Usually on Father’s Day, I think about the things my dad has taught me and how grateful I am for him. I could say that about both of my parents actually. They’ve taught me about the gospel. They’ve taught me how to serve God well. Recently, my dad’s been teaching me how to golf a bit (it’s a work in progress).
But the other day I had a new thought that has me looking at Father’s Day differently this year. At how fathers do more for us than teach us how to do things. How they teach us what it means to be a father and show us what that looks like. Fathers carry a surprising burden, one I’d never thought about until recently, and that burden is what I want to start with today.
The Burden of Being a Father
Mothers and fathers carry burdens, but because of their different roles as parents, their burdens can differ a lot too. While each family is unique, let’s look at some of the typical burdens here. Mothers typically nurture the family while the father provides. Fathers may feel a particular need to teach their children how to work hard or how to take care of livelihoods. They may also feel the burden of protection – protecting their children and teaching their children to protect themselves.
There are a lot of roles and burdens that fathers carry, and I know that I haven’t even come close to covering all of those burdens. And, since I’m not a parent, I’m sure there are plenty that I don’t even know about.
But there’s one burden that is particular to fathers and that, in my opinion, probably weighs heavily on those who see it – and that is the burden of representing God.
Don’t get me wrong. Our fathers are not God, but when a man takes on the role of father, he immediately becomes the one the child looks to so they can learn what it means to be a father. That’s a lot of pressure to begin with because, when the child grows up, they’ll likely model their own behavior as a father on their own father, or they’ll look for that father-model in their spouse.
But the example of a father does more than teach a child how to be a parent. A father’s example also teaches a child a bit about what God looks like as well.
The Name God Chose for Himself
When we talk about God, I think a common idea is that He’s some great cosmic being while we are the specks of dust He happened to create. Or maybe you don’t see God that way, I don’t know.
But I realized the other day that God has chosen to be called Father. He’s our Father in Heaven. And that’s really the only things we call Him – God and Father. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, has many names. The list can go on for a while. And sometimes the names we give Christ apply to God the Father as well.
But the name He asks us to call Him is Heavenly Father. When we pray, we speak to our Heavenly Father. When we need help, our Father is who we turn to. And our Father in Heaven never abandons us, never gives up on us, and never stops loving us.
And that’s why the role of our earthly fathers is so important. They have the power and opportunity, as fathers, to show us what our Father in Heaven is like.
Our earthly fathers aren’t perfect. None of us are. I’m not trying to say otherwise. But when a child learns about their Father in Heaven, they can’t remember the Father on the other side of the veil. But they can look at their earthly father (or father-figure) and start to understand what a father looks like.
Eventually, they can build a stronger relationship with their Heavenly Father and understand Him personally, but often it all starts with the child understanding their relationship with their earthly father.
What We Can Learn About God from Fathers
So what does that look like? What does a child learn about God the Father from their earthly father? Here are three of my ideas, but let me know if you have more.
We are taught in the gospel that we need to have a close relationship with our Father in Heaven. We need to love and serve Him, but we are better able to do that when we can recognize how much He loves and blesses us.
Fathers on earth can show children what fatherly love looks like. They can show their children how much they matter, what their potential is, and how much is given to them. They can sacrifice for their children and let their children see their sacrifices. There are so many ways to build up relationships between fathers and children, and these relationships can help the children to see how their Father in Heaven cares about them.
I know I mentioned sacrifice a moment ago, but this is an important one. Our Father in Heaven has sacrificed so much for us because He loves us. He even sacrificed His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation.
When fathers sacrifice for their children, they’re showing their children how much they love them, no matter what mistakes the children may have made. They also show their children that sacrifice has value and purpose, just like the sacrifices our Father in Heaven has made.
God’s work continues throughout eternity. The scriptures say that He has “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33) and that “this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
So fathers can show the importance of work to their children. Whether that work is in an office or at a construction site, whether it’s chores in the home or volunteering in the community, these examples of work set a powerful example to children.
To all you fathers out there (especially my own), I want to say how much I respect you. You carry a great burden as you teach and demonstrate what our Father in Heaven is like. Thank you for carrying that burden. Thank you for making it look like a blessing. And, most of all, thank you for teaching me and all of us what fatherhood really means.