Landon's description of Reverend Sullivan at the beginning of the novel paints a different picture than the man known throughout the story. In Chapter 1, Reverend Sullivan sounds like a stereotypical Southern Baptist preacher, railing against fornicators and preaching about the wrath of God. Readers can easily envision his fist smashing down on his pulpit during fiery sermons.
Yet readers observe that Hegbert and Jamie's interactions are tender and kind. Landon, in fact, learns a great deal about love from watching Hegbert with his daughter. The reader discovers from Jamie that Hegbert has a great sense of humor, and from Landon that he cries at his desk over Jamie's illness. This man is first and foremost a father, and second a man who has experienced great loss in his life, ranging from a number of miscarriages to the death of his wife to the impending death of his daughter. Throughout all his loss, Hegbert learns to grieve, continues to love, and mentors to his congregation — not perfectly, of course, but with dignity and faith.
Hegbert is far different from Worth Carter. Although many might say that Worth is the better man for serving his constituency in Congress and for his money, power, and influence, Worth does not know how to love his son the way Hegbert loves his daughter. It is Hegbert and Jamie's loving relationship, then, that serves as a model for Worth and Landon as they attempt to repair theirs.