I have a friend or two with whom I share the silent bond of growing up fatherless, whether literally or figuratively. It isn’t something we discuss at great length. Issues of abandonment and rejection, like everything else, simply become an unspoken part of who we are; a part of our identity that, in adulthood, do not always necessitate verbal elaboration. That said, there are times when discussing among friends the eerily similar aspects of our personal lives that I have to pause and blurt out something wildly and inappropriately comical. It lightens the mood – and our hearts. Just like that, any repressed pangs of abandonment are washed away by our tears of hysterical laughter.
The last time this happened, once the laughter subsided, I started thinking more about that common thread among us and the similar ways in which it has weaved itself into and through our lives. I thought about my own daughter, who I watch in awe with her daddy, knowing her love for him is something that I am incapable of ever truly understanding. I study them, not with a self-pitying remorse, but observational intrigue.
As a child, I cannot remember longing for a father. I do remember the longing for a sense of normalcy and later on, desiring a sense of belonging that seemed to be missing. I buried these longings deep in my heart and carried them silently into adulthood. I spent years desperately trying to fill the hidden voids in my heart, striving to create a life that, at a minimum, looked idyllic and filled my need for normalcy. I attached to people, to places and to things as a means to feel as though I was rooted. All the while, I was still that little girl waiting for wholeness, and inevitably falling deeper into despair when the emptiness remained.
What had already become an intrinsic emotional aptitude for my daughter remained an area grave debilitation for me. Without a father’s presence in my formative years, my sole model of giving and receiving love with a man were consequently derived from my own personal montage of familial television and movie clips, pieced together with Norman Rockwell paintings.
As a result, my relationships, especially those with men, were historically, extraordinarily messy. I blindly felt my way into my twenties - and into marriage - with my mind, but not my heart. I knew from years of observation how everything about what it was supposed to look like, what I wanted it to look like, but knew nothing of how it felt, or how to feel it. I grasped and groped in darkness, stumbling and invariably, falling.
In the two most important relationships in my life, my two covenant relationships with God and with my spouse, I struggled constantly. I simultaneously longed for and rejected their unconditional love, placing the three of us in an incessant, vicious cycle of ebb and flow. In our humanness, we succumbed to weakness, but God, in His divinity, remained relentless in His faithfulness and in His pursuit of my heart.
Several more years passed before I, at last, surrendered my life to the Lord. I surrendered my heart, my will and with those, the endless pursuit of the idyllic façade. I surrendered my desire for belonging, and my futile attempts of using everyone and everything as filler for the holes inside of me. It was there, hidden beneath the rubble, that my longing for the love of a father flowed out at last. Through His word, He answered:"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:18).
My own daughter was just five years old at the time. In the years since, I have grown with her in so many ways, learning alongside her the lessons of life and of love that run so deeply between a father and a daughter.
She is learning from her earthly father, while I am learning from my Heavenly Father: learning forgiveness; learning to accept unconditional love – and to give it; learning to trust; learning to rest in the peaceful security of embrace.
How incredible it is that God would see fit to use their relationship to reveal His heart for me and create in me a heart for Him.
Watching my daughter interact with the kind of father I could have only dreamed about has changed my perception of my Heavenly Father and ultimately, enabled me to accept this love that I never knew, but always longed for.
This Father’s Day, if you’re longing for the love of a Father, I pray that you seek our Heavenly Father and know that He’s seeking you. “A father to the fatherless… is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:2).
“To know God as our father – as our almighty, loving Father
– is the highest, richest, and most rewarding aspect of our whole relationship with Him.”
Nadia Wilder is a Southern girl by birth, saved by grace, mommy of two by blessing, and a writer by heart. She is passionate about her faith, family, photography and encouraging others to live abundantly in Christ. You can read more from Nadia at The Narrow Path Home.