While driving through the road construction by my house and looking at the piled-up dirt, rocks, and various potholes on the side of the road, I was in deep thought about my father who had passed away years earlier.
When I first heard of his passing, I had very mixed emotions. You see, I had no relationship with him for the past 20 plus. years. He decided my sin against him was unforgivable and wrote me out of his life. I accepted the fact that I was not important enough to him for him to let go of my offense, but I’m left with mixed emotions on Father’s Day.
I reached out to him many years ago when my sister passed, but when I attempted to hug him, I was met with straight, unreciprocating arms. That was the day I decided to release the thought of having a relationship with him. Thanks to my faith in God, I was able to accept that some things don’t work out the way we hope.
What I Lost: The Ideal Family
Through the years, when holidays came, my thoughts inevitably drifted to the ideal family I didn’t have. When we think of family, particularly parents, I see them as the pillars of the family. They are two strong pillars standing on each side of the family. Pillars that shelter us from the storms of life.
Many years ago, my husband, Jeff, asked me after a church service on Father’s Day weekend if it was hard to hear the sermon about dads. I said no; I am at peace with my dad. Watching Jeff interact with our children, who are now grown, has given me a glimpse of how life could have been if my dad was present in my life. My children have been blessed to have a father who is attentive, loving and a constant in their lives.
Patterns in families repeat themselves unless we decide to change them. My dad’s dad rejected him. He thought my dad was not his child.
Then, when my dad was 8, his mom passed away while giving birth to his little brother. My dad was sent to live with his aunt. The conditions were not very favorable, and his self-report is that he was an ornery little boy, which didn’t help the situation.
Just last year, through DNA testing and connecting with relatives through 23andme, there is evidence that my dad was his dad’s biological son. How sad that his dad passed away in 2011 at the age of 101, with no contact throughout my dad’s adult life.
Author Laura Hillenbrand, in the book Unbroken, says, “We hold on to pain because we want to control the punishment of those who’ve wounded us. But what happens is they end up controlling us.”
Despite the Brokenness, I Forgave my Father
I decided to forgive my dad many years ago because I knew that is what God desires for those who follow Him. Forgiveness was an ongoing decision for me. When a thought about my dad came up, I could ruminate on it or remind myself that I had let go of the hurt many years ago. True forgiveness comes from God.
Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”
With time, I have come to understand the magnitude of God’s love for me. My trust in God was not an instant thing but another process of giving him more and more of my life. He became my pillar. He is my pillar. I also decided to pray for my dad. Prayers for his health and for him to know the Father I know.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families; he leads out the prisoners with singing.” Psalms 68:5-6
“O Lord, you have searched me, and you know me. You know, when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar.” Psalms 139:1-3
This life is not perfect, lives are messy, and families are broken. And dads don’t show up. So what do we do with the loss of a father? The father that is unknown, the father who walked out and found a new family? The father whose life was cut short through an accident or an illness? We grieve the loss because it’s significant. We get help, if necessary, to process all of those messy feelings. We forgive. We allow safe people to fill that void.
The Hope of this Father’s Day
Father’s Day is a day of celebration. For all the things dads bring to their children’s lives. They are the protectors and providers of their families. They can get a bad rap for not being emotional, but they balance out their emotions with a rational stance. My husband has been a great example of a father. He came from a family where he had two pillars and lost his dad when he was in college. His family shaped him and helped shape the father he is today.
I am not a perfect pillar of a parent either. Just like the road construction, I am being stretched and repaired too. Although I came to a place of peace many years ago, it doesn’t negate the new feelings of the loss of my father this Father’s Day. This year, Father’s Day will be different for me. My father is gone, and something about the finality of it gives me sadness.
This Father’s Day may bring some tears of sadness, but I can also celebrate that the pattern is broken for my family. I can look around on Father’s Day with a smile on my face as I see my children honoring their pillar of a father.
You’ll enjoy this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: What Makes a Great Dad? How Can You Encourage It? – 093