“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5
While cleaning up the other day, I discovered a box of photos. Among the photos, I found one of me at seventeen taken at my high school prom. Certainly, I was the definition of “cool,” wearing my gray tuxedo and tennis shoes; sporting a mullet that would have made Billy Ray Cyrus jealous. It is not unusual to find an old photograph, but this one stood out. It was old, faded, and crumpled. I looked on the back where “Love James,” was written. This photo had once belonged to Luke.
My father left the night I was conceived. When I was born, “Unknown” was typed on my birth certificate where my father’s name should have been. My grandfather stepped in and helped to raise me. But after my grandmother died, some government bureaucrat decided that my grandfather was incapable of raising me on his own. So, I went into the foster care system.
Someone once said, “You don’t miss something you never had.” That’s a lie. An unloved child will spend his or her life trying to fill that ache inside with the wrong things. The rise in poverty, crime, dropouts, teen pregnancy, addictions, and suicide can be traced in a large part to fatherless kids. I desperately missed having a father until Luke came into my life.
Luke was one of my high school teachers. Luke and his wife, Joan, had no children of their own. They took me in, and Luke became like a father to me.
I went to college, enlisted in the army, and eventually married and started a family. Because of the busyness of life, I didn’t call or visit Luke very often. When I finally got around to making time for him, he was already dying from cancer. During one of our last visits, I noticed his wallet was open on a table beside his hospital bed. My crumpled photograph was visible above his driver’s license. Luke had carried it for over twenty-five years.
As I looked at the photograph, I felt love for the man, who, without my knowledge, spent years loving me. I imagine him showing the picture to his friends and saying, “This is my son. He’s in the army.” Or “This is my son. He just finished his doctorate.” Or “This is my son. I am so proud of the man that he has become.” Luke loved me even when I was too busy to love him.
Webster’s dictionary states that a “father” is “a man who has begotten a child.” In other words, he is the sperm donor – Mr. “Unknown” on my birth certificate. Webster’s also defines “to father” as “to accept responsibility for.” Thank God, for men like Luke, who accept responsibility for children, and love the fatherless.
The point is: Any man can father a child, but it takes a real man to be a dad. If you had a dad who loved you, take the time to let him know how much you love him. It would mean more than a necktie this Father’s Day.
If you never had a dad, remember that God is a Father to the fatherless. Luke’s crumpled photo reminded me of another Father’s love. A Father, who is always there. A Father, who is watching your life as it unfolds on this planet. A Father, who loves you.
James Collins is a pastor, writer, and columnist. Follow him on Twitter @collins_point, Facebook James Collins “The Point Is,” or at the website thepointis.net.