I am terrible at buying gifts. One would assume I’d do better when purchasing something for those I love, but this actually makes my decision-making harder. As Father’s Day approaches, I find myself sitting in this place of uncertainty yet again. I want to find that perfect present that somehow conveys the depth of my love and relationship, but no purchased token seems to suffice.
As I wrestled with this in relation to the most important men in my life, God reminded me of what they need most this Father’s Day.
In Ephesians 5:33, speaking to married couples, Paul wrote, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV). I’ve always found this verse interesting. God knows our hearts and what we need most. One of my core needs as a woman, as a wife, is to feel cherished. I love to be held and tucked into my husband’s embrace. Most women I know feel the same.
Ephesians 5:33 provides insight to what men also need. This verse reminds me, if I want to love my husband well, I’ll show him respect. This doesn’t mean allowing him to dominate me. In fact, this verse reveals the opposite of male superiority or control. (Remember, God told husbands to love their wives just as, or to the same degree, as he loves himself.) Respecting him means speaking kindly to him, refusing to criticize or belittle him in public or in private, honoring his leadership, and calling out his positive qualities.
This spring, our daughter got married. As you can imagine, this was an emotional time for all of us, but especially for my husband. She’s his baby, his princess. Understanding how deeply her Daddy would be affected, she created a picture album of memories, beginning with when she was a toddler riding on her Daddy’s shoulders. She continued through to her wedding day and wrote a thank you note with each image.
This was my husband’s all-time favorite gift. Through it, my daughter showed him how important those moments were to her. Plus, she allowed him to relive each one. While she, being an artist, hand drew each picture, you could have your local copy store create a printed album from photographs.
We women are often great at expressing our emotions and needs. My husband used to travel a lot, and when he came home, I told him clearly, “I need time with you.” I would also tell him when I needed a hug, to be held, or simply heard.
Most men are not so alert to their feelings or quick to express them. In fact, many have been taught, over their lifetime, to remain stoic and “strong.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t crave emotional connection. They do. They need to know that they are loved; and we must speak love in ways they understand. While some men are talkers, most prefer to connect through activities. Perhaps you can plan a time to work a puzzle, play a board game, or go hiking together. Many men especially enjoy completing projects with their loved ones.
In the past, I’ve created “coupon books” numerous times. I find templates online, print them, then write one event, activity, or other nonmaterial item on each one. For example, one coupon might be worth a movie date-night or a golf outing for just the two of us. Each coupon provides an opportunity for us to connect doing things he most enjoys. They also show I’ve taken time to understand him and contemplate ways to bless him. In other words, they convey: “I see you, and I care.”
We all have relational conflict. The more personalities living in the home, the greater the chance arguments will occur, Father’s Day included. But we all know what it’s like to have a special day tarnished by angry comments, bickering, or disagreements. What if, prior to Father’s Day, everyone agreed to actively love their men by maintaining peace? Then, when tension appeared, we could simply divert the conversation or even step away momentarily in an effort to diffuse it. Those with younger children could offer gentle reminders, “Today we’re loving Daddy by not arguing and fighting with one another.”
Actively maintaining peace on Father’s Day doesn’t mean ignoring issues that must be addressed for the health of family relationships. It means hitting pause on tough discussions so that our fathers and husbands can enjoy the day. We can address every challenge weighing on our hearts another time, and in fact, to give the men in our lives true and lasting peace, we might need to.
Biblical peace isn’t simply the absence of conflict. It’s a sense of wholeness that comes when we align our lives and hearts with Christ, His wisdom, and His healing work. Sometimes conflict avoidance can actually work against true relational health. Therefore, in love, once our fathers’ and husbands’ special day ends, we might need to prayerfully consider what steps we can take in the year ahead to create the relationships, as much as we’re able, that the men in our lives need.
For those with little ones in the home, this gift may be the most challenging to give. After all, you’re likely exhausted and could use time alone on a remote island yourself. If that’s the case, discuss that with your husband another time, but still allow him space, if he needs it, on his special day.
