"Does it sadden you when you have to leave your family for long periods of time?" I asked a friend who drives an over-the-road truck. John had just finished telling me of his plans to make it home to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife. He always tried to be present for important events. This time, however, he was encountering problems getting his schedule to cooperate, so John was concerned.
"Yes, I do feel lonely sometimes -- particularly when I'm at a dock loading my truck and I see the employees there getting ready to go home at a designated time. I picture them sitting in front of a warm fireplace or relaxing."
I asked John why he continued with the job, and he answered that he performed the money was good and he usually liked his job.
Families and other people don't always realize or appreciate what a man does -- how much he sacrifices for those he loves. What keeps his spirits up when he feels obligated to work every day performing a job that isn't particularly fulfilling? "If I didn't drive, my family wouldn't enjoy the kind of house we live in or be able to participate in the activities they do. I am sending my two stepchildren to college," John said, "as well as supporting my wife and daughter at home. Those are the kinds of rewards that keep my morale up when it's low."
A father adds stability and provides comfort in homes and within families. John makes a choice to greet each day as a new beginning. He said he believes in keeping a positive attitude, knowing God will get him through.
The kind of father one has on earth affects their image of God, the father. If your dad is kind, just and understanding, you're more likely to perceive God as being a gentle and caring God. On the other hand, if your dad is or was stern and harsh, that is how you might imagine God to be. Real-life fathers accept much responsibility. They set an example of caring and protection. What a privilege.
John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends," describes the devotion of many fathers. The world is filled with such men.
Recently, a young father in the military was having difficulty selling his house to move to a new assignment. I advised him not to be stressing over it. His response astounded me. "Oh! I'm not stressing, I've been in combat, and once you've experienced that danger, nothing much worries you." His statement was yet another example of a father who would have given his life for his family and friends.
A good father is a man who is honorable, industrious, caring and helpful. He gives his children a legacy. A legacy of confidence in their abilities, love for themselves, a sense of responsibility for instilling values in the world, and love and trust in God. He encourages his children to attain an education and shoulder their obligations. Fathers propel them toward attaining their goals and using their intelligence to further what's good in life. I know lots of men like that.
Fatherhood is a privilege and an honor. Fathers, cherish your gift and thank God for the opportunity. Families, realize, appreciate and value that man in your family who is also a wonderful father.
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.