Dennis Rainey, co-founder of FamilyLife, was driving home at the end of one particularly long day, looking forward to relaxing. But his plans came to a halt when he turned on the radio and heard someone say, “I hope you did something of value today. You wasted a whole day if you didn’t.”

Realizing the most important work of his day was yet to be done, 10 minutes later he turned into his driveway. Six pairs of eyes soon surrounded his car with shouts of “Daddy … Daddy … Daddy!”

“I did my best that night, and on the many nights that followed while my kids were growing up,” Dennis writes, “to leave, with God’s help, a legacy that counts. A legacy that will outlive me.”

Dennis recognized something many ignore: Fathers are important.

Despite this, dads are often underappreciated. So we decided to enlist the readers of our e-zine, Help & Hope from FamilyLife, to help us honor fathers for what they do well.  From the dozens of responses, we noticed a few themes.

Spiritual leadership

Over and over, Help & Hope readers applauded the dads in their lives for taking the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 seriously: “These words, that I command you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children …”

Beth wrote to say that her husband does just that. She said that he “… leads in family worship, Bible reading, and prayer; seeks to love their mama well and disciplines himself for the purpose of godliness.”

Jacqueline wrote that she appreciates the important role her husband plays in her family. “My husband led me to Christ and he leads our family… There is no doubt in my mind that we are still married today only because he has made God the center of our family.”

On this topic others wrote:

“Every Sunday morning he takes us to church instead of playing golf.” –Gina

“He loves God. He prays for us and prays for his spiritual growth, so that he will continue to change and guide his family in God’s path.” – Jenny

“He encouraged us to wait on God’s timing, to not be bitter against the people who had wronged us, and to see that God was sovereign in it all and working for our good.” – Susan

“Though he is not the biological father to my children, he treats them as if they are his own. … For my daughter he describes what a man should be in a godly way and how he should treat her as a lady, for my son he shares how much he respects him … He prays with and over all of our children and shares with them what God lays on his heart. I admire the openness— that he is not afraid to share his weaknesses and his fears with our children.” – Raquel

“He lives out the Bible and his role as a godly man in front of the children. – Tearrah

Living examples

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am in Christ.” Like Paul, any Christ-follower should be an imitator of His love and grace. And when fathers do this well, it really stands out.

Reba said her husband models humility: “He talks with our son about mistakes he has made in his life that he hopes our son will avoid.” She added that her own father’s example had a big impact on her—it taught her never to punish in anger or give consequences in anger.

Cindy described her father: He not only said, “Give to those in need,” but also modeled generosity, even when he lost his job. She recalled shopping at a grocery store with her dad when she was a child. They bought the cheapest macaroni and cheese and cans of pork and beans they could find. But after purchasing 10 of each, they gave one box of macaroni and cheese and one can of pork and beans to their church. The next day someone from the church delivered three bags of groceries to her family—one had the macaroni and cheese and beans they had given on top. “We cried,” she wrote.

Terri said her father puts God first, her mother second, and his children third.  That example has “impacted me most about my dad. … Nothing else has ever come before us, in childhood or now. I have never doubted his love.”

Sheryl’s dad didn’t just encourage her to read God’s Word. She wrote, “I often would walk past our living room to see my dad reading his Bible.”

And Isaac is very grateful that his father demonstrated that “being a man has less to do with winning the argument or saying the last word, and more with humbly leading the family to the throne room of God in prayer.” His father’s example has inspired Isaac to react to anger by first “laying it before God, asking Him to change my heart, and then addressing the issue in question with the grace He supplies.”

A father’s presence

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,” says Psalm 127:3. And involved fathers show this by being present in their kids’ lives.

Mindy’s husband has backed up his words by his actions. “He is present and he truly models the importance of being together as a father,” she wrote.

A grown woman now, Susan said one of her favorite memories is about her dad driving the bus for her school’s track team. “I ran long distance races,” she said, “and he would stand by the final corner of the track, where no one else usually stood, and cheer me on.”

And Lynn’s husband showed up unannounced every year on their daughter’s birthday, whether she was at school or practicing for a sports team. Once he came dressed as Aristotle to her class on Greek and Roman literature.  On their daughter’s first year away from home, “he flew to Wheaton College … with a cake and flowers and led everyone at lunch in singing ‘Happy Birthday.'”

Another mom, Donna, wrote that her husband “loves to connect and laugh with his boys. He finds things in common, will watch TV, or play ball. He doesn’t want to just correct.”

Carla’s husband enjoys golf and uses it as an opportunity to have a relaxed fun time to interact with their six sons. “When they were little, with their plastic or junior clubs, it was often more frustrating or comedic than fun,” she said, “but now the oldest is 26 and the youngest is 15 and they enjoy the game and great conversation.”

Dennis’s dad worked a lot but was always available to the kids. Dennis said that his dad “took an interest in my life. Told me to remove the word ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary.”

Gina said her husband spends special, separate time with each of their kids. He also looks for opportunities to teach the children about life skills, like using maps and finding their way around their town. And he helps them think about the future.

Wendy and her husband have five kids, ages 5-16. She wrote, “He is doing a great job engaging the kids on their level, telling the 5-year-old hilarious bedtime stories, teaching the middles the ins and outs of chess, and watching dad/teenager humor movies that Mom has no interest in.  Bonding with each, appropriately.”

Stepping up to responsibility

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Responsible fathers have to trust God’s plans as they follow His blueprints for their families, even when it’s difficult.

David wrote that although his father was absent emotionally and was quite demanding at times, he provided well for his family. “It was his love language,” David said. His father had lived through World War II and knew the difficulties that living without can bring. “For him [providing] was the best way he could show us he loved us.

Before Nancy and Mike had kids, her husband was not very interested in housework. But that changed after they had twins. “I didn’t have to beg, threaten, or nag,” she wrote. “He knew there was just no way I would ever keep up while caring for two colicky babies all day.” Nancy’s husband readily accepted his new responsibilities, and when he got home from work he held a crying baby. He also began a lifetime of helping with the housework. “Those twins are 11 now, but he still helps by doing dishes almost every night while I am tucking five kiddos in bed!”

And Pamela recalled when one of her sons lost his financial aid after his first semester in college because he was “goofing around.” After living back at home for a couple of months, Dad explained what was expected of him—and this included finding a job by a specific date. True to his word, when the son showed no interested in being responsible, Dad told him told to move out. “But praise God,” Pamela wrote, “eight years later this son has been thriving on his own and has expressed his gratitude to my husband for showing him tough love.”

Well deserved applause

When Chrystie was about 7 years old, she and her dad were in their backyard, peering into the dark night sky. “There were the most stars we have ever seen, even to this day,” she said.

Now, decades later, she still remembers that night, and so does her dad. When Chrystie and her father happen to be together on a starry night, he will glance over at her. “Neither of us need to say anything,” she said. “But he always asks, ‘Do you remember what this reminds me of?'”  And then he smiles.

Yes, fathers are important. The wise ones want to leave a legacy that counts. And if you are married to one of these amazing men, take some time on Father’s Day to express your appreciation for a sometimes thankless job. Gather the children together and give him some well deserved applause!

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