My Father’s Love

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.—1 John 3:1

I did not grow up with my father. In fact, I didn’t see him from the time I was 2 until I was 23. It was an awkward reunion.

We met on neutral ground in my original stomping grounds of Washington, D.C. He, out of his element in the big city, was withdrawn. We sat, saying little, for a very long time. It was nearly time for him to return home.

“Do you still sing and play guitar?” I asked, desperately searching for something to break the silence.

His ice-blue eyes jerked up to meet mine. “How did you know I sing and play guitar?” he asked in his thick drawl, knowing my mother had talked little of him over the years.

“Because I remember,” I said. “You came to our apartment, and you sang and played a song about a little girl with a red dress on as I danced around the coffee table.” I could still remember the sound of my father’s rich baritone.

His eyes widened in surprise. “I did used to sing you that song,” he said. “How did you remember that?”

“Because it was all I had to hold onto,” I said quietly. A moment passed. The silence was no longer uncomfortable.

“I heard it for the first time a couple of years ago at a restaurant where I was having lunch,” I told him. “I jumped out of my chair and said, ‘My father used to sing that song to me!’ Everybody probably thought I was crazy, but I remembered.”

And with that, my father knew he had never stopped being my father.

One day my father ended our conversation with “I love you, sweetheart.” I don’t know how long it took me to respond because I had to absorb the moment. I had never heard a parent say that to me before. Had I always had the love of a parent? What difference would that have made in my life had I known? How would my life be different today?

I’ve tried hard over the years to honor my father, though honoring him—staying within his boundaries—hasn’t always been easy for me. But I do it because he’s my father. I don’t do it because he’s always been there for me or because he taught me great life lessons or because he’s a great role model. Unfortunately, none of that has been true in my life. But God commands me to honor my father. And present or not, perfect or not, my father loves me. I choose to let that be enough.

I cannot expect him to love me in the way I want to be loved. I’ve learned no human can really love me in that way. But I accept him as he is while I look to my heavenly Father for perfect, unchanging love.

Do you have a less-than-perfect relationship with your earthly father? Most of us probably do. I encourage you this Father’s Day to honor your earthly father out of respect for your heavenly Father. For those who have lost touch with their fathers or must avoid contact for their own protection, offer a prayer for your father’s salvation and repentance.

Maybe the grace you extend will be returned. Maybe not—at least not in this life. But remember this life is just a shadow of what’s to come. Don’t live in the shadow. Be a child of the light. May that light shine brightly into generations to come.

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