Honoring the Life of My Father

Matt & Dad

My dad recently passed away on May 22, 2016. He was eighty years old and died in his sleep. Although he had some health issues, his death still came as a surprise to us. I had just seen my dad the day before, and I am so grateful that my daughter and I stopped by that day to visit. As we parted I gave him a little shoulder hug and said, “See you later”. My daughter one-up’d me and said “I love you” to her grandpa. He replied back with “I love you too sweetie”. Those would be the last words either of us ever spoke to him.

My dad was not a perfect man, none of us are. He did a lot of good- both in me and my daughter’s life, as well as the lives of complete strangers. He was very generous when it came to helping those in need. (Just the sheer number of flower bouquets that were sent to the funeral home proved that!) As is the case I’m sure with many reading this, he also frustrated me sometimes to the point where I really wanted to chew him out…but never did. I have carried many of the traits my dad taught me on for the next generation: specifically my love of sports and a child-like, playful attitude. Now, I love kids- but my dad LOVED kids! He never hesitated to brighten a young boy or girl’s day like only he could. My dad told me and my little brother funny bedtime stories growing up- I do the same for my daughter. Yet, I often find myself improving as a father by doing the opposite of what my parents did. Not in a disrespecting way, but as a method of learning from their mistakes so I don’t repeat them.

The week following my father’s death, I was hit with a wave of emotions. Naturally there was grief and loss; but also lingering frustrations, love, and an awe of God’s presence. I cried often that week- both tears of sadness and tears of joy. Three years ago, I had the ability to have one of the rare “life talks” my dad and I ever had. By the end of our conversation, I told my dad I loved him, I forgave him for the things he had done to hurt me, and I prayed over him- the one and only time that has ever happened. Looking back, I now see that as the day God set me free from any “father wounds” I had and allowed me to spend our remaining years together on much better terms.

I will always be grateful for the years I had with him, I know not everyone is as fortunate. I am also so grateful to God for allowing my dad and I to reconcile and for him to see me make something of myself (I wasn’t always on that path). In his last year of life he was able to attend my wedding and several months later, my daughter’s baptism. I even got to spend my 40th birthday with him a month before he passed.

When others ask me about my dad in the days moving ahead, I pray my words will be ones that honor him and glorify God. Regardless of our parents’ failures, God’s Word holds a perfect standard of how we are to honor them. To follow Christ to the fullest is to follow the Word to the fullest as well. I will always love my dad and I thank the Lord for blessing me and my family through him.

I challenge you to dwell on this over the upcoming month: regardless of your relationship with your father, how can you honor him? Is there something that needs to be said while he is still around? What can you do as an act of love to let him know he is appreciated? Or, if your father is no longer around or contacting him is not an option, what can you do to honor, forgive, or set tribute to him as an act of worship to God? Don’t wait! You’d be surprised how a simple, small act of love can move mountains in your life.


Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. To learn more about the ministry, please visit www.afatherswalk.org. For more information and ideas of how you can honor your father, visit our website at www.honoryourfathertoday.com.

Show Him Honor


What does it mean to give honor? It’s a question that puzzled me for years, because the command to honor my father felt in conflict with the feeling that my father didn’t deserve my honor. He simply couldn’t, he wasn’t present. So when I occasionally saw him or spoke to him on the phone and he made comments like, “I’m proud of you, son” those words felt so empty. Again, because he wasn’t really there. I ran track from when I was 9 years old, and was pretty good in my youth. Multiple national championships and even a couple of trips to Junior Olympics, but guess whose dad wasn’t in the stands cheering me on? Reality is, most of my teammates didn’t have fathers that were present either, so it’s not like I knew that I was missing something. But I did know I was missing him at home. People commented all of the time that I looked like my dad, or I laughed like my dad, and told stories about how funny my dad was back in the day. To me, he was both a figure that I admired and a phantom that I wished was around to make me laugh and to show me how to be a man. But due to a terrible addiction to alcohol, he simply wasn’t. So as I grew older, I just lived in the conflict. Wishing I knew more about him and that we were closer, but also wanting to keep my distance from the man who disappointed me so often. As I grew in the Lord, the command to honor my father loomed as an inescapable tension. How was I supposed to do that?

Honoring my Grandfather came easy it seemed. Talking about a man who was present, who took care of me, who asked me the hard questions, who modeled integrity, who exemplified the faith and patience and service to others that would leave an indelible mark on my life. Honoring that man was easy. I loved him deeply, because he first loved me. He showed me what love looked like. To this day I can unexpectedly break into tears of joy and tears of the pain of the loss of the most significant man in my life. When Father’s Day came around annually, I didn’t have to conjure up the nerves to give him a call, or browse the greeting card aisle forever trying to find the card that said just enough, but not too much. Not with my grandfather. I could buy a blank card and fill it with words of expression of my gratitude and loving kindness towards this man that was easy to honor, because he showed me consistent compassionate unqualified love.

