My Dad’s Sweet, Strong Heart

I was recently asked, “Where do you get your understanding of God?” Because I desire everything in my life: my worldview, my relationships, my actions and reactions, even what I think about myself to be based on who I understand God to be, this is an important question. While both my own study of the Bible and sound teaching from others have shaped my awareness of God, my immediate answer was, “from my father.” I am by nature a picture person and things come to life when I see them. My dad was a picture of a good father. I see God as a Good Father and everything I read and hear about Him verifies that picture.

Before and especially since my dad passed away on August 2, 2013 my thoughts have lingered on this question and my answer. My earthly father gave me the gift of understanding what it’s like to be in relationship with my Heavenly Father. Because of who my dad was and how he treated me, I rest in the unconditional and gracious love of God. I know that’s not the case for everyone. There are some fathers who have abused and/or abandoned their children causing them to feel ashamed, unworthy, and insecure. For you dear ones, I am sorry and I long to help. Hopefully, sharing a bit about my dad will help paint a better picture of a good father and more importantly the Good Father.

A good father provides for his family.

Growing up my sisters and I never wanted for anything. We had clothes to wear, food to eat, doctors to visit, and a comfortable home. My dad worked to care for us. Both he and my mom not only met our needs, but also provided beauty and goodness in our home. Our family’s space in humanity is not of especially high class, but it is of high value and quality.

Luke 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

A good father protects and guides.

Our family vacations were camping trips. One particular camping trip my dad and I set out on a hike with a few fellow campers. I was in my early teens and we were up at about 6,000 feet. After following the trail for a mile or so we separated from our group and lost the trail. We made our way up and down the mountains for hours. There were times the hill was so steep that with every step we took, we slid … rocks and dust cascading down ahead of us. My dad found and followed a creek that eventually led us to our car. Throughout that day, I was never afraid. I wasn’t focused on the treacherous ground on which we were walking. I wasn’t focused on the fact that I didn’t know where we were or where we were going. I was focused on following my dad. As long as I was with him I was kept safe. I was not lost because my dad was leading me.

John 17:11 …Holy Father, keep them in Your name ….

A good father is with you and for you.

My sisters and I were competitive swimmers. Having been an outstanding ball player (lettering in basketball, football, and baseball in high school and competing in the college world series), he had to school himself in swimming. He went so far as to volunteer as official timekeeper and at one point caught a mistake that would have kept me from one of the biggest meets of my career. After my fourth and final chance to qualify for Senior Nationals, the large electronic time keeping board showed that I had missed qualifying by a few hundredths of a second. I was devastated. But my dad noticed the board had “glitched” a few times that day. He investigated because he had timed me as qualifying. He found that the official printed record confirmed I had qualified. Because he was truly with me and was paying attention to me, he questioned what seemed to be a fact and found the truth instead.

Joshua 1:9 ”… the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

To a good father, who you are is more important than what you do.

His wife was important. His daughters were important. What mattered was that we were his. There was no standard to keep or measure up to. I don’t remember having even having the slightest inclination that my dad was disappointed in me… though I know I made many poor choices. There were consequences for particular behaviors and yet in the midst of those teachable moments I was first offered unconditional love and closeness. I knew there was nothing I could do that would separate me from my parents. They loved me. I trusted them and their guidance and I wanted to please them. It is that simple.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that nothing …  will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A good father enjoys life.

Imbedded in his life, was his trademark sense of humor and laughter. You only had to spend a few minutes with him to see the funny wheels turning in his head and the hint of humor in his bright blue eyes. Even as he spent his last days in the ICU, the hospital staff and everyone who visited commented on his humor and likability. His mind was sharp and his wit quick. He laughed with his whole body. It was impossible not to join him.

Nehemiah 8:10 “… for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

A good father never leaves his children.

While my dad’s fleshly heart grew tired and ultimately failed, we know his sweet, strong soul heart will beat eternally in relationship with our Father in Heaven. As we watched him take his final breath the divide between flesh and soul became evident. His flesh became empty. His life departed and we knew he was on a new journey. There is more to life than what we see and know about our flesh. I am grateful for the extraordinary gift of having a dad who exemplified the Father heart of God. My dad may not have been a big “mover and shaker” and his human flesh was imperfect, but the mark of his joy and loving kindness is indelible.

Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

So, back to the original question: Where do you get your understanding of God? The first and best place to look is His Son, Jesus. Jesus tells some great stories about His Father and the picture He paints changes everything! Before Jesus, God was described as many things, but never Father. Jesus came, lived, died, and conquered death to make a way for us to choose to call God our Father.  If God is already your Father, know that nothing else is more important. If He’s not, I truly hope that thinking of Him as “Good” peaks your interest.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.


  1. Martha Whitten says

    Wow, Leslie! What a beautiful tribute to your loving earthly father who allowed his Heavenly Father to shine through in his strong and tender care of you and your family!!!

  2. Tracy says

    Yes! I understand completely. I had the best father in the world, and I got the verse Matt 7:9-11: “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Because my earthly father loved me so unconditionally, that even when I screwed up, he continued to show he loved me, I truly know that my heavenly Father is even better. So many people out there do not get this basic concept.

  3. Judi says

    Beautiful tribute to your Dad and your family. You have that same sweet strong heart and twinkle in your eye:-)

  4. says

    Leslie, I was touched by your tribute to your dad. My dad was a very broken man, abusive in some areas. His brokenness created hunger in me that pointed me to seek God as my good and perfect Father.
    Isn’t God amazing, He will use a good dad or a broken dad, to lead us to knowing our true Father.

  5. garner bern says

    Sort of speaks to the profound relevance of fathers, and God-defined ones at that. Gender really matters.

  6. Debbie says

    That was truly a beautiful picture of your father and a wonderful way for others to see how our Heavenly Father is here for us. To take care of us, lead us, guide us… Thank you Leslie, and God bless you!

  7. Jeniffer Reyes says

    It is so important the role we play as mothers and fathers. I pray each day we – people, that have children – can Know, Understand an Pay attention to it.


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