Granted, our men may not want solitude. They may actually want to host all their loved ones, friends, and neighbors for a barbecue. But we can ask them how they’d prefer to spend their special day. So long as their desires are reasonable, love suggests we do our best to accommodate. And may we remember, even Jesus, our Savior, needed time away from all the noise and daily demands. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (NIV).
Years ago, I read a book that suggested women tend to set the tone in the home. You may have heard the phrase, “When mama’s upset; ain’t nobody happy.” Sadly, this was true of me for probably the first half of my marriage. I was very selfish and quick to express my frustrations, not through healthy open conversation but through sighs or stomping about. Plus, many of the things I allowed to upset me weren’t worth losing my peace or stealing my family’s tranquility over.
One morning, in the middle of a tense period, God convicted me regarding this behavior through Proverbs 14:1. This verse says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands” –or mouth— “the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV).
God showed me how damaging my actions were and I determined to change. He encouraged me to do what I could to be a blessing to whomever entered my home, my husband especially. I started looking for ways to create a peaceful environment where my loved ones could relax and recharge. While there wasn’t much I could do about the many stressors and challenges my husband faced outside the home, I could have a positive impact on his experiences inside. I could actively spread love, joy, and life with my words, body language, and actions.
About ten years into our marriage, my husband quit his job to work for another company. Immediately after he gave his resignation, his boss and then boss’s boss called him. They strongly encouraged him to stay, expressing what a blessing he’d been to them and the company. When he hung up, my husband looked at me and said, “If only they’d told me all that when I was working for them.” They hadn’t. Rather, they’d spent a good deal of time pointing out all they thought he did wrong.
While constructive feedback is important, the human heart can only take so much before it becomes bruised if not crushed. I’ve read it takes 5-10 compliments or affirmations to undo one negative comment. While I can’t speak on the ratio’s validity, I do know we seem to give the critical statements much more weight than positive.
Men may not express their pain; they might even laugh it off, but that doesn’t mean the criticism doesn’t hurt. Every time we encourage them, whether that’s telling them they’re a great husband or provider, or perhaps simply how fun they are to have around, we help sooth their hurt and fortify them against future pain.
Periodically thanking him for all he does for you and the family is another great way to encourage him. This tells him you notice his efforts and it helps to build him up.
Scripture tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).When we intercede on our father and husband’s behalf, we do two things. First, we open our hearts to God’s perfect guidance and insight. Only He knows what our men truly need and how we can best love them. But the Bible says our prayers have impact as well, on today and eternity. As we connect with God on this intimate level, in some mysterious way, our words reach His heart, and His purposes unfold.
As Christians, we’re told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), about the big and small things and certainly for those who mean the most to us. We can be confident that God hears every word and is constantly working all things for our loved one’s good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
We’ve probably all experienced this. When I’m going through a particularly tense period, I prioritize time with my silly and humorous friends. After an afternoon spent with them, I can face my challenges with a lighter heart, better attitude and mental fortitude. Our husbands and fathers periodically need this type of interaction as well.
This Father’s Day, consider going to a clean comedy show, challenging one another to a joke off, or finding Christian comedy clips on YouTube.
Today’s culture puts extreme pressure on our men to perform. They’re constantly bombarded with messages telling them to be more successful, wealthier, more sensitive yet also strong, hard workers who also spend time with their families, to purchase that bigger home or better car, yet also remain debt free.
Then there’s the pressure many men place upon themselves. They truly want to be the best fathers and husbands possible. Their concern for their family’s financial well-being often clashes with their desire to spend time with us. Many of them also carry the weight of their loved one’s unrealistic expectations.
They certainly don’t want to say or do anything that might hurt us, but they aren’t Jesus and never will be. Therefore, they need ample grace. They need the same level of grace we want others to show us. This Father’s Day, may we go first and demonstrate, to our fathers, husbands, and watching children what it looks like to love our men well.
We can still buy them that special gift, absolutely, especially if it’s something they’ve been hoping for. But may those material things never replace what fathers need most—to know they’re seen, loved, supported, encouraged, prayed for, and appreciated. And may we all laugh, long, often, and heartily, in the process.
Jennifer Slattery is an author, speaker, and ministry leader passionate about helping God's children reach their full potential and live fully surrendered to Christ. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
In her new podcast Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.