Happy Father's Day

A couple years ago, on Father's Day, a friend texted me something I don't think I'll ever forget: "I know it must be hard for you on a day when we all celebrate our fathers, but I think it's really admirable that you recognize you have a heavenly Father who knows and loves you." I don't have that phone anymore so it's hard to tell if that's exactly how it went but the gist of it is stuck in my mind and heart for good. I go back to that memory when I get discouraged about the state of that friendship, which unfortunately happens from time to time, or when Father's Day bums me out, which happens every year like clockwork.

On some level I know my friend is right. I do believe God can be the father I need, but for years I've tried to use that knowledge to talk myself out of honoring any legitimate grief I may have felt for my earthly fatherlessness, and it's beginning to wear on me. It's a tough, uncomfortable line to walk, between my security in God's Fatherhood and my deep, persistent longing for memories of a different kind than my own, of a different childhood, one with a happy family, picket fences, and a father who would never, could never abuse me.

I don't mean to feel sorry about myself, I really don't. Father's Day is hard for a lot of people, a lot of sons and daughters who grew up without dads and the moms who worked twice as hard to hold it all together.

You see, for those of us who know the long, alternately dull and sharp pain of fatherlessness, Father's Day is a kind of shadow holiday, a reminder of what we're missing out on. And it was an especially dark shadow today at the Magill home. A few old demons came out of the woodwork to haunt our attempts at playing house, pushing me over my emotional edge into the pit of numb bemusement where I occasionally find myself on my darker days. And that's no way to live.

Writing about things usually helps me work through them toward some cathartic end, but to be honest this one feels like picking at a raw nerve. Madeleine L'engle used to tell her writing students to look for cosmos amidst chaos, to search for the nuggets of order and beauty buried deep in the mud, and I try to do this when I write. But this time, try as I might, I can't find the cosmos, I don't have a neat little box and bow. All I have really, to all those out there struggling with dadlessness, is the promise that it gets better, and then it gets worse, and then it gets a little better again.

The only real solace for me is that Papa God is there, arms sprawled wide ready for the big, running-start embrace.

That and the occasional text message, or trip to a ridiculously funny movie with your cousin. That's about as good as it gets.

Today I wonder why it is God refers to Himself as “Father” at all. This, to me, in light of the earthly representation of the role, seems a marketing mistake. Why would God want to call Himself Father when so many fathers abandon their children?

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

1 John 3:1


  1. Father's Days are painful for me these days too. It's very sad how many people must just be sad on a day meant to be celebratory. At least we have Grandpa. Love ya Jord <3


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