When I was a football player at Brigham Young University, there was nothing like the sound I heard in LaVell Edwards Stadium in 1990 after we defeated the heavily favored, No. 1-ranked, defending national champion, Miami Hurricanes.

For years, that was the greatest sound I had ever heard — until I heard my children shriek with happiness, “Daddy’s home.”

These days, I pastor a church in South Carolina called Transformation Church. And on this Father’s Day, I want to share with you five ways that being a father has transformed me. Maybe they will transform you as well.

First, being a father has transformed me because I’ve learned to love in a way that I did not know was possible. I love my wife, Vicki. We’ve been married for 31 years. But I love my children in a different way.

In loving my children, I discovered there are spaces in my heart for love that I didn’t know existed. In loving my children, I get a glimpse of how God loves me. His love is loyal, unfailing, scandalously gracious, life-giving, forgiving and inspiring. If I, an imperfect father, could love like this, imagine how our perfect, uncreated Creator loves us. His love for us is not earned by what we do; he loves because he is love.

Second, being a father has transformed me because when I became a father, I realized I had to deal with my past trauma, or it would negatively influence my parenting. In order to heal my trauma, I had to soak myself in the teachings of Jesus, pursue wise mentors, seek out a supportive community of men and walk by faith in Christ to transform my pain into purpose. I didn’t want my past baggage to be luggage that my kids had to carry.

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Third, being a father has transformed me because I now understand that my wife and children’s needs come before my own. To lead my family means to serve my family. My purpose as a father is to sacrifice for their well-being.

Over the years, this sacrifice has become a gift because it has helped me become less selfish and more generous. And it reminds me of Jesus’ words, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Fourth, being a father has transformed me because I learned that besides loving Jesus with all my heart, the most important thing I can do for my children is to love their mother. In loving, serving and sacrificing for their mother, I am modeling for them what’s most important. As Paul wrote, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Lastly, being a father has transformed me because my children taught me that they spell love “TIME.”

From elementary school to sixth grade, once a week, I would go into my kids’ schools and read to their class. My children are now 26 and 22, and they still talk about when I would come and read in their classrooms. Spending time with my kids has blessed me just as much as I blessed them. One investment you will never regret is spending quality time with your children. 

Happy Father’s Day. I hope that all men get to experience the magic of those happy words: “Daddy’s home.”

The Rev. Derwin L. Gray is co-founder and lead pastor of Transformation Church in South Carolina and the author of “How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation” and “The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches about Finding True Happiness.”