In the movie Gladiator, set in the second century A.D., the hero is a warrior from Spain called Maximus. He is the commander of the Roman armies, a general loved by his men and by the aging emperor Marcus Aurelius. Before his death Marcus Aurelius informs Maximus of his intention to nominate Maximus to be the next Emperor and then says: “You are the son I should have had . . . But . . . a fond old man, who loves you more than he can say, begs you to at least think about what he has said tonight.” Before he leaves Maximus says to Marcus Aurelius: “You have always been my father.”
In the next scene, the Emperor’s foul son Commodus visits with his father, learning of his father’s plan to make Maximus emperor in his place. His eyes are red with weeping. He sits, head down, at the foot of Marcus’ bed and speaks to his father. “I search the faces of the Gods for ways to please you . . . to make you proud . . . and I can never do it. One kind word—one full hug where you pressed me to your chest and held me tight—would have been like the sun on my heart for a thousand years . . . What is it in me you hate so much? My eyes are your eyes. My hands are your hands. All I have ever wanted was to live up to you. Caesar. Father.”
Commodus, then, stands. He is holding the scroll denoting Marcus’ intention to nominate Maximus as Emperor to the Senate. Commodus cannot control his tears. He says to his father: “Why does Maximus deserve what I could never have?—Why do you love his eyes over mine?—I would butcher the whole world—if you would only love me . . .”
Hear the anguish and the hurt in that last sentence: “if you would only love me.”
One of the great cries of the human heart is to be loved, especially by our fathers.
I am so very thankful that I experienced the love of my Father. He was an affirmer. He was the consummate encourager—to me, to my brothers and sisters, and to everyone he met. My Daddy could make anyone feel better about themselves. He was known for his service—to me, to our church, and to our community. He gave of his time, his resources, his money, his name. He was a man that would spend time with you. I remember many occasion when I was playing a ballgame, he was always there. Then, in college days, playing a tennis match at a far away college, I would see my Daddy ambling toward the courts. He was present to encourage.
I resonate with the words of Michael Jordan when asked by columnist Bob Greene, “Why do you want your father to be in the stands during a game?” Jordan replied, “When he’s there, I know I have at least one fan.”
My Daddy loved me
Without love, especially a father’s love, we will not be emotionally stable. We may even struggle to function in society—in marriage, in the workplace, and with friendships. Study after study has proven the importance of a loving father to keep children out of crime, from having illegitimate children. A father’s love communicates that we are accepted, we belong, we are needed, and we are valuable.
My Dad was not perfect. Yours probably isn’t either. He may have caused you pain. He may have been irresponsible. He may have been a workaholic who didn’t have time for you. But he is still to be honored and appreciated if for no other reason than he is your father. So affirm him. Forgive him, if needed. If he is still alive, stay in touch, stay connected. And, most importantly, tell him you love him. Chuck Swindoll has said, “Dad is not perfect; he would be the first to admit it. Nor is he infallible, much to his own disappointment. Nor altogether fair . . . nor always right. But there’s one thing he is—always—he is your dad . . . the only one you’ll ever have. Take it from me, there’s only one thing he needs . . . to hear you say, ‘Dad, I love you.’ That’s the best gift you can give. Nothing you can buy will bring him anywhere near the satisfaction that four-word gift will provide. ‘Dad, I love you.’”
Two of the best gifts in life are the love of a father and the love of a child. Cherish them both.
My book, Defining Moments: How God Shapes Our Character Through Crisis, takes a fresh look at the hard times that God uses to shape our character. This book offers hope that God can be found in crisis and shows how He turns our struggles into defining moments—opportunities to dramatically transform His people. Click here to claim your copy.