What Kind of Father and Friend Will You Be?

Posted by Nathan Rittenhouse on June 15, 2018

My dad often joked he had a grievance against the Berenstain Bears. I can hear the gasps of horror as many of you react to what may be perceived as a critique of one of the pillars of childhood literature. Now while I am reading these stories to my kids, I see it, too; Papa Bear is a failure at simple things like riding a bike[1] and choosing a picnic location.[2] He even causes problems in his sleep[3], and the list goes on as he fumbles through stories trying to act like he’s in charge. In the older books of the series, Papa Bear is goodhearted, but incompetent (if you aren’t familiar with these stories, fear not, Mama Bear and the cubs always solve the problem and save the day).

Father’s Day reminds some of dads who solved problems and some of dads who caused problems. There are those on this day who want to grow up to be like their dads, and those who never really got to know theirs. It is an emotional day because it can peel the scabs off old wounds, and it can produce tears of fond memories. The complexity of our relationships to our Fathers make it difficult to find a card that says what we are thinking and feeling, because perhaps, truth be told, we aren’t really sure.

The goodness of fatherhood is recognized even if we didn’t have a good one. It is interesting to listen to what people talk about when they say someone was, “Like a father to me.” Typically they aren’t talking about strength and protection, or money and resources, they are talking about someone who took the time to talk to them and teach them, who showed genuine interest and gave good guidance.

The Bible isn’t packed with a long list of perfect fathers; likely because it tells the stories of real people, but it does give us a standard for evaluating fathers. It gives us the steadfastness of God as the benchmark for fatherhood, and it mentions earthly fathers primarily as those who teach their children. They aren’t always praised for having the sharpest sword or the fastest horse, but rather for their role in conferring wisdom to the next generation.

It is easy to see why my dad would roll his eyes at Papa Bear. My dad taught me fun and random things like how to ride a unicycle, do Biblical exegesis, camp and navigate without a GPS, give firm handshakes, look people in the eye, and small engine repair. Even now when I get myself in a real bind, my first phone call starts with, “Hey dad… can you… have you ever… how would you…”[4]

Those with great dads and those without have one thing in common. Whether our dads were flakes and frauds, or faithful and funny, we can’t change or dwell in the past; we must pivot to the future. Scripture teaches us to appreciate the past, but not to become stuck in it. The question isn’t, “What kind of father did you have?” but “What kind of father and friend will you be?” This isn’t a call to perfection, it is a reminder of the future impact you can have as you pass on the wisdom you have learned about the world; perhaps through the life of your father.


Nathan Rittenhouse is an Itinerant Speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Nathan holds an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities with his wife and kids.


[1] “The Bike Lesson.”

[2] “The Bears’ Picnic.”

[3] “The Missing Honey.”

[4] And then sometimes he calls his dad.