Hello, friends! I’d like to start by saying Happy Father’s Day to all the special men in your life—the ones who have raised you (by blood or choice), the ones who have passed, the ones we married and so on.
For some of you, this holiday is a chance to proudly show your love and appreciation for your Dad. For others, this holiday is a little hard—a day that brings up some deep emotions, hurts and expectations gone unmet.
Personally, Father’s Day was always a super weird and sad holiday for me. I talk about this in Remain Book, so if you’ve read it, then you might recall a bit of my story.
Due to my father’s unfaithfulness, my parents divorced when I was two, and my mom was pregnant with my sister. For awhile we attempted the shared custody thing, but the only consistency was broken promises. At four years old (the age my daughter is now), I remember saying goodbye to my dad, not knowing it would be the last time I would see him for the next seven years.
It takes a toll on a girl, growing up without her dad. Especially when she grows old enough to realize that her dad chose not to be a part of her life—chose not to fight for her. It’s crushing. In hindsight, I believe that contributed a lot to the way I began questioning my value and identity, and needing the approval of others (more on that another time).
It wasn’t until I was in junior high that I really remember trying to wrap my head around it all. I started going to youth group with a friend and I began to experience God move in my life in a personal way. Up until then, we had moved around so much (I attended 4 different elementary schools) and had been through so much as a family, that it just didn’t occur to me that all of this wasn’t “normal”—that just surviving through life and adapting to the pain and stress wasn’t commonplace for every kid.
And when I did recognize all of this, the burden felt even heavier. Why did this have to be my story? My mom is great, and did her best as a single mom. I didn’t blame her for any of this. It just felt unfair. Why couldn’t I have been given a Dad who adored me and cheered me on the way I saw other dads doing with their daughters? I wanted strong arms to run to on hard days—a place to feel held and safe. I wanted the chance to be a Daddy’s girl.
I went away to winter camp that year, and for the first time I really let myself feel all that I had been carrying. I wrote a letter to God pouring out my heart. Never had I been so unfiltered in my emotions. It was uncomfortable and freeing all at the same time. Then I heard Him speak over me promises...promises that He would never abandon or forsake me. Here is the verse I read that night. It cut straight to my soul and gave me something to cling to:
“He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.” -Psalm 62:2
Talk about a promise! A strong and steady fortress where I could feel safe and unshakeable—that’s exactly what I was longing for. He also gave me an assurance that He is faithful in keeping those promises. (Also something I needed to know in order to trust Him) The very things I lacked in an earthly father, He fulfilled as my Heavenly father. That’s where my healing began. I wasn’t ready yet to forgive, but God was softening and preparing my heart for it before I even knew that’s where I was headed.
It took a lot of healing, working through emotions, and a few more broken promises before I was able to forgive my dad. And when I did, I saw him with new eyes. I had compassion for him, even while recognizing the pain I had walked through because of him. Something a mentor said to me in high school changed the way I thought about forgiveness. She said, “Tara, forgiveness isn’t letting him off the hook and pretending like everything is ok. It’s something between you and God.” That advice right there has stuck with me. We can forgive and still be aware of the weight of what happened.
“Forgiveness is a freedom thing.”
I forgave my dad in my heart before I actually told him. The forgiveness that happened in private was deep and healing and peace-giving. It had more to do with me and God. The forgiveness I extended outwardly was a sense of closure of past hurts and a healthy boundary for the future.
If you are struggling with forgiveness, in whatever facet that might be, remember that it isn’t about forgetting or letting someone “off the hook”. It’s a faith and a trust thing. It’s a freedom thing.
And so—Father’s Day. I thought it would always be an awkward sad holiday that I’d rather not ever think about. But, I can tell you with great conviction and unfortunately much experience in doubting, that God does in fact make all things NEW! (As promised in Isaiah…and quite a few other books in the Bible)
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:19:
He gave me my husband, who is a wonderful dad to our babies. Now, Father’s Day is about him. It’s about how he chooses to show up every day for our family, even when things are hard and stressful. Celebrating him reminds me of God’s good promises for me—for all of us. It’s a holiday I have learned to look forward to.
If you are struggling with this day for whatever reason that might be, my heart goes out to you. If we were in the same room, I’d give you a great big hug and a knowing nod. First, because I’m a hugger and second because I know how it feels, friend. One “Daddy issues” girl to another, I get it. I also know we weren’t meant to live hostage to the past mistakes of anyone. What kind of power does that give you, staying there? (We both know the answer to that.)
We were meant to dread not a single one of our days. Find someone to celebrate on this day, beginning with your Heavenly Father. He wants good for you—things like healing, security, confidence, and peace. He loves you and knows you, friend. Nothing is too hard for Him. Let loose your grip on bitterness and watch as He transforms and redeems.
I’ll leave you with this this song by Christ Tomlin. He is our good good father, no matter what we’ve been through. And we praise Him in the midst of grief, and sadness, and joy and excitement, and all the things.
We are loved. We belong. We are His.