This One’s For the Dads, Part One

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I consulted with a number of dads about the biggest joys and challenges of fatherhood. Ranging in age from early thirties to mid- fifties, these men come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some have a baby at home and some parent young professionals. You will see that despite their differences these men have much in common; they love their heavenly Father deeply, and they adore their sons and daughters.

Today we look at how their understanding of the Father has grown through fathering, and how being a dad has challenged them to grow as men. Friday we will hear what these dads wish they could tell their younger selves, and what their greatest joys have been. (Hint: you will see the word “together” over and over again…)

What do you understand about the Father now that you didn’t get before you became a dad?

Before I was a father I was always struck by the sacrifice Jesus made to go to the cross. After becoming a father I realize that the greater sacrifice was actually the Father allowing Jesus to die. I could never do that with my son!

I realize how much stronger God is than I thought. I have no idea how he watches his children suffer the way he does. Watching my kids suffer is the hardest thing for me as a dad – I just want to make everything right. I also understand how much the Father just enjoys us and enjoys the relationship. If my girls are around or I get to do something with one of them, it is amazing how nourishing their presence is to my soul.

There is nothing my child has done to me, that I have not done even more so to my heavenly father. There is nothing my heavenly father has not forgiven in me; therefore there is nothing I cannot forgive in my children. (Luke 6:35 …for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.)

Before I became a father I could not fully appreciate the story of prodigal son. Only a loving father can relate to the joy of a wayward son returning home with humility. Now I can better understand how God can extend grace to a sinner like me. I could never deny love to my children, regardless of what they do.

I am beginning to understand how much God loves us even when we mess up. I want my kids to be obedient to our rules not because they are rules, but because as their dad I want to keep them safe. I still love my kids when they mess up, and that helps me know that God still loves me when I mess up.

I have come to have a renewed appreciation of our heavenly Father’s patience. Being a father is hard work. Children don’t always obey when we ask them to or show gratitude when they should. They, like us, are a tremendous work in progress. Impatience and anger rarely (if ever) produce fruit in the lives of our children. I’m grateful for a Father who is patient and slow to anger with me and my own sanctification.

When we had our first child, I got a better understanding of what selfless, sacrificial love meant. When we had our second and third children, this love was not divided but rather my heart grew larger with the same love for each. I imagine our Heavenly Father in a similar light but with a heart large enough to love all of His children.

After becoming a father I was struck by the love I could have for another human. I think they call that storge love which is the natural love one has for a spouse or child. At times it’s overwhelming in intensity. Then I think of agape, the love Jesus showed by his work on the cross and the love God has for us with his plan of redemption. It’s so much more willful. Being a father has given me a frame of reference concerning love and I am more in awe of God’s love for me. It’s almost unfathomable.

How has fatherhood challenged you specifically?

​Fatherhood is much more challenging than I realized it would be. I didn’t realize that parenting is more about sanctifying me than it is about sanctifying my children. My selfishness is exposed daily as I parent. My lack of faith is becoming more evident as my children become teenagers and I have less and less control. Do I trust God with my children?

Children tend to emulate our vices far faster than they do our virtues. As a father I can see traits in all of my children that cause me to wince because they are aspects of my own character or attitude that I don’t like. Conversely there are days where it seems like fatherhood is not very fruitful. I don’t always see the fruit in my children’s lives that I’m hoping to see. This reminds me that fatherhood is chiefly a “sowing” ministry. God is the one who woos our children to Himself and ultimately He is the one who will produce fruit in and through their lives. When I can embrace this reality it’s very freeing because it reminds me that ultimately my children aren’t mine. They are Christ’s and I’m just privileged to get to steward and shepherd them and point them to Him.

Being a dad has revealed how much my hope and joy is fixed to my kids’ behavior and my life circumstances and not to my savior. Fatherhood is continually stripping me of self-reliance and making me dependent on my father in prayer. He is responsible for changing my heart and the hearts of my children, not me.

I’m prone to be self-centered. Being a dad will solve that problem!

God gave us three boys and, as they’ve grown toward their own manhood, I’m constantly challenged to be the example they should follow. I’ve become more intentional in my actions and thoughtful in my training of them.

For me fatherhood has challenged me to understand feelings – my own and others’ – and actually talk about them. Marriage does that too. Power plays and rules just breed rebellion. Secondly, the challenge of balancing time between family and work is ever-present, as is the guilt. I have made family time a pretty high priority but it’s always a challenge.

As a father, I have had to be stronger and watch my girls suffer. I have had to accept my limitations.

I have to trust Him more than me.

Be sure to check the blog Friday to hear more about the joys and lessons of fatherhood.


Anna is a single mom of three young adult sons. She is the Senior Director of Content at Rooted, co-host of the Rooted Parent podcast, a member of Church of the Cross in Birmingham, AL, and the author of God's Grace for Every Family: Biblical Encouragement for Single Parent Families and the Churches That Seek to Love Them Well (Zondervan, 2024). She also wrote Fresh Faith: Topical Devotions and Scripture-Based Prayers for College Students. In her free time, Anna enjoys gardening, great books, running, hiking, hammocks, and ice cream. She wants to live by a mountain stream in Idaho someday.

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