As Father’s Day is nearing I thought I’d share something I wrote on Facebook the first Father’s Day after my dad had passed away.
Father’s Day is coming and it’s the first one without my Dad. I’ve wondered all week…. Will I be sad? Will I miss him more than other days? Will there be a melancholy spirit to the day? Will I be ok or struggle throughout the day? Much wonder, much thought, much reflection, and no answers. That’s ok, sometimes you only ask questions and receive no answers and other times you get answers with no questions. In the end I have no idea. Grief is the strangest friend.
What I do know is that as I reflected all week on my Dad the father he was to me. I started to view my Dad through the lens of the Triune God; The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s a different lens to view for me, but one of many new insights. As I focused this lens I dove deeper into the mystery of God, the mystery of love, suffering, and the joy that exists in it all. A mystery that cannot be fully found in any human relationship here on earth.
When I was a little girl, I knew I was loved. The reason I knew this is because my Dad. He was my first love. He adored me and I knew I was cherished in his sight. I was precious to him, so precious he had special names only for me; Apple Cheeks was one of them. I witnessed delight in my Father’s eyes and smile. I experienced it in his playful nature with me and sometimes the discipline too. He delighted in me and I delighted in him.
Just like my Dad, God the Father delights in each of us. Only God’s love and His delight cannot be measured, it has no bounds our limits. It’s completely unconditional.
My Dad loved me when I was good, but he also loved me when I wasn’t so good. He loved me when good grades came home, I played good games, or scored goals. He relished in all my successes and celebrated them with words of praise on my graduations, my first car, and many promotions. And yet there were times when I wasn’t so good.
I’m grateful for my dad’s praise and encouragement, but with God we never have to perform or earn his love. He freely gives His love to us just like my father freely loved me.
And when I wasn’t so good, my Dad had a way of letting me know my behavior was inappropriate, but that I was still his girl and loved deeply in the midst of the trouble. His words and discipline were because he wanted more from me. He knew I could do better, be better, and that’s what he desired for me. Much like God desiring holiness for us.
Although I was a good girl, I was far from perfect. Knowing I was loved didn’t prevent the sting in my heart when I disappointed my Dad in word, deed, or behavior. Oh, yes it happened. It was infrequent and yet my heart new the sting. Like the time in the seventh grade when I ended up in the principal’s office. Oh yes, the school called home. Let’s just say my rebellious streak had a short life.
I do not remember my Dads words to me, but surely he was disappointed. Heck, I was disappointed in myself. I knew better and yet temptation got the best of me. His disappointment was always expressed in a discipline of words of wisdom which included sprinkles of encouragement to do better and…… no next time. In times of sin we can always turn around, reorient back toward God. In fact, He stands and waits for us to do just that.
God the Father loves like that; fiercely, unconditionally, deeply in the good, the bad and the really ugly. He Loves me and he surely Loves YOU. My dad expressed that kind of love and yet my Dad’s love had limits. God’s love for each of us has no limits… No Limits. No sin is unforgivable.
The Son, this was easy lens to look through. My dad was a living sacrifice as a husband and father. For most of my life he worked third shift. That’s a tough life and one heck of cross. Leaving the house around 10:00 p.m. and coming home around 7:00 a.m. unless he was working overtime, which was often. There were times he worked 70 hours a week and it wasn’t to buy more, do more, or go more places. Nope. It was to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. I can’t imagine the thoughts he had on how he’d raise a family of six on a salary of a fork lift driver, never making more than $15.00 an hour. And somehow he did it. He was proud and even help three of us graduate from college. Amazing!
How’s that possible? Sacrifice. He carried his own cross as a husband and father. He’d wear holes in the soles of his shoes so I could have new soccer shoes that season. We didn’t go out to dinner, maybe carry out pizza on a Friday night. There were no fancy cars, toys or Disney vacations. In fact in eighteen years we only took one vacation to Devil’s Lake, WI. Until the time he got sick with lung cancer he was always offering up the last cookie, piece of bread or lunch meat. “No, you take he’d say, numerous times I’d walk into the kitchen in the midst of him making himself a sandwich and say that it looked good. More times than I can count he’d give me the sandwich when that was the last of the bread or lunch meant and say “I’ll find something to eat.” Always sacrificing for the another. So completely selfless.
