My own father died 38 years ago. But I still remember the steaks he cooked on picnics at the lake. I remember his hand upon my shoulder encouraging me when times seemed tough. And I will never forget the grin on his face when I hit a home run.
I became a father 40 years ago and it seems like yesterday that I stood with my face pressed against the nursery window watching the newborn that wriggled in a bassinet on the other side. I wore a tie, hoping those who saw me would think he had a respectable dad.
Father’s Day started in the United States in 1910 in Spokane, Washington. Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd got the idea while sitting in church observing Mothers Day. Her father raised her after her mother’s early death, and she wanted some way to honor him. The city and its churches adopted the proposal with enthusiasm. Since that time our nation has paused on the third Sunday of June to celebrate the role of fathers in our families.
The role of fathers is unmistakable in the Bible starting with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Honoring our fathers and mothers is the “first commandment with a promise” among the Ten Commandments. (Ephesians 6:3; Exodus 20:12).
The U.S, Department of Health and Human Services recognizes the importance of fathers. Their web site quotes Dr. David Popenoe who makes the observation that "Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring."
If fathers want to have the healthiest influence on their children, it starts with marriage. The DHHS manual for CPS workers states, “A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children's father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother.”
It isn’t rocket science. Good fathers create healthy homes and healthy children. Statistics overwhelmingly indicate that children who grow up in homes without fathers face significantly greater obstacles and have a higher rate of suicide, drug abuse and socio-psychological problems.
According to US Census data, currently one in three children live in a home without their father. This is especially significant when we consider that in 1960 only 11 percent of children lived in a fatherless home.
The Bible indicates that the father-child relationship was important to the coming of Christ. The book of Malachi predicted a prophet that God would send to introduce the Messiah: “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6). When the angel told Zecharias that he would have a son in his old age who would be the forerunner to Jesus, the angel said, “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children.”
This Father’s Day reminds us that few things are as important to our nation and its future as the role of fathers in the lives of their children.