Originally published Thursday, 18 June 2015.
Is Father's Day worth remembering when you don't have a daddy?
Since my daddy left when I was five, I've never really had a hard time with Father's Day. I described it to my friends this way whenever they ask if it was sad growing up without one -- I don't feel anything. It's probably like being born without a limb. You can't miss what you've never had.
Now that I'm not a kid any more, I don't have to lie. It was sad -- because I can never know what it's like to have a daddy.
A Little Too Strong
I remember her words like it was yesterday. My mother told me to cope this way: "Just think of yourself as being born without a dad. Some fathers die when babies are born and they grow up just fine."
What she said did make me stronger -- a little too strong, maybe. I never felt the pain of a missing father. I felt nothing. I made a detour around the place inside me that wanted a father. I didn't think I needed to be vulnerable, held, or carried. To feel this way was a sign of weakness and limitation. This changed when I became an adult.
Living by faith didn’t grant me immunity to heartbreak and disappointment. For the first time, I wished I had a father.
A Beautiful Possession
Being loved by a daddy is like having the sun kiss your nose while you're eating sweet strawberries and running through sprinklers with laughter. You don't need it, but it can change your world.
A father worth remembering makes the pain of missing someone a beautiful possession.
Since coming into my own, I've learned that having arms to crawl into, shoulders to ride on, and a soft place to land are birthrights Jesus paid for me to own.
To feel loved by a father is a sign of belonging and blessing. It's what everyone truly wants, no matter how old we get.
A person can die lonely in pursuit of a father’s love. Not us. When we embrace God as our Father, we are finally free to discover who we really are.
If you're like me, without a daddy, here's how you can remember Father's Day:
1. Still celebrate.
As we read cards meant for others, read them the way I do at the card store. Read them quietly in your heart to our Father God. You may feel an ache, but imagine the tenderness on our Heavenly Father’s face.
2. Take steps to experience God as Father.
My relationship with God as Father began to grow from being a polite paternal relationship into an intimate belonging with my real Heavenly Daddy.
First, dare to believe: My Heavenly Father loves me the same way He loves Jesus. “I have made Your name known to them … so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them…" Jesus speaking to Father God. John 17:26
Second, confide your deepest longings: My Heavenly Father takes a loving, personal interest in me. "… I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you…” -Jesus. John 16:26-27
Third, be honest: My Heavenly Father can handle my feelings, especially when I’m most troubled. "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." -Jesus. Mark 15:36
Fourth, pray to God addressing Him as “Dad,” “Daddy,” or “Papa.” My Heavenly Father has adopted me as His very own.
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery … but you have received a spirit of adoption as [daughters] by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
3. Send words of encouragement to your child if his father isn't here.
Or encourage a friend who may be separated from her child's father.
If you're a single mother and your child’s father isn’t here -- here's what I wish my mom would've done for me. Follow the prompting of your own ideas, knowing your child. Your child may not express their longing or vulnerable feelings, since he may be afraid it would affect you or he may have confusing or difficult feelings. Know that any movement you make to be present with your child this weekend will help him know he is not alone.
* Reflect Father God’s love to your child.
Take your child on a fun outing during Father’s Day weekend, celebrating Father God’s presence in your family.
Ask how your child is feeling about Father’s Day. Give him freedom to share difficult emotions.
Comfort him with your understanding, having confidence that God can heal all hurt directly as Father to your child.
Send a card to your child with an encouraging note and Scripture. Sign it, “Love, your Heavenly Daddy."
* Allow God to love you as His child. Parenting draws out our greatest vulnerabilities. Confide in God as Father, who is intimately near.
“Praise be to God ... Father of compassion … who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 1 Cor. 1:3,4
4. Take the time to list and appreciate the ways your husband is father to your child.
Thank him for the many ways he allows your child to experience God's kindness, wisdom, and love -- through him. How wonderful it is for a child to feel God's love through the arms of a father!
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you." Isaiah 43:2
5. Send words of appreciation for your father.
If you're blessed enough to have a father to call daddy: I'm so very happy for you. Look into his eyes as you hand him a gift or card, and say his name.
Here, Daddy. This is for you.
For all fathers reading this:
Love harder, even if it costs you everything you have. You are making a difference, the kind that lasts into eternity. You can never lose who you are. You will find yourself in the hearts of the children you love, along with the Father who lovingly carries you all the way until you are home.
I'd like to close by sharing a promise I’ve come to cherish. It takes my breath away every time I read it -- because I know it's true.
"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (Isaiah 46:4)
For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, which garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.
Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. She has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.
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