To the Fatherless on Father's Day
It's an uncomfortable topic. It's an awkward topic. And in our society, it's an all too common topic.
This father's day, many will be without a father. Myself included.
The loss of a father can look like many things. It could be divorce, or abandonment. It could be an abusive past. Your father may be present in your home and life, but may be emotionally disengaged. Or your father may have died.
Fatherlessness is a challenging topic today, and frankly, I usually don't discuss it. But I think its a conversation worth having. Some of you reading this may not experience the reality of not having a father - but all of you will know at least someone who does. I think its crucial to have a good understanding of what this issue means and the impact it has on lives. It has shaped me, for better and worse.
Moreover, fatherlessness is deeply impacting our culture and society.
Just look at the recent massacre in Charleston. The impact of the tragedy will now live on in the lives of the families, many whom will now grow up without a mom or dad in their lives. The impact of this is huge, adding on to the social ramifications of continued racism/terrorism that's sweeping our nations. Or like a close friend of mine. Her husband passed away 18 months ago from cancer at the age of 29, leaving behind 2 sons under the age of 5. My friend, a widow, is now raising her children whose lives will be deeply impacted by the loss of their father. A reality that will shape who they are as people. My own father abandoned me and hurt me for much of my childhood - that loss of a father I deeply felt. We who lack fathers need to know how to adapt, heal and respond. We also need to know how to reach out to those around us who struggle with this issue.
An Eternal Father
No matter if we have a father or not, the reality is that we have a heavenly father who created us (Ps. 139:13), loves us (John 3:16), and desires for us to know him. God cares deeply about the fatherless, and seeks in several ways to provide for them and comfort them. I love that throughout scripture God commands his people to care for the fatherless, orphans and widows - and even warns against those who take advantage if them (Deut 10:18, Ps. 82:3, Isa 1:17, Jer 22:3, Zech 7:10). God is described several places as a father to the fatherless:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in his holy dwelling. - Psalm 68:5
Even those who are fatherless, come under God's wing of protection and care (Ps. 91:4). Being fatherless myself, there are moments where I feel exposed and vulnerable. They are quiet, and deep moments in my heart where I feel that if I had a father, life would be easier. I would have someone to look out for me, protect me, and guide me through difficult moments in life. In these moments, I can actually trust that God is my refuge and my help in times of trouble. He ordained my life, leads me, and guides me into his path of righteousness. Therefore I can trust and depend on him fully. For those who have been hurt by their fathers directly, or hurt because of their father's passivity, we can turn to God for protection as a victim:
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. - Psalm 10:14
One of the greatest sources of encouragement and sources of strength for me has been the body of Christ - my church family. In some cases church family relationships can actually be stronger and more powerful than our own blood family relationships. This comes from being united by the Holy Spirit - God himself.
In moments where I lack a father, I can turn to older men, women, and families for guidance and help. I can turn to them for insight in conflict, help with life transitions, and even watching how they live their lives and learn from them. One of the largest blessings I have had in the last 4 years of my life has been the chance to invest in the lives of several families in my church. By helping out in their home, babysitting, and sharing life together, I have had good fatherhood and parenting modelled for me. For those who are fatherless, take advantages that the body of Christ provides.
If you are a young man, seek the mentorship and guidance of an older Godly man who can help you grow and learn how to be a good father and husband. Young ladies, seek the opportunities of learning about the lives of other women and families in their homes. Watch how the couples interact, pray together, and raise their children. Not every family is perfect and they each will do things a little differently. But opening myself up to these relationships has been instrumental in shaping how I view fatherhood in the church, functional family structure, and grace-filled relationships.
Finally, I have learned how important it is to pray for those who are fatherless, or for even your own fathers. In my case, having a father that left my family and hurt me, I struggled for years being hurt and angry and wishing bad upon him. It's taken a long while to come to a place where I know that I need to pray for him - wherever he is. It's a controversial concept but Jesus spoke on forgiveness and what it means to truly love others and pray for those who harm us:
"You have heard it said that it was said, 'Love you neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." - Matthew 5:43-44
If your father harmed or abused you, I would encourage you to actively work towards healing, learning how the gospel impacts your life. Pray that God would heal and redeem you. Pray for your father - wherever and whoever he is. I haven't seen or talked to my dad in years, but I'm slowly coming to a place where I can pray for him and wish good for him. Hoping that God would work in his life and change him. If there are young men and women in your church/community, who lack the care and direction of a father in their lives, pray for them and take them under your wing.
Being fatherless on father's day, might be a time filled with grief and sadness. It may be a time of hope and thanksgiving. A chance to serve others. But whatever it's like for you, seek to spend time with your eternal Father, for he loves you deeply and meets you where you're at. His grace and provision and faithfulness are everywhere - sometimes you just need to pray, open your eyes and look around.