Father’s Day is just around the corner and it causes me to stop and think about my dad. I have the kind of dad that never missed a basketball game in my 8 year playing career. When my mom worked weekends at the hospital, my dad made us fried potatoes and scrambled eggs for dinner, got us dressed and ready for church and put us to bed. My dad has shown himself a dedicated and loving father over the years. Even if he may not always be an expert in talking through feelings with his three daughters, he certainly knows how to show love and support by being there anyway. Being there, that’s what he’s pretty good at. In 2012, when I suffered a violent attack, my mom and dad immediately got in their car and drove the 1000 miles from central Illinois to Houston, Texas. My dad may not have known the right words to say, but he was there showing me his love and concern in simple ways such as driving me to the police station and making late night Whataburger runs. Just two years later, a trial date had been set and I had a 6 month old baby boy. How was I supposed to manage the stress of a trial and feel at peace with who was watching my baby all day? Well my dad hopped on a plane and flew down to help care for baby Judah for the week. The day he arrived, my trial was postponed and we ended up strolling through the Houston zoo taking in the gorillas and giraffes together instead. Did he complain? Not that I know of. He hadn’t wasted his money on that ticket because despite the lack of a trial I was once again assured that my dad would go to great lengths to be there for me. It was just two more short years after that when I found myself a single mom all of a sudden with no income and no options. Who was it that jumped on airplane immediately? My dad. My dad came to Texas in the morning, helped pack me and my boys up in the afternoon, and brought us back to Illinois that same night. We sat on that flight in silence. There were no words to be said, but he had made himself present. My dad’s not perfect, but he knows when to show up and that matters.
My loving relationship with my dad is probably why I never really struggled much with viewing God as my heavenly Father. It came naturally to me to view my creator as also a dad who gives good gifts to his children. I have had that modeled to me my entire life. That also means I took that blessing for granted and didn’t give it much of second thought. It wasn’t until my own young sons became fatherless that my eyes were opened to the beauty and glorious redemption one can find in knowing that God is our good good father. I never would have imagined watching my boys grow up without a dad in their life, but that is what I have found myself doing over the last couple years and boy it’s hard to watch. My boys were just babies when their dad was arrested. They have no memories of a life with their dad in it. I can remember vividly being in a Walmart last year and Lucas, who was just 2, pointing out different men and asking ” Is that my daddy?” for each of them. Oh how my heart broke at his lack of understanding in who his father was. Judah, who is now 5 years old, desperately tries to hold onto the memories he and his daddy had together. He repeats the memories I have shared with him with such pride. “Daddy and I played hide-and-seek together” or ” Daddy used to take me to work with him in Texas“. He loves his daddy despite all the wrongs done and the distance between them. As I write this blog post, both boys are drawing pictures for their dad and competing for whose picture Daddy will love the most. They teach me grace and forgiveness daily.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Of course I have been plenty angry too. It’s not fair that my boys don’t have a dad to play with them and throw them high into the air. It’s not fair that they won’t get the chance to feel the embrace of a father for most of their childhood. This brings tears and an ache to my heart that I never imagined possible. However, this is when I must look up to our Father in heaven and praise him for what my kids do have. There has been a glimpse of redemption in seeing the relationship that has formed between my dad and my boys since moving in with my parents. Grandpa has become one of their bestest buddies. My dad has once again showed up not just for me, but for them. He has changed diapers , fed them breakfast, tucked them into bed, said bedtime prayers, read books, taken them swimming and trick or treating and bought them plenty of happy meals and ice cream. Nowadays, he drives them around our small town in his golf cart and makes them feel like the most important kids in town. I am so grateful that my dad has stepped up to be a father figure in my kids lives, but I know he cannot entirely fulfill their need of a father. The truth is that only our great God can do that. God is the only perfect Father. He knows what’s best for my kids and I must daily trust him with their hearts. When I first became a single mom and the grief was immense, I wasn’t always sure how to pray so I would just recite the Lord’s Prayer multiple times a day. As we all probably know it begins with “Our Father in heaven“. This is the primary way that Jesus teaches us to address the holy and sovereign God of the universe. Oh how these words washed over me and a new gratitude lept in my heart for this truth. What comfort it is for this single mama that God is our Father, a true father to the fatherless. He will always be there when everyone else fails them. He is there lavishing his great love on them. 1 John 3:1 says ” See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And this is what we are!” This love goes way beyond anything an earthly father could offer. I recently heard Louie Giglio describe God not as a reflection of our earthly father, but a perfection of him. My prayer is that my sons will truly know God and that their faith will surpass my own because they will understand how valuable it is that God is our Father and calls us his children. They won’t take this for granted like I have done in the past. I pray they will find great joy and belonging in knowing they are a part of the family of God and find their identity and rest in Him. If your kids are going through life without their dad, I hope you will find comfort in these truths today as well. You are not alone.
I am also keenly aware that for many people reading this, you too may have a hole where a father should be. I may not know your story, but I know that Father’s Day can be an challenging day for you too. Maybe you haven’t felt the embrace of a loving father in far too long. Maybe you have never known the love of a father on this side of heaven. Or maybe worst of all you have suffered pain and abuse at the hands of your own father. I am sorry and my heart breaks for you. My prayer for you is that you will read the words of 1 John 3:1 and take in the word lavish. God doesn’t just love us, but he lavishes his love on us with extravagant, luxurious, and grand actions. His most obvious display of this kind of love was sending Jesus to dwell among us to display his compassion and mercy and to rescue us from a broken life without hope. He offers us an eternal joy that outlasts it all. Jesus tells us in John 14:6-7 ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father.” It doesn’t take long for us to read through the gospels and see the way that Jesus loved lavishly, especially to those who were broken, grieving and lost. He reaches out to those vulnerable to the hurts of this world. So I invite you on Father’s day this year, when the pain is deep and the loss is obvious, to look up and find the love that your heavenly Father is lavishing on you today. Look into the Word and find his promises are true and know that he will never leave you or abandon you. Look around and see how he is always providing and giving good gifts to his children. Sometimes you just have to look a bit harder through all those tears, but I assure you he’s there. He shows up and that matters.