The role of the father is to give

Fran Maier reflects on fatherhood, how his relationship with his father continues in some sense even a half century after his father’s death, and what it means to be a father to a son. Excerpts:

In my father’s tears were forty-two years of love, marriage, sacrifice, failure, and trying again; of never being able to tell my mother enough that he loved her; of struggling through the Depression together and then pouring out their lives for their kids; of having, at the end of it all, just each other. The story of two people is only really known by God and themselves. And every marriage sealed by love, whatever its mistakes and stumbles, is better than the best novel, because it’s real. …

I’ve learned that father love is a hard love; hard because a father is rarely understood by his son until the son too is a father. So much of a father’s love can seem stern; so often a child sees no further than a father’s discipline. But ask around: The father who says he likes being tough on his kids is a liar. Fathers want to be loved, and too often they’re lonely. …

The role of the father is to give; and through that giving to overcome, little by little, the selfishness and ingratitude that come so easily to every child.

Like marriage, I’ve found fatherhood to be a bracingly real new state in life. The reality of God’s love is revealed to you in a way that is totally unearned every morning, when you wake up to the cries, smiles, and talk of your son. You savor the challenges of day-to-day in a way you couldn’t have imagined before. And this savoring comes from the awesome realization, repeated daily and very similar to waking up next to your wife, that—incredibly—I get to live this life.

We’ll never be able to properly show the depths of our love to our spouse or to our children, but we can strive to live in a daily way that points to God and anchors our lives in our Lord’s promises. God is the author of goodness and the source of whatever strengths we have in this life. A strong father knows this and lives it.