The deepest and most profound lessons I’ve learned in Christian ministry and in my personal walk with God have been the result of my successes and failures as a father. I have five children who are as different from one another as the parts of the world in which they were born.
In a house full of children, there is an abundance of humorous stories and possible sermon illustrations. But on a deeper level, fatherhood allows me to connect naturally with our community through the lives of my children. I’ve met with their doctors, teachers, and coaches, as well as with other children and their parents.
On the one hand, I never realized how profound a sense of love and protection I could feel for another human being until I became a father. On the other hand, I’ve never had my patience so profoundly tested.
God reveals to us the depths of our capacity to love. And with His help, our need to grow into the image of Christ can be realized through the ministry of parenting.
Recently, I’ve been reading about the stages of life. First, we search for meaning and purpose. Second, we find a career to pursue and a community in which to live, and perhaps a spouse with whom to share our lives. And then we raise a family, through which we learn to give ourselves away. Finally in our senior years, we try to live with meaning and purpose and to leave an enduring legacy.
In some ways, the parable of The Prodigal Son represents these stages. We can identify with him through our longing for meaning and purpose. We can relate to the elder brother as he attempts to be a responsible member of his family and community.
However, what can we see in the role of the father?
As for me, I see him as a father who was present and engaged. He didn’t leave his son, his son left him. And when his son finally returned, the father was there for him. He actually ran to greet his son. He was a father who sought to restore relationships with both his kids.
I deeply desire to emulate such a compassionate father and to leave an enduring legacy for my children.
—Major Paul Pelletier