This morning, I had a really deep conversation with a dear friend of mine, Toju. We used to live in the same neighbourhood and lost our fathers only years apart. He had seen the post I shared yesterday about my dad and left a comment on Facebook that tore my heart in pieces:
“Father’s day was an emotional mess for me. Every year usually brings a bittersweet 24 hours but this one…this one brought everything into focus. Daddy, I’ve made a ton of mistakes. I’m sorry I haven’t quite managed to turn out as you would have expected. Still working on it. Still more mistakes to be made but I’ll get there somehow. Rest in Power, chief.”
Being the first born and first son, my friend didn’t have as much time with his dad as anyone would have loved. There are the times when the relationship you share with someone exists only on the surface and all you need is time for the roots to go in deep before you realise the worth of the relationship. I feel the same way too about losing my dad. Back then, he was the one I shared my nighttime dreams and nightmares with, and he’ll send the monsters running with only a hug laced with prayer. But the time came when life became more than Barbie dolls and sand castles, and I needed someone to share my deepest fears and wildest dreams with, but he was gone. What hurt the most is that I know he would have had the right answers to every question; he would have known just what to do at every turn.
There are other times when we are the prodigal sons that never agree with our fathers, and we leave home with our acquired property and self-proclaimed maturity. We go into life and get hit by the reality of it and only then does it register that maybe our father wasn’t trying to be old-school in his approach to life after all. So we come to our senses but sadly too late, as we run back home only to hear that he’s gone. We walk into his closet and realise how much we’ve grown and how his clothes now fit us, but he’s not there to share them with us. If he was there, he would have shown us how to knot that tie and lace up those big-boy shoes.
What about those whose fathers were nothing to write home about and so there was no sensible relationship at all? This wasn’t our case so I’m in no position to speculate on how it might have felt.
There are many people who have played the fatherly role in our lives one way or the other, and we appreciate them for giving of themselves, especially when they had to share their love with us and their biological children; trying to be there for us as best as they could. But it’s different, I know it is, to have the love and presence of your father at your disposal, solely devoted to you and your wellbeing.
I have felt sorry for my husband, too. He never met the man who he shares so much in common with. Temperament. Career. Profession. Hobbies. It was almost like I married a younger version of my father, and it was painful to see him go through things that stirred up questions he could have asked my dad and gotten a straight answer. Sometimes I find myself daydreaming of the both of them sharing ideas on painting, production engineering and music. So at the end of the day, we’re not always the only ones who miss out.
But have we completely lost out on the opportunity to enjoy a fatherly touch? Does the fact that they are gone mean we have forever missed out on the blessings that come with having a father, or is there another way?
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
When I first took hold of this verse, it was because I needed an identity: one that didn’t define me as ‘fatherless’. My identification with the verse was more for my self-esteem than anything else. I needed to know that I had a father in spite of the tragedy that took my earthly one. It was only about me. But just now, in the space of a few minutes of reading it again, this verse has come to mean more to me than it originally did.
. . . is GOD is his holy dwelling!
This verse is not about who I am. It certainly isn’t about my identity, but about who GOD IS in relation to me. A FATHER to the fatherless . . . He is a FATHER.
But that is the part most people will struggle with. My earthly father was one I could see. If he was here, I could go catch a drink with him as we sat and talked about life. So how does God fit into those very huge shoes?
. . . is God IN HIS HOLY DWELLING!
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you . . .
1 Corinthians 6:19
The One who has now become my father does not need to take long drives to come and hang out with me. There will never be a day I call on Him and His phone would ring out. The God in His holy dwelling – inside me, is my Father. His Spirit lives in me. He is always there. Any time, anywhere.
When I thought my father missed my graduation, my Father was there. When my father wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle, my Father did. Though my father never met my kids, my Father talks with them every day. And if I need someone to go hang out with after a long day to share my deepest thoughts, He is always available and willing to listen, and the truth is this: He knows when I need physical touch and can provide the vessel for that purpose. He makes me laugh. He makes me cry. He praises me. He corrects me. He is proud of me. I make Him happy. I make him sad. I make Him proud. I embarrass Him too. All those quirky feelings I could share with the father I could see, I share them with Him.
I started out my journey with God as Father before He became my Lord. For my friend, he has had a relationship with God as Lord, but not much as Father. And it’s tricky, because no matter where you start from, you have to arrive at the other side to have a full experience of who God really is, and I have only just come to realise that I had not fully known God as Father, and in these days with the growing need for that fatherly touch, I must brace myself for a fresh understanding of who my heavenly Father can be and begin to embrace Him for who He is.
We don’t have to miss out on anything when we truly have everything. We don’t have to wing it in life just because we feel we have lost out on a relationship that could have affected our decisions and made things different. We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves when the Creator of the world cares for the most intricate details of our lives. We don’t have to wonder what next to do when the Wisdom of God dwells inside of us. It might sound abstract, but it’s the truth we best accept.
For us, every fathers’ day feels like a blow, but not anymore. With the Father of all life, every day can very well be Father’s Day!
Thank you, Toju, for allowing me to write this post. Today marks the 17th year since I lost my dad, and I couldn’t have written anything better in honour of him than this. I pray that this season of your life will usher in an experience of God as the greatest Father of all! Thanks for the title, too 😘