Holidays can always be a painful reminder of broken relationships, and none more so than the most recent, so why does God place so much emphasis on fathers?
On the Popcast’s episode “Fatherhood Confessions,” Knox and Jamie shared Instagram posts where people talked about their dads, “We have GinnydawnTX who says, ‘I’m the youngest of three girls, and my dad came from a family of brothers. He’s a great girl-dad but did not understand our fighting style.
“We would scream at each other from across the hall and slam doors and declare, ‘You are not my sister anymore!’ until finally he would come to the bottom of the stairs and scream, ‘Hey!’
“We would all come out and stand there, waiting for him to tell us to get along, but instead he would say, ‘Somebody hit somebody and get this over with.’”
We might laugh at ‘dad stories’ like these, but the unique influence of a father in the lives of his children, either by his presence or absence, is felt in far more than one day a year.
Some celebrated yesterday with a lunch out, a hike, an awkward phone call, a refusal to visit or talk, a shivering silence of memories returning unbidden and unwelcome. Unlike its counterpart, Mother’s Day, this holiday can be hard for many who grew up without a dad or with one they don’t particularly want to applaud.
Depending on our family dynamics, we may be tempted to wash this holiday from our hands, but let’s allow it to linger for a moment. God made fathers, biological or not, a lynchpin of our lives, even if we’re left asking, “How and why?”
We Need You More Than We Can Say
Rachel Davis Ho, operations manager of Wellspring International, described one heart-breaking moment in her work, “A young woman sat in front of me, explaining what it had been like for her when she was homeless and addicted to heroin. Her boyfriend/pimp would find dates for her, always hoping they would get enough money to get a hotel room for the night. If not, they would be sleeping on the streets. She ended up spending a few years in jail with drug charges before coming to our safe-house. She wanted help. She needed a second chance.
“As she told me the details of her story, she gave me an empty smile and said, ‘Maybe my life would’ve been different if I had a different father.’ The pain and weight of that statement hit me so deeply, for I believe it is true.
“Her life would have likely been drastically different if she had a father who loved her and gave her the security every child desperately needs. Instead, she had a dad who came into her room at night and did things to her that to this day she does not understand. He took so much away from her….
“For the men who are fathers and who love their daughters well, thank you. You are impacting her life more than you may ever know. And for those who have been absent or busy, it is not too late to stop and pursue your children…. Your greatest ministry and calling will be to invest in them. Do it well.”
While girls and young women are often the focal point of this conversation, boys and young men suffer the consequences of an absent or abusive father every bit as severely.
Greg Morse mused over his own father-son relationship and then the one shown in the Creed movie between Adonis Creed and Rocky Balboa, “Men need a man in their corner. Whether biological or not, they need older, wiser, more experienced men in order to become the type of warrior God calls them to be. And as much as biological fatherlessness is an epidemic…, I wonder if the church can boast of much more health regarding our young men. Are we training the sons among us to become strong, faithful, and godly husbands, fathers, soldiers?
“God certainly is the ‘Father of the fatherless’ (Psalm 68:5), but he cares for his children through present, mature saints in local churches. God promises to give every adopted son many fathers when they become a member of the body of Christ (Mark 10:29–30).
“The apostle modeled this. Paul’s creed was written into the lives of his children. The young men in our churches are our crown before God (1 Thessalonians 2:19). They need us.”
Men or women, boys or girls, we need our fathers more than we can ever say.
Adoption by the Greatest Father
Without a doubt, the most tragic struggle of those who come from broken or unhealthy homes is the shadow of doubt cast over God the Father.
If our only earthly relationship with a father was fraught with pain, emptiness or anger, then odds are we will view God in the same light. It enough to make one wonder why God refers to himself as a father so often when he must have known that many of his children would have damaging relationships with their earthly fathers.
Perhaps that’s exactly why God refers to himself as a father so often. He knew we would long for paternal approval and even correction. He built each of us to need a dad in our lives and experience that brand of fierce love that burns for no other reason than we’re his kids.
However, he knew that even the best dads would fail at some point because all of us need a perfect Father.
“Jesus says that our Father in heaven is a good father,” Pastor Stephen Miller wrote. “He’s not too busy for you. He’s not a deadbeat, absentee, disinterested dad. When we talk to him, we know he hears. When we pray, and ask, we know that he listens. And better yet, he always knows what is best for us. He provides our needs and shapes us and disciplines us, like a good father would his children. It makes him happy to do so because he delights in us. He actually wants us.
“No one forced him to begrudgingly take us in. And there was nothing we could have done to earn it. No amount of good deeds or determination to do better could bring us into the family of God. We are his because he has made us his, and then bought us back. Not because we were born into a certain family or country or bloodline or spoke some magical words. But because, before the foundation of the world, God chose to adopt us in Christ.”
Working with troubled young adults, David Wilkerson often saw the practical outplay of those struggling to see the healthy side of their adoption into God’s kingdom. He pleaded with them, “When you go to worship the Lord in prayer, be very careful what kind of image of God you take into His presence. You must be fully convinced He loves you and that He is all He says He is!
“The devil's biggest lie is to make you believe God is more willing to judge and condemn you than He is to save, bless and deliver you. Satan will try to do to you what he did to Job. He planted in his mind a perverted view of the Father.”
Even if we had an excellent relationship with our dads, we will still struggle with broken ideas about how God views us or relates to us. If we had a rough relationship — or a nonexistent one — with our biological father, relating to our heavenly Father may be an uphill climb, but that’s okay.
He’s inviting us to redefine fatherhood with him, the perfect dad.
To the Hardworking, Faithful and True
A few years ago, Ravi Zacharias wrote, “Today I am reminded that God is indeed our perfect Father. No human being can ultimately be a total reflection of God. As many of you will attest to, we either show how far we fall from God or the hints of what God really is like.”
To the many fathers out there who are working hard to do the latter and show their kids God’s nature and rough-and-tumble, grizzly-bear love, thank you. They won’t appreciate that love properly until much later in life, but it will shape so many of their choices and paths. You’re giving your children an incredible gift.
To my own dad, thank you, not just for one holiday but for all the days in between.
You taught me about the true nature of cats (high probability of devilish) and how do a flip on a trampoline without breaking my neck, and you took me on adventures to Middle-earth and Narnia before any of my friends so I had major bragging rights.
You trained me to ask good questions, to be gracious with others and to value the many virtues of a good sense of humor. Most importantly, though, you’ve been a living example of the uncompromising and passionate pursuit of God in all its rawness and struggle and victory.
Thank you, for more than I can ever fully put into words.