I end up there, but usually after intense procrastination. Perhaps you’ve been there? To that section just beyond the get-well-soon’s and wishing-you-the-best’s. It’s the spot where all the cards are covered with polka dot ties or fishing poles. I sift through my options, but none of the words apply. Nothing religious or humorous or from all of us. I stare at a blank inside, letting its starkness reflect my mood. Father’s Day is difficult for the fatherless, but what Hallmark doesn’t say is God will make a way.
The loss of a father is always painful. Some lost their fathers physically. Illness, injury, or some unfortunate event took them. Others lost them psycho-emotionally, which is particularly grievous. The part of him that cared, listened, laughed, reasoned, made us safe is long departed; yet he remains physically present. Still others of us lost our fathers relationally and interactions with him are beyond perplexing; they’re excruciating.
He demands respect, but never earns it. Perpetually finds fault. Stirs the proverbial pot. Sets unreasonable expectations. Gives burdensome instructions. Is moody. Unreliable. Temperamental. He may love you, but never says it or shows it. His inconsistencies incite your insecurities. His criticisms crush your spirit. God calls this behavior provoking and he commands fathers to avoid it (Eph 6.4, Col 3.21). Those who disobey end up breaking the heart of their child. But what Hallmark doesn’t say is God will make a way by becoming “a father to the fatherless (Ps 68.5).
Not surprisingly, the fatherless ones wrestle with the discomfort and uncertainty of relating to God in this way. The loss of our fathers hardwired us to repress needs and to disconnect from others. So, when God asks us to rely on him, we don’t know how. When God says he’s safe and that he’s gentle and kind, we don’t know why. No one has loved us into safety before. But God makes a way by placing us into family (Ps 68.6).
He provides believers as tangible, visible, audible expressions of his fathering (and mothering). In a process requiring immense courage and discernment, we reach out to these men and women, searching for those who have the desire, time, and spiritual maturity to become God-family. These folks reach back, offering the space and grace for us to be our true selves. We enter their lives and invite them into ours. We unveil the not-so-polished parts of ourselves. They unveil theirs. We share our true thoughts, feelings, hang-ups, desires, needs. They share theirs. We learn to trust them and, gradually, to trust God as Father.
In a few days I’ll stand in the card department and staring in silence. My heart will ache. Even though God has healed me, it will hurt as that wound gets poked. Thankfully, I know what Hallmark doesn’t say: God makes a way for the fatherless to be fathered and the lonely to be familied.
Dear one, if you are struggling with fatherlessness and loneliness, please reach out. To me. To your pastor. To a counselor or a safe person in your church. You can experience the love and health of family! I’m living proof! Meet some of my God-family…