- - Saturday, June 15, 2013

Leah Misch has always considered her dad as the one in charge, the leader and provider of her family while she was growing up.

She is also close to another family that helped her find religion at a time of crisis in her life, including another father that has shown her kindness and love.

“My earthly fathers are there when I have needed them,” the 26-year-old nurse and wellness coach said. “Even if I am not there with them, I know they are thinking about me and care about me, wherever I am.”

Misch, who attends the Evangelical Free Church in La Crescent, Minn., gives a similar description of a masculine leader and provider who is kind, loving and always present when she describes the Christian God she prays to.

“You may not see it, but you know he is there,” she said.

Sociologists say it’s common for people to perceive that God is like the fatherly figures in their lives. If dad is caring, patient and concerned then children will believe God has those same characteristics. And the opposite holds true when a father is harsh, judgmental or absent.

“A father has a powerful influence in deep and subtle ways,” said Dollahite/Pages/Home.aspx” target=”_blank”>David Dollahite, a professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University. “Even though children know intellectually that God is fair, loving and kind and patient, it’s hard for them to relate to God at a gut level in a deep way if their own father is not that way.”

Unique influence

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