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Is there anything sweeter than a new father, cradling newborn to chest for the very first time, face beaming with pride and heart brimming with love at first sight of his long-awaited offspring?

Is there a sight more joyous than a young dad, trotting alongside his growing son as new-bike tires inch awkwardly down the street, father and son whooping with merriment over a newly accomplished skill?

Is there a picture more comforting than a sobbing father, arms stretched wide to embrace the prodigal child who has finally returned home?

Can you imagine a scene more tear-jerking than that end-of-the-aisle moment when the bride’s father brushes his lips against his daughter’s blushing cheek one final time before offering her hand to the new top guy in her life?

In a culture bereft of great dads, such glimmering images of fatherhood dazzle us with their tenderness and masculine strength. These memory snapshots—no less valuable than thousands of tinier moments spent snuggling on a couch or traipsing through a forest or gazing, side-by-side, up into a star-studded sky—swell within the hearts of those of us who were blessed recipients of such fatherly love. Tragically, this is not everyone’s story.

My own dad taught (and is still teaching) me so much: about ignoring all voices but God’s; pursuing truth; spinning an engaging story; wiring a classic car; and the best way to occupy a sleepless night (the answer is jazz music and tea kettle tea). These days I also get to watch my husband teach our children all the important things like how to piece together a lego set, tend a garden, treat their mother with respect, dominate in chess. . . . .

In this—the steady presence of a wise, compassionate, Godly father for myself, and that of yet another brilliant and God-fearing dad for my kids—I am fortunate. I celebrate these men, and those like them, on Father’s Day. But my heart also lies with those who have never known an earthly father’s love, never received a daddy’s bear hug or sat through a corny dad joke or been the recipient of a painful-but-vital lecture about responsibility and hard work.

Praise the Lord that He is Father to the fatherless, offering protection and guidance, and lavishing unconditional love upon all who ache to hold a spot in a daddy’s heart. Praise also for father stand-ins, be they real or even fictional, who offer up beautiful depictions of amazing fatherhood to be cherished by the father-loved and the father-lacking alike. Even as one blessed by many flesh-and-blood dads in and around my family, I am heartened and inspired by positive depictions of fathers in fiction. And in celebration of Father’s Day this Sunday, I’d love to highlight a few favorite words of advice lifted from some of the greatest dads in literature.

“The first sound we want our children to hear is the voice of their father, telling the child where it has come from, who its creator is, and whose care it will be in now. Telling the child, there is no God but God, and God is Great.” ~ Rafiq, A Place for Us

“We and the world, my children, will always be at war. Retreat is impossible. Arm yourselves.” – Jeremiah Land, Peace Like a River

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

“And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.” – Nathan Drum, Ordinary Grace

“The only time you’ve failed is if you don’t try once more.” – Grandpa, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore (technically not a father, but undeniably a great father figure), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Yahweh, Isaiah 41:10

We love you, dads! Thanks for all the laughter and wise words, for examples set and lessons taught. THANK YOU for loving us!

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