Father’s Day: What Hallmark Doesn’t Say

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. Sometimes we lose them physically, through illness, injury, or some unfortunate event. Other times we lose them emotionally. He remains physically present, but the part of him that cared, listened, laughed, reasoned, and made us safe has long been dead.

Interactions with him are excruciating. He demands respect. Commands allegiance. Finds fault. Stirs the proverbial pot. Sets unreasonable expectations. Is temperamental. Unreliable. Silent. His inconsistencies incite your insecurities. His criticisms crush your spirit. God abhors such provoking behavior from fathers because it breaks the heart of the child (Eph 6.4Col 3.21). But what Hallmark doesn’t say is God will make a way.

God himself becomes “a father to the fatherless” (Ps 68.5). Even so, for us to relate to him in this way stirs doubt and discomfort. The loss of our fathers hardwired us to repress needs and only rely on ourselves. When God asks us to trust that he’ll never leave or forsake us, we don’t know how. Dad didn’t stay. When God says he’s safe and gentle and kind, we don’t know why. No one has loved that way before. But God makes a way.

He places us into family (Ps 68.6). With immense courage and discernment. we reach out to these men and women 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 God in them and, gradually we learn to trust God as Father.

In a few days I’ll stand in the card department, staring in silence. My heart will ache. Even though God has healed me, it will hurt as the 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.

Beloved, if you are struggling with fatherlessness, please reach out. To me. To your pastor. To a counselor or loved one. You can experience the love and health of family! I’m living proof! Meet some of my God-family…

Amy Leigh Bamberg

Amy Leigh is an Alabama native, but never drinks sweet tea or cheers for the Crimson Tide. Ever. She grew up working on her family’s cattle and catfish farm, shucking corn, slinging cow patties, and singing in the church choir. But, she longed for more. She attended Auburn University and studied horticulture and worked for several years in the commercial and residential sectors of the green industry. Then she joined the staff of a local church, equipping thousands of volunteers, developing systems and structures, and pastoring every step of the way. She attended Dallas Theological Seminary where the focus of her coursework was theology of the body, theology of beauty, and the role of women in ministry. Amy Leigh works as a free-lance landscape designer, consultant, author, and teacher. And she still longs for more, which is why her articles address topics such as faith, culture, creation, the church, and relationships.