My Uncle Anthony, who was more like a father to me, passed away due to complications from COVID-19. During his stay in the hospital, I began to reflect on our time together and what it means to be a father. My biological father died when I was young, but God blessed with many positive male influences, who taught me the definition of fatherhood. No one embodied the characteristics of fatherhood more than my Uncle Anthony.
So, what does it mean to be a father? Fatherhood is not determined by age, because some men grow older but never mature. Fatherhood is not determined by the ability to reproduce, because some men have children and abandon them. Fatherhood is not determined by a man’s ability to provide materialistic goods (hear me out on this one) because what good is it to provide clothes and shoes but not the emotional support a child needs to develop? No boy is born a man and no man is born a father - it takes time, experience and sacrifice to become all that a father should be.
Because of our relationship with God, we know that a good father provides, protects and loves.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:26 NIV
A good father feeds his children, but not just solid foods. He feeds his children through instruction, time and discipline. Too often, we view a man’s financial resources as the only way to provide for a child, but children require more than money. A good father instructs and teaches the way a child should go (Psalm 32:8). He gives his time to develop a meaningful relationship with his children and disciplines them (Proverbs 3:12) when they are wrong, so that they may grow into respectful, caring and mature adults.
“May the LORD answer you when you are in trouble! May the God of Jacob protect you!”
– Psalm 20:1 ESV
Just as God protects us, it is a father’s responsibility to protect their children. Protecting children from harmful people, substances, thoughts and circumstances are important in the development of a child, but equally as important is protecting children from the dangers within. Depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and fear are silent killers of children. A good father protects their children by encouraging them (Joshua 1:9), fighting for them (Exodus 14:14) and like Christ, sacrificing their wants for that of their children (Luke 22:42).
“As a father is kind to his children, so the LORD is kind to those who honor him.”
– Psalm 103:13 GNT
Who does not yearn for the love and approval of their father? There is nothing more powerful than God’s love for us and a good father passes that same love unto their children. We know that love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). So, love your children (sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, godchildren, etc.) unconditionally as your Father in Heaven loves you.
There will be no monuments erected of my uncle and no prolific biographies written about his life and yet, he was the greatest man I knew, a gentle and compassionate soul and one of the best men to ever walk this earth. He was a good, good father and what a privilege and blessing it was to be loved by him.
Dedicated to my abba, Anthony Thompson