I have not seen my father since 1993. He is still alive and he could see me if he wanted to, he just doesn’t want to. In his mind I am not worth it. I failed to perform as desired, I did not meet his expectations so in his mind he was absolved of all parental responsibilities. He was done with me.
He was not always disgusted with me. There were a few occasions when he actually was proud of me and showed it. At my medical school graduation ceremony, after receiving my diploma I turned to the audience and saw my father standing on his chair pumping his fist in the air. It meant so much to me to see that I had finally gained his approval and made him happy. It didn’t last. Disownment was just 30 months away.
In the 22 years since I last saw my dad I have asked myself how it is that a father could disown a child. It is hard to imagine what is required to justify such an act. It makes sense if a child is a monster (I would not have faulted Osama Bin Laden’s dad for not making the trip to the compound in Pakistan!) but for a true father it should be almost impossible to let go.
My kids have reached adulthood and letting go is quite difficult for me. My son is 25 and has been married for three years but he is still my boy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and want to hear about his life. It takes effort to not call him. My daughter still lives at home and wonders when the questions will stop. I ask her about every aspect of her life and look for any opportunity to spend time with her. They are my kids and I am their dad. It is what I do.
When I think about what it means to be a dad, this is the thing that seems most important. A dad is always there, whenever needed and often times when he isn’t. A true dad is an emotional rock his children can stand on, a shelter where refuge can be found in the storms of life and a fixed point of reference to show the way when vision is cloudy. A dad is a dad 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is what he does.
While I never had this from my father I did not live my whole life without it. My father-in-law lived it for me for 23 years. He was a quiet man who seldom spoke his affection, but he had the “always there” part of being a dad mastered. For him it was unconditional. He was there financially to bail his kids out, even when they had been foolish with their money. He fixed our cars when the accidents were our fault. There are no words to describe the comfort I felt simply knowing that if things went bad, “Pops” would be there for me, or the anxiety that I feel now that he is gone. He did what every father is supposed to do. He was a model of the love our Heavenly Father has for us.
I take great comfort in knowing that God’s love for us is not dependent on our behavior, it is dependent on His character. He is always there, always loving, always forgiving and always merciful. He is our rock, our hiding Place, our refuge, our defender, and our comforter. He is our one true Father who will never leave us or forsake us.
He is the Father to the Fatherless. He is father to me.
Happy Father’s day. Feel free to share stories about your dad in the comments. If you are interested in hearing me speak, you can check out the sermons page for audio links or visit me on vimeo, www.vimeo.com/bartbarrett. A new message that includes a great story of a father’s love was just uploaded. Click on the message, “A life lived well”
My previous post on being disowned by my father is available here