As I wrestled with this question well into my adulthood, I stared at my Bible and read the words to honor my father, the easy thing to do is to give honor to my father-figure, but to discard the command as it related to my actual dad. But then I learned more. I began to dig deep into the definition of honor, and realized that it was more than to show gratitude, or to follow his advice, but to hold him in high regard. Then I began to think about how I could honor my father even though he wasn’t the example that I thought he should be. I had to look past my grandfather and the great shadow he cast over my dad. I had to look towards my Heavenly Father, the only one who could show me perfectly how to love and care for those around me. Then I had to realize that to bring honor to my earthly father, and even to my grandfather, was to live in such a way that would bring them honor by living Christ-like. Beyond the barbershop talk of, “I heard about your kid doing great things,” or the gigantic smile resulting from reading an excellent progress report from school. Beyond doing things in front of him that would naturally elicit his commendation. To bring honor to my father is to live in such a way that Our Father in Heaven would be well pleased, and to do my best show my father that allegiance to Him and His perfect love. To bring honor to my father is to live aligned with the gospel, whether or not he understands it or respects it. To treat him with respect, and to show him love and forgiveness, and to communicate His love, is the primary way in which I can bring him honor.

For some of you, I imagine the struggle to show your father honor may be very real, as it was for me. For others, to show and to share that you truly love him and are thankful for his influence in your life is easy, I can relate to that as well. But to all of us, no matter where your dad fits on the gradient scale of “honorability” in your mind, I only encourage you all to look beyond him, and to live as the man and the father that Our Heavenly Father calls you to be. To walk humbly before Him should result in having compassion and care and humility before your earthly dad. No matter if you find it hard, or if you find it no chore, give him a call or drop him a line if he is still alive.  In my case, both my father and grandfather have passed, but my pursuit to show them honor continues. Every day is a celebration, and a conscious decision to live in forgiveness. I pray that it can be the same for you as well.


Written by UNCOMMEN coach, Dee Lanier.  Watch Dee explain his reconciliation story with his dad and his relationship established with his other grandfather here. Check out the Honor Your Father campaign for more inspirational stories and ideas on how to honor your dad at honoryourfathertoday.com.  Be sure to check out practical ways to be an honorable father by downloading the UNCOMMEN app at download.uncommen.org.

Verses to reflect on:

Dad Talk: “Be Reconciled”

Older father and son hugging

Every day is Veteran’s Day – Thank you to all who have served to defend our country, this one nation under God.

I learned the hard way to honor our veterans. Growing up in a violent alcoholic home, I just knew I did not want anything to do with Dad nor have anything in common with him. After having our last run in, I left home at a young age. My eldest sister and her husband opened their home to me and I moved on with life. I had two prayers and one goal as a young man – I prayed I would be blessed with a happy and healthy marriage and family, and that I would keep my family well above the poverty line I had grown up below; My goal was to go as far as I could in the opposite direction of my dad.

All was going well with that plan. I had not effectively talked with Dad for 15 years – He did not attend my high school graduation, college graduation or wedding. Then our daughter was born. I could no longer deny having something in common with Dad – we were both dads. I extended an invitation for him to meet his new granddaughter and he accepted.

We were living in Midland, Texas, at the time and I scheduled a trip to visit the Nimitz Museum in Fredricksburg. It was 1986. The museum was quite small but it offered some of the most realistic views of the Pacific theatre during World War II. Dad had been a Hellcat pilot off the USS Wasp. When I saw actual footage of the Hellcats taking off and landing on the aircraft carriers as well as those that crashed in the Pacific with little chance of survival, I was convicted that I had passed judgment on a man I had no right to judge. If I had been in a cockpit engaged in air combat in my early 20’s and had to watch as a number of my buddies went down while trying to return to the ship, I may not have been able to turn from the alcohol either. I asked if he would forgive me. He did.

We reconciled and established a relationship that opened the door for Dad to know our daughter and to meet his only grandson. Dad passed in 1994. Ma had said at one point that the man she married before the war came back a different man. I think it is obvious that anyone going into battle will be different as a result. Tip your cap and say, “Thank you,” to veterans you see any day of the year. And if your dad has struggled to deal with battles he has faced in war or in life, take the initiative to be reconciled before any more time gets by.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12. This is the commandment with a promise.

Tips to Be Reconciled:

  1. Initiate an honest discussion on thoughts around your relationship;
  2. Exchange real expression of feelings about the past;
  3. Confess and ask forgiveness as you are led;
  4. Commit to build a new relationship.

Prayer guide: Lord, thank You for the many gifts and blessings in my life. Thank You for turning my heart to honor my father, to accept that he did the best he could do with life choices he faced. Thank You for Your Word and Your love that guides me through life choices I face in becoming the man, husband & father You expect me to be.  Amen.

A faithful father reconciles relationships to honor his father and mother.


BHG, Rick Wertz



  • Prioritize physical presence
  •    Be engaged emotionally, and
  •       Lead spiritually by example.


For more on the Honor Your Father initiative, please visit www.honoryourfathertoday.com