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What it Means to be a Father

When I was a little girl, my Dad told me I could be anything, do anything I wanted. He helped me dream. He bragged on me. He teased me–especially the time when I was about three and we were at a Sunday School picnic. They had a spike-driving contest every year to see who could hammer a railroad spike into a square piece of lumber with the least strokes. Dad always won, hands down. Three hits and that baby was embedded! I was so proud of him!

So this particular Sunday, feeling shy, I walked over and put my arms around his leg. Suddenly I heard his gentle voice. “Carrie, I think you have the wrong daddy.” I looked up and, to my chagrin, realized I had hold of the leg of another man, one I was sure at my brilliant age wore a toupee. I quickly released this man, who was smiling while the other men chuckled, and I ran to the “right” daddy!

As I grew, I didn’t always like my father’s instructions or correction. He didn’t often raise his voice, but a quiet “Carrie” along with “that look” could stop me in my tracks.

But he didn’t just correct. He spend time playing on the floor with my brothers and me. Made time for Daddy-daughter dates as I grew. Cheered on my accomplishments. Prayed fervently when I ministered in the ghetto. Encouraged friendships with others who also trusted my Jesus, both my own age and his and Mom’s age. I always knew Dad loved me. I figured I’d still be “Daddy’s girl” at 80, although he passed twenty years ago.

How I treasure the love, presence and security of my dad in my life.

My husband, Don, has five children, four in-laws, ten grandchildren, and two greats! He dearly loves his family, watching out for their needs and supporting their endeavors. He also loves my family (they’re all ours!), as evidenced by the way he cared for my mother during the years of our marriage, and by his love for my siblings and their children. In many ways he is like my father. Gracious, hospitable, discerning, godly, quiet, and wise.

To read four recommendations for helping your child feel safe, seen, soothed and secure from the beautiful photo at left, see Kirsten Russell’s Instagram at

…is if a child has at least one person who they feel securely attached to and who shows up consistently.

I know many have not experienced the love of a righteous father, as I have. My heart grieves for these, as a father’s love is foundational to who we are and become.

Good fathers are present. They listen to their children and take their concerns seriously. They build up, affirm, challenge, and correct. They make home a safe haven for their children. Fathers impact the future of their children in significant ways.

Prager U says “Statistically speaking, a child who grows up without a father in the home is more likely to experience homelessness, commit crime, serve time in prison, abuse drugs, drop out of school, be obese, suffer from poverty, and so much more. And the United States has the highest share of single parenting in the world.”

And yet, there is a Father who reaches out to us, through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who says “I am with you. I will be your father. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Bring all your burdens to Me, because I care for you. Confess the ways you’ve walked away from Me, and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Paraphrased from Psalm 68:5, Hebrews 13:5, I Peter 5:7, and John 3:16.)

The apostle Paul had wise advice for both children and fathers when he wrote,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4, NIV

If you’re a father, spend intentional, loving time with your child.

Whether you’re a child or adult, treasure the moments you have with a loving, imperfect father. One day he will be gone and you will miss those moments, as I do!

A righteous man walks in integrity; blessed are his children after him.

Proverbs 20:7 –


  1. Shirley Buxton says:

    Carol, this is such an excellent piece. Filled not only with emotion, but with hard facts, both from secular sources and from God’s Word. Thank you for this insight into your childhood, and for throwing a challenge to all who care about our drifting society.

    1. carolnl says:

      Thank you Shirley. Yes, our society is drifting and good fathers are so needed. You had that in how you and your husband raised your children. What a blessed example!

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