As we celebrate Father’s Day, I cannot help but think about what that means to me. Like many of you, the portrait of Father’s Day, for me, looks different from the heartwarming pictures we see on social media or on television and advertising. Most parents have some of those moments of perfect parenthood and we wish it could always be that way and that all of our children’s memories of us would be full of happiness and joy.
If you can look at those perfect pictures and say “that’s what it was like for me!”, I am so happy for you! What a wonderful gift! However, my picture just looked different.
My intention for sharing these thoughts are not to paint a dishonorable image of my Dad. I loved my Dad very, very much. There is not one perfect parent, be it mother or father, who can boast of a mistake-free, picture-perfect run at parenthood. Not one.
Rather, my wish in this is that the message of redemption sinks deep into the hearts of all those who still ache with regret, and who re-live in their minds all the ‘what if’s’.
Everyone has their own portrait of fatherhood, painted with their own experiences, losses, relationships, and perspective. I am so sorry if the thought of that stings your heart. I fully understand that for many, the memories are wrought with pain and indifference. Those hurts are some of the hardest to heal, but I know that God is able to do just that, for He has eased the sting in my own heart.
My father made choices which separated him from his children. I have to believe that in the 40 years that he was away from us, that he too, contemplated the ‘what if’s’ at least a time or two. And even still, I always loved him.
During those years, life went on for us, and for him. I don’t believe it was ever in God’s plan for families to be separated. He knows how important both mothers and fathers are in the roles He created. But even though circumstances and sin bring corruption, God loves us so much that He brings beauty from the remaining ashes.
In spite of the choices that were made, God gave us a good life here. I was happy, healthy, and I had my family surrounding me and we loved one another. God was always there and we made it through.
The very beginning of my portrait of fatherhood wasn’t nice to look at. There was no indication of beauty or promise. But you see, in the end, that plain, ugly canvas became a lovely picture. Not perfect, and not the stuff dreams are made of, but beautiful just the same. Because when God adds His touch of redemption to the portrait, it becomes a work of art.
In the last 15 years or so of his life, my Dad chose to move to Washington to be near us. We made new memories, shared life together, some of our children were able to know their Grandpa from the very start. They will always remember when Grandpa played Santa Claus, and the times he made them feel special.
Some of our most special times were when we sang together as a family, and in music ministry. The years we shared with him were a blessing to us, and to him, and brought some needed restoration.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
None of us could go back and re-do the past, not even my Dad. Though that loss was something each of us would have to grieve in our own way, and never would we be able to have the kind of relationship with him that many others have had with their fathers, we were given enough time to paint a different kind of picture. It would never be the ‘perfect one’, but it would be ours. It was a gift, and in the end, it became a portrait of God’s redemptive love.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
Whether you are the child who still aches for something you never had, or the father who carries the weight of regrets, know that it is never too late to seek redemption and forgiveness. Some things can’t be erased and undone, and there will come a time when you will have to uncover those hurts, feel the sting, and allow healing to take place. It will be hard, but it will be ok.
Then, pick up that paintbrush, and begin to add beauty and color to your picture.