Tonight was one of those extra special nights for me. I was enjoying supper with my family at a restaurant when my sweet six year old daughter, exhausted from a long day of play, fell asleep on my lap missing out on her favorite “chicken and noodles” meal. Her complete trust in me in that booth reminded me of what a blessing it is to be called “Daddy” by someone. In that moment, everything in my world seemed right: my purpose was clear and fulfilling it filled my heart with joy! I wonder also in these moments if this is how God feels about me, about us. You know, those moments when we actually relax in His presence – when we receive His consolation and comfort by trusting He will show up and provide everything we need. Does His heart fill up with joy as we lean against Him in rest?

My own earthly father would say this is true. I count it a blessing to have a loving dad who has shown me unconditional love. He continues to aim for a balance of work and family life that ensures we all know he wants what is best for us. He’s a good man, not perfect – nor claims to be (although you may never hear him admitting to his faults!), but he loves God, his family, and others, and we know it. His life and love have helped me more easily see and accept God’s love as my heavenly father, which is something I will always be grateful to him for as a man learning how to live and love others well myself.

In my own growing family, I am learning what it means to be the adopted child of God, fully loved and folded into God’s forever family. The Apostle Paul makes it plain in his letter to the Ephesians that it was, “[I]n love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will…” (Ephesians 1:5) God didn’t “have to” choose me, and the rest of us who choose to trust His Son Jesus as our Savior, but He wanted to choose us. He delighted in making me His own kid! He came after me, sought me out, and chose me specifically just because He loved me! He is showing me that fatherhood is about choosing to parent, choosing to seek someone to love, and loving that person because I want to – not because they deserve it or earn my love first.

Adoption has been a big and beautiful part of God’s unfolding story in my life. Early on in our marriage, Heather and I posed this question: “Are we called to parent or to pass on our genetic code?” God knew the answer of course, but He revealed to us how our family is not limited by an inability to have children. Parenting is a choice. He has faithfully guided us step-by-step in building our family in ways only He can direct, and has given us children in our home and children in our hearts. If you are curious, you can read more of our family journey in the book, “A Mother of Thousands” written by my wife, Heather, with some of my own words, too! In the book, she shares how our vision shifted in parenting to that of discipleship – because we don’t build God’s family by procreation, but by regeneration through faith in Christ. She likes to summarize it this way:

Plant Small | Root Deep | Bear Life

I’ve had many men “plant small” in my life, choosing to seek me out and put me under their wing of influence. They weren’t concerned with what I could do for them, but wanted to faithfully invest in the man God was shaping in me. They also chose to “root deep” by growing in their own lives and then sharing with me honestly and transparently how they were struggling, not hiding but owning their failures so I could learn from them as well as with them. Their choice to pour into my life let me see how God could “bear life” through others willing to be used by Him. As men, we can be “fathers” and bear life in the next generation, and thousands of generations even, by trusting our heavenly father to use us as we seek to love others well. (Exodus 20:6) Several of those fathering men have now passed away, but their voices are still heard in my heart and in my own fatherhood. I even keep some of their voicemails on my phone, just so I can literally listen to fatherly voices when I need encouragement.

Our culture defines fatherhood as “having one or more children”, but I see it now as so much more! Men, we have daily opportunities to show up in the lives of people all around us – whether they are under our roofs or just under our influence. Will you show up? Will you stand in the gap? Will you choose to father? The good news is you aren’t being asked to do it alone, you have a Father supporting and equipping you who chose you first, and will always have your back.

Jonathan Yates