By Keith Surface
The old joke is “another necktie” for Father’s Day, as dads across the land traditionally received a useful gift that stirred little excitement. Other gifts are more desired, such as a new fishing pole or golf club. Still others, like the hand-scribbled picture from his toddler or homemade card in crayon, are cherished. Though my own children have grown into their teenage years, their homemade signs and crafts from younger days remain proudly displayed in my office.
This Father’s Day will see dads all over receiving these and other tokens of affection from their children. But what kind of gifts are dads giving to their kids? This day offers a timely reminder of some of the greatest ways fathers can bless their children.
GIFT OF TIME
My father, Mel, had no regular hobbies that I can recall growing up. He might relax by reading the newspaper or watching TV in the evenings, but wasn’t regularly on the golf course or counting the moments until the opening day of hunting season (not that there would have been anything wrong with that). It wasn’t until years later that I realized Dad’s hobby was spending time with me. I went through a season of interest in bowling so on his day off each Friday, we’d go bowling. Then, I became interested in fishing and he, too, became a fisherman. In later years, we both took up golf, enjoying time spent together on the course. My interests became his interest. He loved me and showed that love by spending time doing things I enjoyed doing. As an adult, I now realize he must have been very busy and some of my interests probably weren’t that appealing to him, but he expressed no hint of that at the time. All I knew was my dad wanted to be with me.
Time is a precious gift that we can give our children. As an adult, I’m working hard to follow in my father’s example with my own four children. I may not always feel like throwing the ball around, playing a board game, or simply watching them do something they enjoy. Yet, in the long run, those brief moments will far outweigh whatever important items may be on my agenda. Whether pursuing your own hobbies or just running some errands, take your kids along. Years from now they’ll look back fondly on a dad who enjoyed having them around. The way we choose to spend our time speaks volumes about what we value most. Let’s make sure our kids know they have priority in our lives.
GIFT OF LOVE
My dad loved me. I know that because he told me so. Often. I can remember many times when he’d put his arm around me and say, “I love you, son, and I’m proud of you.” I’m grateful to have had a dad who was willing to express affection. Men generally are not vocal about their feelings. We tend not to show our emotions. Some were raised with the idea that a man who expressed emotion was considered weak. Many men grew up with fathers who set a sterling example in work ethic and strong discipline, but lacked an ability to express affection to their children, even though they greatly loved them. And the pattern continues with the next generation.
A woman complained to her husband that he never told her, “I love you.” He responded, “I said so that day we married and if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.” Hopefully, none of us would follow in his example in treating our spouse or children this way. Our kids need us to be intentional in expressing our affection through simple words or a hug. Do your children know you love them? Have you told them?
GIFT OF FAITH
My dad was a passionate follower of Jesus. I daily observed his deep faith and consistent walk with the Lord growing up. He understood that his greatest legacy was to point me to Christ, showing me the way by his own faithful lifestyle. He spoke to me about God, led us in family devotions, and was always available for my questions.
The apostle Paul urged fathers to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Am I doing everything I can to point my kids to Jesus? Am I sharing God’s Word with them? Am I living a consistent life of faith in front of them?
Ultimately, our kids will choose for themselves whether to follow God. Yet, what a tragedy if I pour time and energy into achieving success by the world’s standards, giving my kids the nicest possessions and latest gadgets, but see them reject Christ. It’s a thought that motivates me to stay the course, keep the faith, and do everything within my power to point my children to Jesus.
An incredible example of a good father is described by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 15:11-32). A son returns home after a time of rebellion, having squandered his inheritance, intending to beg his father to allow him to work as one of the servants. Instead, the father runs to him, embraces him, and welcomes him home with new clothes, a ring, and a celebration. The father demonstrates unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace. The story is a parable, illustrating the love of our Heavenly Father, who forgives our sins and welcomes us home. Whether we have memories of a loving dad or look with sadness on someone who was a poor example as a father, God the Father is who we should seek to imitate. As dads, we must take seriously our responsibility, understanding that our children’s relationship with us may impact how they view their Heavenly Father.
This year, as you open the heartfelt presents specially selected or created by your kids, take a moment to reflect on the gifts you’re giving in return. Are you investing in them by spending time together? Are you showing your love for them through both your words and actions? Most importantly, are you living as a godly example, pointing them to our Savior, Jesus Christ? This is the greatest legacy we can leave to them.