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Image by Annie Spratt
  • Writer's pictureEthan Voss

A Father's Blessing

Everything was changing. I had no idea why my dad was leaving the company he built from the ground up with no plans for the future. I had no idea why I was leaving my friends at my small Lutheran school as I transferred to a recently formed private school closer to home. I did not understand why we were leaving the church my parents were married in, I was baptized in and spent so many years serving together.

While everything seemed to change so quickly, I trusted that my father had a plan for our family.

My dad will be the first person to tell you that he spent forty years in the church and truly had no idea who God was on a personal level. Growing up traditionally Lutheran, he went to church every week, served on the Lutheran school board, and participated weekly in service opportunities at our church while possessing no real relationship with Christ. He lived a life striving for worldly success leading to a lack of satisfaction and a constant feeling of needing to work harder. I saw this first-hand and the strain it had on our relationship.

For most of his life, my dad had a difficult relationship with his father. Grandpa was a man of hard labor and tough love who worked his entire life making minimum wage to support his family even through some of the toughest moments. As a kid, I felt the same way with my father who originally followed in the footsteps of his own paternal relationship.

Because of our similar personalities, we constantly butt heads, argued, and had a relationship built on frustration as my dad always pushed me to work harder and live up to an ideal he had for me. I felt time and time again that I let him down and always worked to make him proud rather than enjoying the activities for myself.

All of this changed when he surrendered. When I was in fourth grade, my dad told me he was leaving his job, the job that let us go on multiple vacations to Disney, trips to our condo at the lake, and paid for my tuition. I had no idea what was going on.

I will never forget my father telling me for the first time that he surrendered his life to Christ. I was confused. Dad was already a believer. We went to church every week. I went to a Christian school, and he was even baptized. From this moment forward I saw every aspect of his life change. As he read through Matthew late one night he realized he only had knowledge of Christ and no relationship. My father became a new man and a truly great example of light in my life.

As he looked for a new job, he read a book called “The Ultimate Pardon” about a former criminal who was radically transformed by the power of the gospel. The job search was put on the back burner as his time was now consumed with learning more about this man and the prison ministry that shares the light of Christ with incarcerated men and women across the country.

It took a lot for me to understand why my dad traded trips to Disney World for trips to prison, but I saw him grow in every possible way into the father he is today. When I was in high school my dad gave me a hug, blessed me, told me of his love for me, and prayed with me. While I am not a fan of physical touch this moment broke me more than anything in my life. It showed me his love and willingness to be uncomfortable with a blessing as a symbol for all the world to see.

I believe every father should hug their children and pray with them even when it is uncomfortable. Years later as I went to college I truly realized how much my father meant to me. I was surrounded by students who lacked the blessings I had in a dad and I could see first-hand what a gift it is to have a father who leads his children to Christ.

There is no greater influence in the life and faith of a child than the testimony of their father. I truly believe I gave my life to Christ because I knew that if God could change my dad from a man of anger to a man of love then He could change my life too.

Before my grandfather passed away, Christ restored the relationship between him and my dad. He makes all things new again and can soften even the hardest of hearts when they are willing to surrender. Last year I was blessed with the opportunity to join my dad on a trip to a local prison to help lead a Christmas service for hundreds of inmates. I had no idea what I was doing but followed my father’s example and surrendered my trust that God was in control. At the conclusion of the service, I watched the max security men, four times larger than me, break down in tears as they felt the power of the Spirit working in their lives. I prayed with many of them and learned of their struggles and their desire to surrender.

In all of the tears, rejoicing, and moving pieces of the night I noticed my dad waving me down to the front of the small gymnasium where he was with a man who was truly broken. As I hurried down the stairs I learned of this man’s strained relationship with his earthly father as he hit rock bottom and admitted his addictions and failures. My dad put his arm around me as we showed him how God can transform any relationship and mend a broken connection between a father and a son just like He did with us. This example is just a glimpse into the relationship God offers to his children. In America, we do not have a drug problem, an alcohol problem, a political problem, or a crime problem. We have a father problem.

Ask any prisoner how their relationship is with their earthly father and you will hear time and time again of men living a devastating life because of the direct influence of not having a strong father leading their child in love. Christian men need to be the loudest voice for our future generations while living a life following the example set by Christ. There is no greater personal example of the gospel than a father who loves his son, through discipline and grace, while pointing their child to surrender to the one who makes all things new.

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