Storage containers and piles of my belongings lined the hall, ready to make the 18-hour drive. I was excited to start my internship at FamilyLife®, but it meant moving away from everything I knew and making my transition into adulthood.

As I entered this unfamiliar territory, I knew I could always count on my dad. And that was enough for me to have the courage to step out on my own and pursue God’s calling.

My parents have been my greatest teachers as I’ve made the transition into adulthood. As the leader of our family, my dad, especially, has played an irreplaceable role in my life. Here are five ways my dad helped me grow as a young adult.

1. He knew when to protect me and when to push me.

My dad has always been a safe person for me to go to when I needed support. He gives me his input while challenging me to problem-solve and make decisions for myself.

Last fall, I sensed the Lord might be calling me to move away from the small town in Pennsylvania where I grew up. I was having a hard time because home was familiar, and therefore, secure. My dad challenged me to think through what it meant to be obedient to God’s calling.

Shortly after I decided to trust God with my future, I was invited to learn more about working with FamilyLife at Cru® headquarters in Orlando, Florida. My dad’s willingness to lovingly confront me and the things I was holding on to prepared me to step into my current role as a FamilyLife intern.

2. He showed up when I needed him.

During my senior year of college, I received some devastating news that changed the course of my life. It felt like the world around me stopped. All I wanted to do was go home.

I called my dad and told him what happened. I could tell he hurt for me. He left work early to drive four hours to pick me up so we could process and grieve together.

When I called my dad, I didn’t worry whether or not he would answer. Just like I trust that God is listening when I come to Him. My dad’s love reminds me that family is the safest place to be when you’re hurting. And it is always okay to come to your father (earthly or Heavenly).

Jesus reminds us He, too, will be there when we need Him: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

3. He encouraged me to confidently embrace my identity in Christ.

Recently, I struggled with feeling rejected for living out my faith. My dad listened intently as I asked some hard questions. “Doesn’t being ‘the good girl’ make me more vulnerable?” “How do I live out my faith in a world that wants to destroy it?”

My dad reminded me that goodness will always be challenged by darkness in this world. But there is nothing to fear because we already know goodness wins. These words of wisdom come from John 16:33 where Jesus tells His disciples they will face opposition for following Him, but they can find comfort in knowing there is victory in Christ.

You don’t need to have all the answers for your kids as they transition into adulthood, but it’s important to lead them back to the Father who does.

4. He taught me to grieve with a sense of hope.

“In seasons like this, we need to count our blessings,” my dad reminded us often during a year of unexpected hardships. He was consistently looking for evidence of God’s faithfulness. His unwavering trust in the Lord allowed him to be an anchor for our family.

After my grandma passed away, I wondered how we could handle another loss. I looked to my dad as the leader of our family and was surprised to see he was maintaining a sense of hope while grieving.

I asked how he could look forward to the future when it felt like we were all waiting for the next bad thing to happen. He explained that sometimes the bad will seem to outweigh the good in life, but we will find the good if we continue to look for it.

Even if there is nothing good about the situation itself, we can hope in the fact that God is still working. There is much security in knowing God is with us and that He uses even the hard stuff to accomplish His good purposes (see Romans 8:28).

First Thessalonians 4:13 reminds us we were not made for this world. When we grieve the painful realities of this life, we can hold on to the hope of eternity.

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5. He helped me to not take myself too seriously.

As I got older, life got heavier, and I felt discouraged. My dad validated my concerns, but he also reminded me to keep things in perspective. No matter how scary or painful things were in the moment, they would eventually pass.

One way my dad helped me see this was through his sense of humor. Once, during my senior year of high school, I was in the emergency room icing my swollen jaw after a car accident. A technician had commented that I should be out having fun with friends on a Friday night, not getting a CT scan.

Trying to make light of a bad situation, my dad looked at me with a smirk and said, “Just imagine what your senior pictures will look like if you have to get your jaw wired shut!” He proceeded to describe how “great” my smile would look in those pictures. I knew he was joking, and it was nice to laugh at the end of a hard day.

My dad’s balance of acknowledging reality and looking for moments of lightheartedness helps me move forward in my own life as I transition into adulthood.

Your kids’ transition into adulthood needs your leadership

What does all of this mean for you dads who are reading this? Remember, you are an integral part of your child’s transition into adulthood.

In times of uncertainty, let them know they can come to you to get clarity and direction. When you see them struggling spiritually or giving into despair, fight for them. Learn when to protect them and when to push them. Show up during their best and worst moments. Encourage them to embrace their identity in Christ. Show them how to hope in the Lord. And help them find moments of joy and laughter (even if it does mean acting a little goofy in the ER).

Even though I’ve moved away, I know I’ll always need and want my dad. I’m so thankful for his leadership in my life.

Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Alex McMurray is a writing intern for FamilyLife at Cru headquarters in Orlando. She graduated from Cedarville University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a concentration in child and family studies. She grew up in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania with her parents and older brother. In her free time, she enjoys going on outdoor adventures with her friends and playing card games.