He’d laid down his life for his bride and us kids. I saw it when the bullies came around. The warrior came out in my dad when one bully almost drowned me in the lake or when the intruder tried to enter our home in the middle of the night oh so long ago. There is no doubt in my mind that he would’ve of taken a bullet for anyone of us without hesitation. He didn’t complain or gripe about it either. He didn’t seek praise, attention, fame, fortune, or power. What he sought was to love, provide, protect, and sacrifice for his family. His whole purpose and mission in life was to be a good husband and role model to his children. Those were some of his last words to me, not mine. That’s no small order. He took his vocation as a husband more seriously than anything in his life. His lessons and teachings were often lived out in work and deed. His actions didn’t need words, we knew better.
Last, but never forgotten The Holy Spirit. Like the Holy Spirit, my Dad always showed up! You could count on his accountability and punctuality. If you asked for help he was there, if you called upon him he showed. He was never late, but always right on time.
He didn’t go to bars or hang with buddies neglecting his family. Nope, he was too busy supporting, encouraging and advocating for all of us. Always there and always available. He was the one home when school let out. He picked us up from every practice and attended almost every soccer, field hockey, basketball, volleyball etc. game. How blessed were we! I can still see him pacing along the fence yelling “anticipate, you have to anticipate the play”. After the game if we lost he’d say “if you gave it your best then that what matters, you’ll get them next time.” And his most famous line was “always be a good sport, no one likes poor sportsmanship.” Truth.
His words like the Holy Spirit always convicted the truth. He never hesitated in telling the truth. One thing that tested his patience and was bound to get us in deep water was getting caught in any type of lie. Always, be honest No one likes a liar he’d say. And yes, sometimes the truth hurts and you take a beating when it comes your way. There’s a reason the truth humbles you, it commands change and a change of heart. A conversion of sorts. Don’t run, embrace it, there’s freedom to be lived in truth. No one likes a liar, embrace truth and stay grounded in the truth of the person of Jesus Christ.
My dad, my relationship with him and how it’s change in death has drawn me closer into the mystery of the Triune God. He was a great Dad, never perfect. That’s God’s role, not our human father’s job. Trust me my Dad had his failings and he knew it, but he gave it his best. When he was dying he’d often say “I did the best I knew how and I’m proud of all my kids, you’ll all be ok without me.” “Lisa, it’s not you I worry about. You’re going to be just fine.” That’s true Dad and that’s because of the legacy you left us. It’s a legacy that cannot be touch with our hands, only our hearts. Thank you Dad.
This Father’s Day, if you are missing your dad due to death or distance let God the Father, Father you. Remember all that is good and you will find God’s love. And if a tear rolls down your cheek let it roll. There is a word in the New Testament – Abba. It’s an Aramaic word for father, used by Jesus and Paul to address God in relation of personal intimacy. Call out Abba Father and let God the Father be the daddy you’re missing today.
If by chance Father’s Day is tough because you were beaten, neglected, abandoned or abused then let God Father you too. Bring your brokenness to him. Let God love you, heal you and set you free from a past that holds you captive. Allow him to be your Abba, the daddy you never had and still long for… He’s waiting just for you.
And if you are a Father in any shape, form, one way or other then God Bless You! The world needs you. Lay down your life for your wife, your family, your kids, and your parish etc. and those you are fathering, it will be the best and greatest sacrifice you make. It will be the one that brings you the greatest joy!
Is is hard? Oh ya, it’s hard. There will be many crosses to carry. But you can do it, you’ve been given all you need in gift, the rest is God’s grace which is unlimited like his love. He’s generous with His love and grace, all we have to do is ask.
Happy Father’s Day to All Men! The world needs you. The male race needs you more than ever. Set an example of love, sacrifice and showing up. There is something profoundly significant about the legacy of a wise old sage. Seek to be one and be one to a young man today. No need to search far for an example it’s already right in the life and truth of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When I’m praying with people in the clinic here in Piura I give them this letter in Spanish on the way out to take home. This is how God the Father loves each and every one of us. https://www.fathersloveletter.com/languages.html
Beautiful video “A Gift & Tribute to Fatherhood.”