are blessed with more children, they will also daily be reminded of these truths.
I’m not perfect by any means. I will regularly have to seek their forgiveness when I fall short. And yet, I know that God can restore any brokenness. He can take any mess and make a miracle out of it. I thank Him each day for that because I sure have made some messes in my life.
So, what is your father story? What has your experience of fatherhood been like? What will your fatherhood look like for your children?
Ponder this, and, if you haven’t already, run to your Heavenly Father and embrace Him as your father. You are His beloved son.
Live under that truth and blessing, and let Him be your perfect guide as you train your children in the way they should go.