Editor's note: This article was originally published on Crosswalk.com. It has been republished here with permission.
Memories with Dad live long and strong. Playing ball in the yard. Twirling in his arms. Wrestling in the living room. Fishing in the pond. Shooting hoops in the driveway. Dancing. Laughing. Racing. Working. Building. Biking. Living.
Dads. One of the most important relationships in this life, because it wields such power to shape and influence what we believe about who God is. A loving father can point us directly to the love of God our Heavenly Father, so clearly and directly.
And in the same way, a father who seems distant, angry, hard to please, or vacant, may unfortunately invite some difficult feelings in how we view God and his care for us. Many have lost fathers too early in life - due to death, divorce, or abandonment. Others still wrestle through hurtful memories of abuse and fear of the very one who was supposed to protect them.
No matter what our experiences have been growing up, or where we find ourselves now, God still reigns supreme over all. He cares. He loves. He is near. He is trustworthy. And his heart for you as your Daddy shines through every step of life. He is powerful enough to help you navigate through the most difficult of memories and experiences, sheltering, embracing you in it all. And giving you freedom, blessing to grow, and healing to move forward. We can take every difficult experience and allow God to use it for good, by helping us to become the best parents possible for our own children. Pain is never wasted when God is Supreme over our lives. Where experiences have harmed us, even if unintentional, even if seemingly unfair, God can still use it for his purposes, to bring good through it all.
If you are blessed to be a Dad, you've been given a priceless gift in this life. The gift of pointing your children to him. The gift of leading. The gift of loving. Your actions matter, how you choose to live makes a difference in the lives of all you know.
We see from research through the years, that kids generally do better socially, academically, and emotionally, when dads are actively involved and participating in their lives. But it's not just the fact that fathers are physically present that matters, it's how they are present. Kids thrive most when dads recognize the need to provide a warm, understanding relationship under which their children can share life, learn, and grow.
Words matter. Our kids need to hear them. They thrive under encouraging, supporting, heart-felt words. And young children grow up into adults and yet they still need to hear, loving words from a father's voice. Wisdom from a daddy's heart, that lives on long in the lives of others.
Here are 12 things every dad should say to his kids, though there's many more:
I love you. Period. No matter what. Unconditionally. And nothing will ever change that.
I believe in you. You can do it. Anything is possible. You are a winner.
Love God. Love your spouse.
I am with you. And even when you can't see me, you can be assured I'm thinking of you.
I am proud of you. You are beautiful. You are amazing. You have great purpose in this world.
Respect yourself. Respect others. Respect your Mom.
Your character is always more significant than your reputation. Never forget who you are and that you first belong to God. Who you are in secret is just as important as who you are in public, because God sees both.
I am sorry. Would you please forgive me? I forgive you.
I am praying for you. You have my blessing in all that God calls you to do in this life.
Work hard. Save some. Spend a little. Give a lot.
Don't take yourself too seriously. Laugh. Have fun in life. Every day is an adventure.
Be brave. Be strong. But always remember that it's OK to be afraid. And it's OK to cry.
Whether or not you ever heard these words from you own Dad is not the end of the story. Because God is both the beginning and the end of your story, and He speaks love over you today.
Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's facebook page or Twitter, for daily encouragement in living strong, hope-filled lives.