I know too many people who draw a blank when it comes to what they love about their dad. That he provides for our family? Some of us might say.
And if I were to ask, “What about him makes you smile?” You might stare at me, truly lost for words. From experience I know you’re probably thinking of all the times he made you cry.
On some Father’s Days and wedding dinners it’s easy to honour the wonderful, heroic men who chose to invest in the riskiest business: raising us.
But I cannot ignore those who stay offline about their fathers as the season draws near, when social media is flooded with painful evidence that for many others but yourself, that relationship with Dad can actually be very, very good.
And of course it should be. As the first and possibly the weightiest carrier of God’s heart to us, the role of an earthly father was designed to show us who God is and how He loves us.
Done right, we as children would receive the perfect picture of the Heavenly Father. But like all things cursed at the Fall of man, fatherhood very often falls short.
Honestly, no one can be – and thus, have – the perfect father.
My own father told me one day: “Papa’s papa worked hard for the family until the day he died, when I was only 15.”
So my papa did the best he knew how with the little he’d learnt about being a father.
My grandfather was largely overseas for most of my dad’s life, working to feed a family of 16 children despite his ailing health. Like most men, the lesson of fatherhood was simply financial provision. A roof over your children’s heads, food on the table.
It’s an imperative aspect of fathering, but often skims over one crucial precursor: For God so loved that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ. He loved, and out of that love, He gave. The first job of a father is not to give, but to love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
As God reveals in the Word, to love is more than provision – it’s also presence, patience, protection and a place of peace. This is the fatherly love He has for you, whether you believe in Him or not.
“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)
“Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4a)
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:4a)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14: 27)
The role of an earthly father was designed to show us who God is and how He loves us.
I explain this not to assign blame but to acknowledge brokenness. That’s where deep healing always starts.
Father’s Day does not need to be a short season of shoving Dad’s shortcomings under the pretty carpet of social media captions.
It can be our chance to pause and pray for the restoration of relationship – our very own gift to the Father who delights in the hearts of fathers and children turning to each other (Malachi 4:6).
THIS FATHER’S DAY, TAKE TIME TO PAUSE + PRAY
Reflection #1: How is your relationship with your earthly father?
How would you describe your relationship with Dad to someone else? Or if they looked in on your interactions, how would they perceive your relationship to be like?
Every relationship is a sum of our experiences and how they made us feel then.
Even until now, I can remember some of the words my father said or the things he did. I can tell how our relationship is just by the amount of time I can spend with him. (It used to be no longer than 5 minutes.)
Be honest about where the relationship is, maybe even rate it from 1-10, 10 being perfect. Why would you rate it as such? What would it take to bring the relationship just one more bar higher?
Prayer #1: Wherever it is now, ask for God’s healing, restoration and abundance to fill it in the days to come. In His economy, there is always more.
Reflection #2: Are there unresolved issues between you and your dad?
What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when this question is asked? Only you will know for sure whether there’s unfinished business and more importantly, unforgiveness.
Forgiveness is the only way to tear down that barrier and let love in.
Unforgiveness is the silent killer of all relationships. There is no way a relationship can move forward and flourish when there is unresolved disappointment, misunderstanding, or feelings of being unsupported or let down. Forgiveness is the only way to tear down that barrier and let love in.
It counts even if you pray these prayers in the secret of your bedroom. Not all of us will have the opportunity to release forgiveness face-to-face to those who have hurt us (Colossians 3:13), although we should do all we can to make amends and personally receive forgiveness if we have also wronged others (Matthew 5:23-24).
And if you’re thinking: Well, Dad and I have learnt to live separate lives, we stay out of each other’s hair and avoid talking about past hurts – this status quo is not the abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10.
Prayer #2: Ask the Lord for His thoughts on the matter and how you can actively do your part in this journey of taking your earthly father-child relationship to the next level. Then commit to obeying Him as He leads.
Reflection #3: Do you struggle to relate to God as a good and loving Father?
You are my child, whom I love, in you I am well-pleased, He said to me one day. I don’t know what that feels like, I replied with tears in my eyes. And I know His heart hurt for me and everyone else unacquainted with this love (Matthew 3:17).
Are you prone to believe that Father God is distant, critical, harsh and cold? Do you struggle to be fathered by Him?
Although God is the perfect Father, we are still imperfect children with finite understanding and perspectives. There might be, similar to that with your earthly dad, past hurts and disappointments where you felt that God had not protected or provided as you desired.
He let you down. He didn’t answer your prayers. He wasn’t there when you needed Him most. These are experiences that reinforce already broken beliefs about fathers when the absolute truth is, God the Father is unchangingly good and perfect in His love towards us. We cannot shift the goalpost on that when our experiences don’t measure up!
I train my spiritual reflexes to wrestle with God rather than walk away.
In my two decades of walking with the Lord, I have (very) slowly learnt to “come up” higher (Revelation 4:1) every time something that shakes me happens. Instead of trusting what my human mind and emotions can make of what has happened, which usually renders God a culprit somehow, I train my spiritual reflexes to wrestle with God rather than walk away (Genesis 32:24-30).
In the wrestle, I’ve often, if not always, found if I purpose to never shift the goalpost of God’s goodness regardless of what happens in my life, it is my perspectives that shift and bring me up higher to see things as God sees it.
He has never let me down. He has answered my prayers in ways I could have never imagined. He’s always been there, even when I was blinded by fear or shock or grief.
Reflection #4: What are some ways to deepen your intimacy with both your earthly father and Heavenly Father?
Living in the same house but never talking is not intimacy. And neither is knowing all the right answers to Bible trivia and cell group questions.
Intimacy is a deep friendship that goes beyond familiarity and good feelings. Perfect intimacy is the perfect 10 on that relationship scale.
Maybe you’re still wondering what the point of a good, intimate relationship with Dad or God is. That’s not a bad place to start asking yourself: Would you prefer to have this level of intimacy for the rest of your life? Do you want a better relationship? Do you have the intention to make it better? What are you willing to do?
In the spirit of Father’s Day, it’s a great time to think about a meaningful gift for Dad. And if I know fathers, I know they enjoy practical gifts – and finding ways to up that relationship scale is an investment that will last a lifetime.
When I decided I had to do something to improve my relationship with my dad, I started with something simple enough: making lunchboxes for him. It helped that I couldn’t exactly cook, but was willing to try.
I’d like to believe my dad was touched by this act of love, and ever since then our relationship has truly been on the mend. We’re even harmoniously working from home together now, in the same study room!
With God, I would sometimes head to a cafe on weekends with a backpack full of my Bible, journals and books just to spend unhurried time with Him. At times, this could go up to half a day of just reading, journaling, contemplating and communing. I call these Saturdays my dates with God.
Prayer #4: What does deepening intimacy with your earthly father and Heavenly Father look like? Write down your ideas and commit them to the Lord in prayer – then actually do something about it!
Not all of us will or can be fathers one day, but we can honour the ones we have.
No earthly father can perfectly represent our Heavenly one, which is why I’m so grateful for how God sent some of the best spiritual fathers my way over the years. Together, they’ve fathered the woman you now see today. He does the same for you. He wants to father you.
To all the fathers reading this, we honour your sacred work in carrying the heart of the Father to our generation. Blessed Father’s Day! ❤️