I haven’t celebrated Father’s Day since 1991, when my dad passed away when I was 12. My last Father’s Day memory involved my sisters and I bursting into his study, adorning his head with a paper crown and a bed sheet around his neck, donning him “king for a day.” I can still hear his laughter, as all three of us piggybacked atop his back, while he commanded his loyal subjects to give hugs all day long.
It’s such a fitting memory, too. My dad always had this respectable, noble, presence about him, while at the same time having such a humble servant’s heart. And he was so strong, but had such a meekness about him. I’ll always remember him doing pushups or bench pressing in the basement, and then challenging each of us to give his biceps our “toughest punches.” My knuckles hurt just thinking about it. Such a juxtaposition to watching him become choked up when praying for people at church, or even a random stranger in public. One of my worst childhood punishments resulted after protesting him bringing a homeless woman to live with us. I wasn’t a Christian then, and didn’t understand my dad was simply living as Jesus did-not just loving with words, but in action-showing love to the “least of these” and giving God glory, instead of himself. I was always annoyed having to answer collect phone calls from inmates he’d ministered to in prison, and never understood his need to pray every morning in the basement closet-sometimes 5 a.m. when he had his grocery business.
I’m not sure whether it was his sudden passing of a heart attack at 38 years old, that turned my heart against God, or if I really never knew God to begin with, but after finally coming back to him in my mid-twenties, I get it now. My dad just loved loved the Lord, with all his heart. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have spiritual talks and get his advice on ministry work, along with the other thousands of memories I wish he could share. He’s missed so much. Eleven grandchildren and counting. My mom still as beautiful as the last day he saw her. My sisters following in his footsteps doing great things for God. My youngest sister literally talking with the same calm, rational inflection he did, without even realizing it. And his former friends-pastors, business people, ministry leaders-still stopping us to talk about what an impact he made on those around him. “He was the real deal,” they always say.
Some people have asked if I’m upset with God, or have a hard time trusting him, when he let such a good, Godly man leave us so soon. But now that I know God, it’s not even a question, because he actually is, and has been my father, ever since. Whether I knew it or not. I believe in God’s total sovereignty, which means he makes up for pain and suffering we’ve endured, and turns our situations around. I’m not sure all the details will completely make sense until we meet in heaven, but for me, God has been my complete protector, counselor, provider and father, in a way I’m not sure those with living earthly fathers can know. I feel those who’ve lost a parent are able to tap into a part of God’s heart that gives us a special sense of security and love we’d never get to experience without that deep loss. I’ve made the most ridiculous mistakes and continued some pretty bad patterns through life, but God has never failed to instantly forgive, pick me up, and continually shower blessings and goodness on my life. Over, and over again. Like a true father.
Nothing and no one can ever replace the bond between a parent and a child, but God can heal and fill that void, tenfold, if we allow him to. I might never truly understand why my dad’s time came so soon, but I know God will be my father every day, until I meet both of them in heaven.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. We love and miss you….