In the midst of so many news stories about crime and injustice and nasty politics, it’s nice to come across something every now and then that lifts your spirits and gives you reason for hope.
Anticipating the upcoming fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, CNN published an article this week that does just that, profiling a group of ten young people who lost their fathers as a result of the terrorist attacks that day. Ranging from age 14 to 29, half of the group had no memories of their fathers when they died. In fact, two weren’t even born at the time. But together, these young people represent the 3,051 children under the age of 18 who lost a parent on 9/11—people whose lives will forever be shaped by tragedy and loss.
Alfred Vukosa was a 37-year-old information technology specialist at Cantor Fitzgerald who worked in the World Trade Center. When the attacks happened, Vukosa was one of 658 other Cantor Fitzgerald employees who were unable to make it out alive. He left behind a devastated 6-year-old son named Austin, who was so grief-stricken that he told his mom he wanted to slit his wrists so he could be with his dad.
Today, Austin is a 21-year-old who just graduated from Notre Dame and is one month into his new career. By all accounts, he seems to be on a very successful trajectory. But what’s most significant is where this recent college graduate has started working: none other than Cantor Fitzgerald. “Just to follow [my father’s] footsteps at the same company has been a big sense of accomplishment for me,” Austin said. “It drew me a little closer to him.”
This sort of attitude is not unique to Austin Vukosa. Woven through all ten of the stories is a common thread: these young people are driven by a constant desire to honor their dads. This excerpt from the latter part of the article sums it up well:
If they could ask their fathers one last question, what would it be?
Nicole Pila immediately pipes up: “Are you proud of me?”
“I would say the same thing,” adds Austin Vukosa. “I would want to know if he’s proud.”
Jessica Waring: “Yeah, I think I’d want to know the same thing, too.”
For these kids, the quest to please their fathers is fueled by grief. In the physical absence of their dads, they are all the more eager to do something of which their dads would be proud.
But although the circumstances of these ten young people are unique, their desire is universal. In his little book, You Have What It Takes, John Eldredge tells of a man who had reached a high point of financial success, yet still seemed to be lacking something. After losing his father to cancer, he finally was able to admit, “All these years, knocking myself out to get ahead … I wasn’t even enjoying myself. What was it for? I see now … I was trying to win my father’s approval.”
Many of us have heard this same voice within, telling us that we need to make our fathers proud—whether it’s through athletic accomplishment or financial prosperity or physical beauty or career success. And although I hope you’ve had a father who has generously expressed his pride in you, I realize that many don’t. The quest for approval is ongoing. The jury is still out.
But for the Christian, there is good news. Although your relationship with your earthly father may be uncertain (or worse), your relationship with your heavenly Father is secure. Not because you have made him proud, but because someone else made him proud for you.
When the Father openly declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” he was speaking of Jesus Christ’s perfect obedience. But insofar as you are united to Christ in saving faith, the Father’s delight in the Son can be enjoyed by you, as well. On your own, you could never earn the Father’s approval. But as a result of your union with Christ, everything you desire from your earthly father this heavenly Father provides.
You might find this notion hard to believe, but it’s true. As Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord…will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Do you long to make your Father proud? In Christ, he already is.