This weekend as we celebrate Father’s Day, my heart aches for the children who have never known their dads. It hurts for the children who are watching their fathers die from diseases that are preventable. And I hurt for the fathers who have had to give up the children they love because they can’t afford to feed them. As the mother of one of those children, I am sobered.
There are plenty of heart wrenching stories I could tell just from two trips to Africa in the past months about children who have been abandoned by their dads. Stories filled with abuse, neglect and pain. I won’t take the time to tell those stories now, but I have to say they have led me to realize something I’m afraid I have often taken for granted. Having a father is a gift. Having a loving father is an incredible gift that fewer and fewer people on the planet seem to get the privilege of enjoying. Ask 17 year old Elizabeth who lives in Otoboi, Uganda. Her father was an alcoholic who almost killed her and her sister. Ask the little girl who lives in fear at night that her daddy is going to come into her room. Ask the 11 year old who was sold into sexual slavery by her father. Yes, loving daddies are hard to come by. I hate that the word “Daddy” conjures up such terrifying memories for so many.
Yet somehow, out of all the families on the planet, God chose to set me in a family with one of the great dads. Oh, he wouldn’t say he’s great...which is sort of what makes him just that. :) It’s not the fact that he baked strawberry strudel pastries for us every Sunday before church (and by baked I do mean took them out of the frozen package and placed them in the oven!), or that he built us the coolest treehouse ever in our backyard. It isn’t that he took us fishing and went on God knows how many bike rides with us. It isn’t that he took us swimming or opened our home to foster children. It’s the heart behind all those things that makes him great.
My dad isn’t perfect. Funny thing…turns out he’s just like all the rest of us – broken, needy and in desperate need of a Savior. Thankfully, he recognized that many, many years ago. The decision he made to love his family like Jesus loves him has made all the difference in my life. I am incredibly grateful for his gentleness, his servant’s heart, his loyalty, his steadfastness, his wisdom and his love.
I’m about to move over a thousand miles away from my Dad. It’ll be the first time in my life I haven’t been within a 20 minute drive. (Gulp.) What I love about my dad is that he chose to invest in my life in a way that even though I’ll be far away, I’ll still be living out the things that he taught me and more importantly, SHOWED me really matter. My children will be laughed with and snuggled, my spouse will be hugged and respected, my prayers will be many and my life will be lived not for myself, but for the glory of God. Thank you, Dad. There aren’t words to say how much I love you.
...And God, be close to those who have no daddy to love them. Heal the hearts of the children who have been mistreated by their dads. Whisper your words of comfort and value to the girls who are being sold for sex multiple times a day. Bring rescue, God. Let your light flood the darkness. Let these children know that they have a Heavenly Father who knows their name and sees each tear that falls. Reveal your love, Jesus. Thank you for being the best Dad ever.