Just Like Dad
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
Here is a picture of my 45-year-old best friend, Brian Holoway, with his grandsons. He is one of the best fathers and grandfathers I know. We both played in the NFL together, got married, and became fathers. We both wanted to be great dads, but we needed to learn how to be the dad our children needed us to be.
What kind of dad did you have?
Are you desperate to live up to someone else’s expectations or memory, even years or decades after that person has passed on?
Being the son of a military hero who died while saving civilian lives contributed to the pressure I felt to achieve throughout my whole life. My mom couldn’t let go of his memory, and there wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t say I reminded her of him. Her description of him shaped me profoundly. More than anything, I wanted him to be proud of me and how I lived. Being good wasn’t good enough—I had to be perfect! This made it almost impossible for me to rest because I had to get better every day to make myself worthy of his sacrifice.
When I made the team in my rookie year in the NFL, my mom came to see me. “Son, did you know that your father, Ed, and your stepfather, Dan, had dreams of playing professional football, and now you are fulfilling their dreams?” She meant well, but my mom was putting even more pressure on me—now I had to fulfill my dreams and the dreams of my two fathers!
In my story, my absent father was almost too good, while in other stories, absent fathers are heartbreakingly bad. In either case, what’s missing is a father who is both present and loving.
In his fascinating book Faith of the Fatherless, social scientist Paul Vitz writes that in his study of the world’s most influential atheists—including Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, John-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and H. G. Wells—all had one thing in common: “they had defective relationships with their fathers.”
When Vitz studied the lives of influential theists—such as Blaise Pascal, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, Søren Kierkegaard, G. K. Chesterton, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—he found that they enjoyed close and loving relationships with their fathers.
An absent father conditions a child’s heart to believe that he or she is alone and unloved. Absent fathers wound hearts, even as they give children broken pictures of what God the Father is like. Who could blame such a child for thinking, If God the Father is like my father, then I hope God the Father doesn’t exist.
When we have absent fathers, we are forced to make our own names. For some, that name is Influential Atheist. For others, like me, that name is Overachiever and Family Honor-Bearer. Fortunately, God the Father has called me by a new name, into a clear destiny of being a son, with a peace that reminds me why I’m still here.
Father, thank-You for bringing me out of the prison of living up to the expectations of those around me. Thank-You for calling me Your own and reminding me each day that You love me and have a good plan for me and my family. Thank-You for all You’ve done and continue to do in my life as I press into my identity as Your Beloved. Lead me and guide me today as I take on new challenges as a parent and show me how to instill hope and love in the hearts of my kids. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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"I realized I was not seeing my children the way God sees them. Learning I was a beloved son of my Heavenly Father has changed my life and how I father my sons. I am incredibly grateful, Ed, for your ministry.”
Ed Tandy McGlasson gives a great message on being a father in his book The Difference A Father Makes, which God placed in my hands a few years back. It challenged me to be the father that Jesus has called me to be.
Thank you so much for your devotionals everyday. I love diving into them! Starting my mornings with the daily bread really empowers me through the rest of the day.
Your coaching and ministry to my son and me has healed a 30-year wound. My dad never taught me how to be a father, and never blessed me in my life. My son and I, for the first time, have forgiven each other. It has been one of the most powerful things I have experienced in my life.
I thank you for the insight and the meeting tonight. I really feel some hope. I believe God put you in my life to give me the hope that I need and coach me to be able to work on my marriage and with my daughter.
Because of Jesus becoming the center of my life, I've had the best month in my entire life! I fully expect it to get better and better, sweeter and sweeter as I learn to lean into the Father's invitation to live under His smile. Thank you for your efforts in the fathering arena on behalf of all His beloved adopted sons and daughters.
Thank you, my brother, for your daily devotional emails. Bless you as you continue to serve the Lord.
God used you not only to set me free from the hurt I had carried from my broken father, but I was able to forgive him and share the love of Jesus with my dad. My life will never be the same.
Thank you for the time spent together on Zoom. It pointed me towards hope and recovery. I look forward to benefit from the program, and I look forward to being an excellent dad to my family!