Human dads are limited and finite. They can give love, but they cannot give infinite love. They can give wisdom, but they cannot give infinite wisdom. Dads can give temporal help, but they cannot give eternal salvation. Dads can open up their lives and hearts to their sons, but they can’t change their children’s heart. The love of a father can help his son, but cannot transform his son. For that kind of change you must experience the Father.

As you grow to know your heavenly Father, you will also grow to know yourself. And that will change you from the inside out into someone who can love and open his own heart to others.

In my experience, sons want and need to know their fathers. A son that knows his father is like a sprinter with his feet firmly planted at the beginning of the race on the starting blocks. A father who lets his son know him, who opens his heart and his life to his son, acts like starting blocks for a boy. Feet firmly planted, he can move ahead more confidently and quickly in life, springing into manhood. Boys with a hidden dad slip and slide a lot at the starting point of manhood as they try to get some positive forward momentum in life.

Boys with a hidden dad slip and slide a lot at the starting point of manhood as they try to get some positive forward momentum in life.

When a son doesn’t really know his father, he can’t really know himself. A father who is unhidden—who shares who he is with his son without holding back anything—is able to help his son find his own point of reference and identity in a chaotic world. A father differentiates his son from the crowd, focuses him, reinforces the point that his son is unique, and points to the trails in life that are consistent with their family.

If you had an earthly father who opened his life and heart to you, you know your father’s story. That’s a wonderful gift. But to really know ourselves, we have to go further than our earthly fathers. We have to know the Father—the one who made us and knows us intimately. We have to know him. All that our own earthly fathers can do only imperfectly (or not at all), our heavenly Father does perfectly.

The good news is that our heavenly Father wants to be known. He wants his sons to know all about him because he is not hidden. He is a totally committed “all-in” Father who wants you to know him and his love for you.

Put down the list of the five marks of manhood or whatever other list you are trying to follow in order to reach true manhood. Instead, look up at the sky and read creation to get to know your heavenly Father. Pick up your Bible and read those ancient stories with an eye to what they reveal about your God. Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Ask the Spirit to fill you with the knowledge of God’s love for you in Christ. Think much about God’s love for his people and how he proved it on the cross.

Spend time thinking about how your Father wants to make himself known to his boys. How he wants his boys to have the security, peace, and joy that can only come from knowing their Father. Sit back and rest in the fact that because of Jesus you can have a deep, real, and close relationship with the all-powerful God of the universe.

You are his beloved son, and he’s all-in with you and completely for you. The more time we spend reflecting on the Father, the more time we spend getting to know him and trusting his love for us, the more we want to be and, in fact do, become like him. It’s an inevitable process. Sons who are deeply loved by their fathers want to imitate their fathers out of respectful love. And they do.

Adapted from the new Key Life book, Like Father, Like Son, by Pete Alwinson.