If You Cannot Love Your Father

How long does it take to choose a card for Father's Day? It didn't take long for me---I never sent or gave a card for Father's Day. 

How could I? (How could you?) The cards say pretty things like this:

These sentiments could not be further from my reality--and maybe yours as well?

How many have been loved by their father? Not enough. Not nearly enough. Something happens without this love. 

I know this truth because I have seen it, felt it and heard it so many times. If a child, a boy a girl a woman a man has not felt loved by mother or father or both she will never quite believe she is loved by her Heavenly father. 

Do you feel this too in your deepest cave of hearts? Do you feel as though you will never ever be worthy of His love? Don't you doubt Him sometimes?

I know. I know completely. But this Father's Day and Week, something can change. Don't leave things as they are. Don't leave YOU as you are. Don't leave your father as he is. There are two things we can do--simple things but so very profound and real:

Grow Faith.

No, really. I mean the faith to leap from how we feel to what we know is true. Let not faith be blind. Let it look around at all that has been done and given: the children, the grandchildren, the friends who surround us. Remember the hug from your estranged sister,  your husband reaching his hand out to you, the feast you served for Christmas, the letter from your son, the radiant moon over the lake last night, the house you were able to build, the food in your freezer, the friends who drove you to the hospital, the chickadees on your bird feeder. Remember a savior who went to the cross to make you his daughter. All these things real, true from our Father-God who loves you, me, deeply, wholly, always. (Do you hear that, deep-down wavering quavering self?)

And then this: Show  him Mercy.

Here is what I learned about mercy from my father's last days.

On my second-to-last visit with my father before he died, the visit did not go well. My father proclaimed his atheism again to  me. I was defensive. I remembered why I had never liked him. I came to love him but it wasn't happening. I felt like a failure. But I began, slowly, during that week, to care about him. He was so very alone. Did anyone love him? Had anyone EVER loved him? I realized---probably not. My heart cracked. I knew, at the end of the week as I left the nursing home to return to Alaska that I would be calling, writing, praying though he had never done anything good for me. It didn't matter anymore. I wanted to love him. I wanted him to know about the love of God. But I had to leave. Who would tell him, show him God's love when I was five thousand miles away?

I felt torn, defeated as I inched toward the exit doors. My heart tight and heavy. A woman sat at a table near the door smiling at me. It was Sally. My father had introduced me to her that first day as she hobbled down the hall, her body twisted with arthritis.

I hesitated, then came over to her table. “Sally, I’ve got to go catch my plane. But I’m so thankful that my father has a friend here. He never had friends, you know."

“Yes, I know,” she smiled back, her eyes on mine.

“Does my father talk to you?”

“He doesn’t say a lot, but yes, we talk.”

“What do you talk about?”

“Your father and I, we meet out back in the smoking shed every day. We talk about God. Your father says he doesn’t believe in God, but I’m not so sure.” She lifts her eyebrows and looks wise.

My eyes widen. “You talk about the Lord with my father?” I did not even know she was a believer.

“I sure do,” she says, smiling her beatific smile. I didn't know Sally was a Christian.

I grabbed her hands, curled mine over her swollen, curled fingers. ‘You’re the answer to my prayers.”  We talked for five more minutes, then hugged.  I walked out, my mind ablaze.

Are God’s mercies really this vast----To bring Sally into his life? Then, five minutes before I leave to show me His care for my father? I could hardly believe it. How could He show so much mercy to a man who still denied His presence? How could He show so much mercy to ME?

I know how. Narrow is the gate that leads to heaven, and so shall it always be, but wide are God’s mercies, so much wider and vaster than ever I knew. This was his love for my father.  And this is how it went that last year: Jesus, the hound of heaven, lovingly dogged my father’s heels all his days, even at the last. And has He not dogged my days and nights too with this same love? Is not his love for me just as full and wondrous and merciful?

How staggering the love of my Heavenly Father for me.

Do I dare to believe, in the darkest cave of my unworthy young girl's heart, that maybe this is true? 

I must. I do. And this is just as true for you. 

How staggering the love of your Heavenly Father for YOU. 

Believe it.

Happy Father's Day.