The first email I read this morning was from a godly, prayerful man at church. He had sent a mass email, asking “What is the best advice your father ever gave you?” My first response was to think he might feel bad if I wrote him back and said my father died when I was 10 weeks old and I never got any advice!
But I reflected a little longer. When my dad died, God met every need that my mother (who became a widow at 25 years old), my sister (who had just turned 3), and I had. We never lacked. God was faithful to us.
And the gift that I had because of this was that I always had a strong sense and understanding of God being my heavenly Father. My mother made sure we understood what the Bible said about widows and the fatherless, how He cares for them. And we experienced that. I never had to try to understand God through the lens of an earthly father. I knew God cared for me and loved me and was faithful and would take care of me. I felt a strong and direct connection to God.
So that’s what I replied to my friend’s email:
For me, the absence of my father (he died in a car wreck going to work when I was 10 weeks old) left me with a strong sense/understanding of God being my heavenly Father, so in a strange way, that was his gift to me. I always felt God’s love and care for me very much.
And it struck me as I wrote him back. What could have created doubt or anger at God did exactly the opposite. It gave me confidence in His love.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m sure my mom wrestled with questions as she started to raise two little girls without her husband! Confusion, pain, grief. And I recognized once I had children and watched my husband with them that I had missed something and understood perhaps for the first time that my father had loved me like that. Yet God can handle our heartbreak and our sorrow and our questions. We bring those to Him.
Over time, in continuing to seek God, to trust Him, things begin to emerge. Faith continues to grow. We see things we otherwise would not have known and others can’t understand. God gives compensating mercies (as my mother talks about) that we could never have expected in the moment. My mother’s testimony–through the loss of two husbands–has always been the faithfulness of God, how good He has been to her.
That short email exchange today reminded me there is beauty from ashes, glories from devastations. It may take time to see, but we will stand in awe of all God does in the midst of our broken and painful world. Jesus has won the victory, defeating sin and death, conquering the grave, and giving us eternal hope.
On this Father’s Day, I remember and give thanks for my earthly father; for my step-father (who came when I was 14 and went to Jesus 12 years ago); for my father-in-law who faithfully follows and serves Christ; for my uncles (my father’s brother and brother-in-law) who always stood in the gap; for my friends’ fathers who showed me love; for godly men from our church growing up who remembered the widow and reached out to us; for a dear older man my mother worked for who included us in so many things (he told me when I got older and thanked him, “I knew you didn’t have a father”); for my husband who represents all these things to my children; for my mom who acted as a mom and a dad and raised me to understand these truths and pointed me to Jesus; and most of all to God for being my perfect heavenly Father. What gifts, what grace, what mercy, what kindnesses! On a day meant to remember one, I get remember many who have blessed and impacted my life! Thank you, Father. You’ve been so good to me!