Sunday was Father’s Day. A thousand times I thought of writing this post, then stopped.
Just let the day pass quietly, I thought to myself. You’re not unlike millions of others who don’t like this day. Just get it over with and move on already.
Then it dawned on me that it is because so many of us share the same feelings about Father’s Day that I decided to post.
Fast-forwarding through the dramatic story of an unstable, fear-filled, anxiety-ridden childhood, here I sit as a wife of twenty-five years and mom to three teenagers. I glance back at my life and think about how some dreams became reality just like I had hoped – and others haven’t.
The father thing being a big one.
My stepfather walked out of our house and out of my life when I was twelve. It was the first time I felt safe in my own home.
My biological father and mother divorced when I was a baby. I met him when I was twelve, spent two weeks with him and his family when I was thirteen, then proceeded to have years of anger, bitterness and all things negative toward him long after I buried my mom when I was sixteen.
As a grown adult I told him, You can be a grandfather to my children, but not a father to me.
In my world, I had no use for a father. None. Fathers were unreliable.
They were the bad guy.
I know what it’s like to live with the enemy while wishing for a hero to rescue me.
I also know what it’s like when that hero doesn’t come.
Yeah, my whole life I’ve had no use for fathers.
To give credit where it is due, God performed a miracle between my biological father and me. There was an unspoken truce between us, but no healing. That’s when I told him about not being a father to me. After all, I was far too old to be his little girl. That window closed a long time ago.
However, on one particular visit to our home, my father, his wife and I talked deep into the night. We agreed on one thing – we can’t do this relationship on our own. We’re too emotional. Too human. We kept getting in the way of ourselves.
So we prayed together and gave whatever relationship we had to God and asked him to be the foundation of something new between us.
Like a master surgeon, God healed our hearts. We had eight great years together before my dad died from cancer.
I often think to myself, If I had to choose between eight great years, or a lifetime of surface-level mediocrity, I’m thankful I got eight great years. Many people never get that with their fathers.
The day before he died, I sat at his bedside in the hospital and got to tell him that I loved him. Not everyone gets that opportunity. I am grateful.
But here’s the thing, Father’s Day never gets easier. More than a day on a calendar and endless greeting cards about tools and grilling and ties, this father thing is really hard with God.
This past Sunday, while responding to a text message I typed God, but my phone auto-corrected it to dad. That has never happened before, and I thought it was very ironic it happened on Father’s Day. My heart skipped a nervous beat.
My mom once gave my grandfather a plaque that read, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.” Que sweaty palms over Siri’s mistake.
The Bible tells us over and over that God is our Good Father, Heavenly Father, Abba Father.
That’s like telling me, Sure, the last time you touched fire it was hot and burned you, but this fire is different, it won’t burn you.
Fire is fire, right?
Fathers are fathers, right?
What’s more frustrating is that I totally know better. I have been walking with God since I was fourteen and have loved him since I was a little girl.
I should get it by now.
Hence, the feelings of self-imposed guilt drive a wedge deeper between God and me.
I am so sorry for the times I have said, in not so many words, the same thing to God that I did to my biological father, You can be a Father to my children, but not to me.
You can be Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Potter, Friend, Provider, Redeemer, Rock, Refuge, and my God. But Father? Here comes the list I named above of just some of my opinions about fathers.
I desperately don’t want to lump God into any of that because I know it’s not true. But my heart stings, even all these years later, over the topic of fathers and to avoid insulting God I exclude him from it.
Then Father’s Day comes around again and here comes the plethora of Facebook posts. Ug.
It seems everyone else has the best father in the world!
I tried. I really tried to be happy for them. I “liked” throwback photos of daddies and children (now my grown friends) doing all kinds of fun things together.
I “liked” heartfelt, borderline poetic, sentiments from my friends to their dads.
Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I literally felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t look at one more smiley photo of warm embraces or read one more post about all of the unconditional love and support their fathers gave them.
My toes inched dangerously close to a line I try not to cross – the why me line.
I really try to live my life thankful for each day and for all of the blessings I have been given. But, never having a healthy father-child relationship messes children up.
Contrary to what this broken society wants people to believe, there are lifelong repercussions for children whose fathers walked away from their families or never showed up in the first place.
I’m not talking about illness and death and things out of people’s control. Rather fathers who choose to not engage in their children’s lives, even if they share the same home address.
Silence is deafening. Absence is suffocating. A lack of effort on a father’s part is like a sucker-punch to a child’s gut – to matter their age. Rejection from a father, spoken or not, intentional or the result of a lack of words or action, is indescribable.
We were created for family. It’s how God designed this world to keep spinning. And fathers have a unique role that fills a unique place in a child’s heart.
When that hole doesn’t get filled, children look for other things to fill it.
It must be filled.
For me, after realizing nothing tangible in this world can fill it, I looked to God. But again, that’s where I start blurring the line and transpose everything I feel about human fathers onto God and the next thing I know I’m running from him, too.
I read blogs that have happy endings, or at least an end with some amount of closure.
This one is open-ended. It seems a bit depressing because we’re used to life’s biggest problems being solved in a thirty-minute sitcom.
But life is more than splices of thirty minutes and there certainly isn’t a laugh track to fill in the awkward pauses.
I’m just saying that Father’s Day is hard. Seeing God as my Good Father is hard. I don’t have this figured out yet and feel I’m not alone in the journey.
The days since Sunday seem to pass in slow motion. I’m hard on myself for not having this all figured out after so long. I’m jealous of those who have had great relationships with their fathers. It leaves a gnawing in my heart and a pit in my stomach that is only relieved by the thought that it’s over for another year and the hope that by next year I’ll be different, changed, healed.
I resist the pessimist in me which reminds me that hasn’t happened yet.
In the meantime, I intentionally stay open to the truth that God is my Good Father. I choose to not have a hard heart toward him. I continue to learn about him and his character.
Mostly, I daily rely on his mercy and grace and understanding as I wander through this desert.
Deep down, past the walls and barriers and fortresses I have locked my heart behind, I know God is the opposite from the list above. But believing it and living it out are two different things.
With everything God is to me, and knowing he is who he is despite what I may feel, a flicker of hope remains in my heart that one day I will fully accept him as my Good Father.
Through it all, I am forever grateful he unconditionally accepts me as his child.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. ~ Psalm 68:5