The Power of a Present Father

By Michaela McLean Wilkes Published on June 16, 2024

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” — Billy Graham

Father’s Day is meant to honor and celebrate the fathers in our lives — yet for many, it is a painful reminder of an absent father. There’s little doubt that America is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of fatherlessness. An absent father destroys the nuclear family, many times creating a negative and multigenerational impact.

The Fatherlessness Crisis

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2022 approximately 18.3 million children across America were living without a father in the home, which translates to about 25 percent of children nationwide. Those from fatherless homes fare far worse in overall well-being, behavioral health, education achievement, and increased criminal activity. Studies have revealed that children raised without a father are four times more likely to live in poverty, several times more likely to be incarcerated at some point, twice as likely not to graduate from high school, and seven times more likely to get pregnant in their teens.

America doesn’t need perfect fathers, it needs more present fathers.

However, children with actively engaged fathers perform much better in school than their peers. Some data show that they are 33% less likely to repeat a class and 43% more likely to be A students. Studies show that a present father greatly affects a child’s emotional development.

Simply put: America doesn’t need perfect fathers, it needs more present fathers.

The Spiritual Repercussions of Fatherlessness

Humans were created for relationship with the Father, and therefore all our hearts long for a paternal bond. Children whose fathers are absent often struggle to grasp the concept of God as a loving, caring Father; they might perceive Him as distant and unknowable. If a father is unstable and inconsistent in his behavior, the child might dismiss God as unreliable, or worse, untrustworthy. Therefore, those growing up without fathers often feel alienated, abandoned, and rejected by God.

But our Jesus intimately relates to those who feel abandoned; He felt that way once. He had never known separation from His father until He hung, blameless, on a cross. But in those moments, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

God the Father had to turn His back on God the Son because at that time, He actually became sin for our sakes (2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, Jesus is well able to sympathize with the gut-wrenching experience of children who have been abandoned.

Jesus intimately relates to those who feel abandoned; He felt that way once.

Up to that point, Jesus’s relationship with His father had perfectly epitomized the closeness we were created to enjoy with both God and our earthly fathers. In fact, Jesus said, “I and my father are one” (John 10:30). God the Father called Jesus His “beloved son” (Matthew 3:17). Throughout Jesus’s life, He sought out His Father for compassion, guidance, protection, and connection. Most importantly, Jesus wanted to model His Father’s character.

Even today, fathers model for their sons what it means to be a man. To their daughters, they impart a sense of value and self-worth. British actress Dawn French once said, “It was my father who taught me to value myself. He told me that I was uncommonly beautiful and that I was the most precious thing in his life.”

Shaped by a Steadfast Love

I have been blessed with a dad who has always been there for me. He’s loyal, steadfast, and God-fearing, an embodiment and reflection of God the Father’s agape love toward us. My dad is one of those fathers.

And he has helped make me the woman I am today. Because of his love, I better understand His love. As I reflect upon my childhood, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. My dad is the quintessential “girl dad” to four “girly girls” with big personalities. While he may not be perfect, he was always present. Through countless dance recitals, swim meets, beauty pageants, and state and county fair showings, my dad dropped everything to support his girls. He made all kinds of sacrifices to provide for and protect us. But in all of this, the number one thing that has marked me is his unwavering presence — from watching me take my first steps as a baby to walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

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That was one of the most heart-wrenching moments for my dad: giving my hand in marriage to my husband. He fought back tears, fully grasping the significance of the moment. With every ounce of love he had poured into raising me, he kissed our hands — a tender gesture that spoke volumes. Because he was present from the start, the weight of now allowing someone else to protect me hit him deeply. He had nurtured me with boundless love and compassion, and now, with a mix of pride and sentiment, he was passing the torch of primary provision and protection to my husband. 

Celebrating the Best Father of All

It’s time that our culture restore fathers back to a place of respect and honor, and celebrate every father who is present in trying to do good for their family.

Fathers are the cornerstone of the family, providing structure and protection. When healthy fathers are present, the nuclear family grows tighter, communities get stronger, and the nation prospers as a whole. 

For those who’ve been hurt or abandoned by their earthly fathers: Take comfort in the fact that you no longer have to be fatherless because of Christ. God is the Father who will never fail you. You have been chosen to be a true son or daughter of the Most High King (Romans 8:16–17). Though your journey may have been heart-wrenching and difficult, knowing God as your Father will wash the wounds of fatherlessness out of your spirit and begin to heal your soul. Your earthly father may not have been present, but your Heavenly Father is omnipresent.

And that kind of “present” is the best gift of all.

 

Michaela McLean Wilkes is a spokesmodel, podcaster, young women’s advocate, and award-winning dancer. A former Miss Florida, she also is a faith and culture contributor and social media specialist for Liberty Counsel and Liberty Counsel Action, as well as host of the Be Brave and Beautiful Podcast. Follow her ministry at @bebraveandbeautiful on Instagram. 

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