Since 1972, the third Sunday in June has been set aside for Father’s Day. And we can’t ignore it either! Weeks in advance, advertisements promote the perfect gift to honor our fathers on this special day. However, these reminders don’t necessarily inspire me to head to the nearest Hallmark store. In fact, they often make me sad.
In 2007, after numerous unfortunate events, my father decided to end our relationship. The story is long and complicated. There are moments where I’m proud of my actions and moments where I’ve felt deep regret, but this story shows that God moves and changes us — even though our circumstances may not. I believe there is a lesson in the journey, no matter how painful it may be.
Losing My Mom
My mother died of cancer on March 6, 1995. Nine weeks later my father remarried. I was still grieving the loss of my mom, so this quick remarriage sent me into a whirlwind of unexpected emotions. I found out about the marriage when I went back home to go through my mom’s personal belongings.
I remember opening her purse and slowly starting to cry, when my dad walked in the room. He asked me why I was crying and promptly told me I needed to grow up, that life goes on, and that he had gotten remarried the day before!
It was like a slap in the face. Those words stung. I felt confusion, anger and shock. We exchanged some very hurtful words, and I was spent. The next day I had my first ever migraine headache, and it sent me to an emergency clinic. The doctor said it was stress-induced.
Grieving Without Dad
The thing is, I KNEW my dad was right. Life would go on. It had to go on. I had two elementary aged girls, and they kept my life moving. I needed to dry up my tears and move forward, but adjusting to life without my mother was going to take time. When I contemplated steps of the grieving process that I knew would come in the days after she died, they never included my father remarrying so quickly or the angry arguments that followed. They never included hurt, betrayal and even more loss. I desperately wanted to grieve and heal, in my own time, with my dad alongside me.
Earlier I had tried to reason with my father, asking him over the phone to take time with this new relationship and adjust to the fact that his wife of almost 40 years was no longer in his life. Yet, like a freight train, full speed ahead, he forged on with a determination and excitement that I just couldn’t fathom. Although I was trapped in grief, my father felt a freedom I didn’t understand at that time. His actions were so hurtful to me. It felt as if he were dishonoring mom and abandoning me, my brothers and our families.
But the truth is, I was not able to truly grasp what HE was going through; I was too consumed with my own feelings. We were both coming from such different places emotionally, and neither of us could understand each other’s pain and response to our individual grief.
I knew it then, and I still know it now — my dad was absolutely the BEST caregiver my mom could have ever had. Since my parents lived in Ohio and I lived in Georgia, we had many phone conversations during my mom’s illness. How precious it was to hear her say, “I always loved your father, but I’ve never loved him like I do now.” Mom shared how my father was so attentive to her and always made the medical staff laugh. I was so privileged to witness my parents live out “in sickness and in health.” It was and is a beautiful, treasured memory.
Even with those sweet memories, my anger and hurt over my father’s actions blinded me from his desire for happiness. I grew bitter, and I began to hate my dad. The same man I had adored my whole life was now the one person on the planet I could not stand. I was his only daughter, his little girl. We were so close and had made many wonderful memories together. We shared a love for barbershop quartet music. When I fell in love with my future husband, so did my father. When each of my daughters was born, it took my breath away to see my dad gingerly hold his grand babies. But those memories faded as my anger paralyzed me. My father become someone I didn’t recognize, and I was becoming someone I didn’t recognize, too. He was difficult to love, and I was tired of trying.
Then one night, in the midst of crying, grieving and feeling so desperate to get rid of the hurt and the anger within me, I cried out to my heavenly Father. I got down on my knees and begged and pleaded with Him for forgiveness for the hate I had inside me. I needed Him to empower me with the ability to forgive my dad and to learn to love him again. I couldn’t do it on my own. I finally surrendered.
Then I climbed into bed, emotionally spent and physically exhausted.
Mercies New Every Morning
Then morning came. Scripture tells us God’s mercies are new every morning, and those words rang so true to me that day. I can’t explain the miracle that had taken place overnight, but my hardened heart now held a deep love and undeniable forgiving spirit for my dad. I truly loved him again, and I knew it was only because of my heavenly Father’s love for me. I am only able to love and forgive my earthly father because of my heavenly Father’s love and forgiveness, given to me on the cross.
That morning took place in 1998, after three years of anger that had consumed me. All of it was gone — wiped clean. And just as Jesus had healed so many during His life on Earth, with one desperate cry for help, God had healed me.
Hopeful Patience for Father’s Day
While my heart is healed and soft, God has yet to heal my relationship. This is why Father’s Day can still be so painful. I miss my dad incredibly. He’s missed so much by not being in my life: holidays, many birthdays, my daughters’ weddings, my niece’s wedding and family vacations to the beach and Montana.
But God has brought me to a place of peace. I know I am completely loved by a forgiving, gracious, faithful Father who continues to pour His undeserved grace on me. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17).
God has taught me so much through my suffering. I’ve learned that a relationship takes two, willing hearts, even between a father and daughter. I’ve learned that life and relationships are hard, but they are part of God’s will for us as His children. I’ve learned that through hardships He grows us up, draws us closer and gives us an opportunity to glorify Him.
Probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned can be found in Ephesians 6:1-3. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise — ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”
I’ve learned that sometimes honoring your father means letting him go.
Celebrate Father’s Day Anyway
So, though I won’t be celebrating with my dad, I still have reason to celebrate. Even with the hurt and pain I may feel, I am choosing to celebrate Father’s Day, and every day, with the hope I have in Christ. I believe that God CAN reconcile my relationship with my dad in His perfect timing, but I remind myself to live each day in the truth that my heavenly Father’s love is enough.
And that makes every day my Father’s day.
Editor’s Note: We have an update for you. We recently contacted Cindi because it had been a minute or two since she first wrote this story for us. We wanted to know if God had brought her and her father together, whether she thought reconciliation was even possible after all this time. And boy, were we thrilled with her answer! ~ Laurie
Hi, Laurie! Yes, praise the Lord; we reconciled 4 years ago! And it was a few months after he read that article in Shattered (magazine). My uncle read it & gave it to my dad to read. He had to process it a few months, and the Lord led him to call me one morning out of the blue. I was at BSF (when he called) & I celebrated with some sweet sisters who’d been praying for me. I’ve seen him twice a year since & keep in touch over the phone. It’s been a sweet blessing!