My Father Looks Different

This is a harder post to read than some others. Under my tab “Hard Stuff” I wonder if I have the courage to write about the hard things. I’m learning. I always hope I can write a message of encouragement. It’s a skill I’m working on. To be able to right the miracle of my story as I share the victory. But there is no victory without a fight. Some may not want to read about the fight. Most details I don’t share, but there’s got to be some that I share to reveal the story. My hope is that I improve and both you and I learn in this process. 

I haven’t been able to write for a couple of weeks. It’s been non stop for me with work and my personal life. May and June in the life of a high school is all consuming. In addition to end of school year wrap up, which also means gear up for the next year because dates, monies, staff, etc have to be determined for the upcoming year, it means graduation too, which is the big event. Additionally our school is revamping its curriculum as well as our physical building, and I’ve had my own graduations in my personal life, including a life changing event. My daughter just became engaged with a wonderful young man who I am happy to inherit. All good things, but all require both physical and emotional efforts, which means writing, yard work, and any other extracurricular activities get put aside (is it extracurricular when one isn’t in school, and is yard work extracurricular?). At the same time, it provides lots of material, and challenges my writing skills as I navigate how to express these personal experiences.

I’m praising God because in the last few weeks I’ve felt him turning minutes into hours like he increased five loaves and two fish.

Today is Father’s Day. I don’t have a father to celebrate, now or in the past. Last night I picked up some half and half from the grocery store. At the check out stand the cashier asked, “Got your Father’s Day plans all set up?” I answered, “Yep!”

I knew the guy didn’t want to hear, “Oh no. I wasn’t raised by my dad, plus he died a long time ago anyway.” Nor did he want to hear that I wasn’t celebrating my children’s dad. I too don’t like the sound of that. The poor guy was just handing me change and making small conversation. I enjoy talking to just about anyone, fortunately for him I was in deep in thought, as was evidenced by the parking job I discovered when I returned to my car: right down the middle was the parking space line. Not skewed on one side or the other, but smack dab down the center of my car. The cashier’s assumption dug into my soul for a few moments. As I walked away I reconciled in my mind the lie I had just insinuated and I worked through another event where my experience isn’t what is the norm for most people, at least not for most people with whom I come in contact.

Not having an earthly father who looked after me has been pivotal in who I am, which would be true for every person, because our fathers are pivotal in who we are. It’s why divorce is so devastating, particularly if the parents aren’t able to come together in parenting their children. God’s design places a role for both a father and a mother to raise up our children, united in one vision. When God’s design is broken, the pieces are being picked up in an effort to make things look something like whole again. If the divorced family can make a good effort, then I believe redemption in what has been broken is possible. Without that united effort, the only hope is another father, our heavenly father, who steps in for us.

Not having my own father and navigating a victorious life in the face of a broken family has caused me to seek my heavenly father, far more than I would had I been blessed with both a father and a husband. Not having an earthly father on whom I could depend has been the norm for me. My own father left my mother when I was very young. When I was about 13 I was reunited with him (I’ll save that detail for now) for a short time. The scenario didn’t work out so I returned to my foster home with a foster mom and dad. At my young age, I assumed my foster dad would be my dad. Our relationship was not altogether solid, but I accepted it for what it was. He seemed good enough. I’ll take him! Ultimately I discovered that he didn’t consider me to be his daughter several years into adulthood. I’d written a letter explaining my frustration in how they treated me when my biological mom had returned to my life and I felt a duty to care for her. I never heard from him or my foster mom again.

Those missing pieces (a mom and a dad) in my life caused me to cruise through life, not in the sense that I was enjoying the ride, but in the sense that I had no direction. I wasn’t pointed anywhere, except when I was eighteen and it was time to leave. That’s not to say I hadn’t had discipline or that God hadn’t been guiding me all along. I’d had lots of discipline (or punishments) in various forms. And God did guide me. I discovered Jesus’ love for me at age 13 (just before I’d been reunited with my dad) and I had a constant nagging sense (which I believe was God’s Holy Spirit) in everything I did. Some people might misinterpret that sense as being guilt. I did feel guilt when I wasn’t honoring God’s word that I had discovered to be truth. But no one guilted me into becoming a Christian. I was the first to discover Jesus while living in my foster home. God spoke directly to me, and it was between him and me.

As I cruised with no destination in mind, I stopped at ports and explored, storms crashed around me, and icebergs stopped me short. My exploring took me places I wish I would have avoided, which lead me to some of the icebergs.  As I’ve raised my kids I’ve had to learn to balance my desire to spare them their hurts and allow them freedom to make valuable mistakes. Not having a partner in this parenting effort, God’s word has been a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my parenting path. Among counselors, friends, and the many books I have read, I’ve relied on God’s word to give me guidance to direct my children. I want them to have a sense of direction in the hopes they are spared the unnecessary mistakes that cause pain and detours. God provided a roadmap; I believe that’s what God has called Fathers to do for their children, as He has done for us.

I have friends who have said or indicated that I should “live a little,” as if I’m denying myself of all life has to offer. I’ve lived plenty of what life has to offer and I’ve lost a lot. The message I’d like to offer is,

“Life is too short to get off track.”

Why not instead live according to the instructions from our heavenly father? There is no confusion about right or wrong or good or bad. His influence is true and pure. Even when I deviate from His instruction, I am certain of His love. I don’t have to earn it, I don’t deserve it. I simply return to Him and ask Him again to forgive me and to guide me in His loving presence once again.

At 58, I am not seeking an earthly father or husband that I look to with admiration. Yet I consider these things a bonus that others enjoy. I know this to be true from the envy I feel when I see it. Then I find myself feeling its absence. I am fortunate that the relationship that I’ve acquired with God through the detours and storms have yielded an intimacy that is reliant on Him. I trust and depend on His promises. I feel Him on the most ordinary days when I’m with my friends or gardening, especially with my children, and also in their absence. But what a blessing to have the benefit of an earthly father. They are a treasure beyond any measure. I hope that on this Father’s Day you know the joy of a father in your life, whether he’s your father, or the father of your children, and you thank your heavenly father for him.

Thank you heavenly father for lemons and lemonade.

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