You were of the generation that had the choice to participate in the birth of your child. Your father had to wait outside and your son, well, he was expected to go inside. Your generation of fathers was the first to be given a choice and you chose to be there. Many of your contemporaries scoffed at the idea but not you. You chose to stay, through the hours of stop-start labor, through the pain, through the mess, holding me tight. You never left, not even for a moment and you never have – not even for a moment.
From the very first breath of each child, you have modeled what it looks like to be a father who stays. Through sleepless nights and diapers and sleepless nights and teenage years, you were there. The father who drove that fifteen year old to Saturday night outings and the father who volunteered to stay up late so that you could personally drive them home again – while driving their friends home too. You were the father who stayed up. Five hours later you would get up to finalize your Sunday sermon.
I see our son staying for his sons. Staying beside them for bedtime stories and scraped knees and two-year-old tantrums. I see our son staying for the mother of his sons, choosing her and choosing them. I am confident that our son will stay for the more difficult years ahead because he has seen it in you – a father who stays. For our son there is no other way.
There are many fathers who choose not to. They choose their own life and walk away – some physically leave, others leave in ways that hurt just as much. Not you. You chose to stay for their very first breath and you will be there for them until your very last.
You are not a wordy father teaching life lessons through anecdotes and stories. Rather you choose actions. You work for them, you build for them, you labor for them, you stand beside them, you hug, you laugh, you shout, you cry, you turn up and you stay. As long as you have strength in your mortal body, our children can count on you. Always.
You have been there for birthdays and holidays and bright days and dark days. You have been there for sports days and ballet recital days, for rights of passage days like baptism and becoming a teenager and getting married. Your shoulders are strong and they have been there for tears and for leaning on and for protecting and for loving.
Absent fathers leave a tender spot in their children, a deep vulnerability and a hurt that only the Perfect Father can heal. But, like strong bones deep within keep us upright, fathers who stay, build in a child a strength they don’t always remember they have – until they need it. You have built strong bones in the anatomy of our children and I see them building this in theirs. Our children have this ability because, for your generation, there was a choice and you chose to stay and to participate.
You have modeled for your son, and recently also for your son-in-law, how to be a father who stays. They in turn now get to model to their sons how to, not only be a father one day, but also how to be a son.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:1-4