Father's Day: Dads, 'be there' for your children

Charles Billingsley and his father. (Courtesy/Becky Stanton)I'm one of the lucky ones. I was privileged enough to be raised in the home of a father who loves me and who has stayed faithful to my mom all these years. I have never known the pain of growing up in a broken home, and for that I feel very blessed.

My dad is my hero. He's 75 now, and as I reflect on his life, there is one word that describes him better than any other: faithfulness. I'm reminded of his compassion as a father, his power as a preacher, his gentleness as a husband and his integrity as a man. In all things, he has remained faithful. It inspires me to do the same.
 
But not only has my dad been faithful, he's also just "been there."
 
Whether it was a football game to see me play running back in high school, or my first concert as a Christian artist, or my marriage to Shae, or the birth of my children, Dad has been there. I could always trust him and always had a certain level of comfort and confidence just knowing he was present.
 
In 1976, I was 6 years old and my family lived on the road because my dad was a full-time evangelist. We were in the middle of Wyoming when we arrived at a small church for my dad to start a revival meeting. We got there and noticed the church was building a new sanctuary. Since we were early -- because my dad is always early -- we took a walk through the new construction.There was no roof yet, just open rafters. As the late afternoon sun cast large shadows through the rafters, this 6-year-old boy got scared. I held onto him and then looked up and said, "I hope no boogie monster comes to get us! But, I'm not afraid, because my daddy's with me."
 
My dad said when I told him those words he felt so big and strong that he could have taken on an army of boogie monsters. So he held onto me.
 
If I stumbled or if I fell, he still had hold of me and wasn't going to let me go. This brought me confidence and calmed my fears. He didn't have to say or do anything else. He was just there.
 
Now, many years later, as a father of two awesome teenage boys, I'm learning this lesson all over again. As dad, I just need to "be there."
 
My boys need to know that even when I'm not there physically, I'm still available anytime they need me. They need to know that I've chosen them over anything else and they are second to no one except the Lord and their mom. I've learned that giving them a word of wisdom can be valuable, practicing what I preach in front of them is useful, but just being there is priceless.
 
Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. A few years ago I had the opportunity to sing prior to former President George W. Bush speaking at a conference. The date fell on my youngest son Cooper's birthday. He was 10 at the time, and so in my desire to sing for the president, I asked Cooper if he would like to go with me to meet the former president. Thinking that he would think that was a cool deal, I basically talked him into going with me for his birthday.
 
A few weeks before the event Cooper decided he didn't want to go. Of course, I was already committed by that point and had to be there.
 
I'll never forget the night of the event when I called home. My wife informed me that Cooper had been crying his eyes out all day because I wasn't there for his birthday and had chosen to sing instead. The fact that it was for a president mattered nothing to him. To Cooper, I'm not a singer; I'm dad. And I wasn't there.
 
I could cite several other similar moments with my son Caleb as well. The truth is, these memories break my heart. They remind me of the things I've sometimes done as a father to further my agenda instead of meeting their needs. So, I'm trying. I don't want these boys to leave for college with memories of a dad who wasn't there. Balance seems impossible to find at times, especially when it comes to traveling. But even in my absence, I want them to know my heart and my mind are with them. I want to "be there" always.
 
This Father's Day, I encourage you dads to just "be there." Be present, in the moment and engaged. Do what they want to do and set your agenda aside. There will be plenty of days after they are gone to pursue the hobby or the next deal. Just be there with them and for them.
 
One more thing: Don't ever forget we worship a heavenly Father who is there for all of us. He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. So if your earthly father has passed on, or if you were a foster child and never knew your dad, or if your father turned his back on you as a child, rest assured that your everlasting Father loves you unconditionally with a love that is deeper than the ocean and wider than the sky. He has words of wisdom for you in His Holy Word. He has paid for your sins with the death of His only Son, Jesus. And He will never turn His back on you, ever.
 
He is always, always there.
 
Charles Billingsley (online at www.charlesbillingsley.com) oversees the music ministry of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. He also is an artist-in-residence and instructor at Liberty University. His latest recording, "Right Here" (StowTown Records), released this spring.

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