Every third Sunday of June in the United States of America, Father’s Day is celebrated and millions of ties are given as last-minute gifts by children who almost forgot about Father’s Day yet again. Although as a country, we designate 24 full hours for families to appreciate and recognize their fathers or father figures, it seems like more and more people are experiencing fatherlessness. While some families are blessed to have their fathers in their lives, so many others have lacked the physical presence of a father figure in their lives. Even for those with fathers that have been present physically, it can feel like their fathers are not mentally present in their families’ lives consistently.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I consider it a blessing that I get to have a present father who I recognize as a man of great faith and a role model in my life. Yet among all of those things, I grew up feeling like in some ways, I lacked the presence of my father because of how often he devoted his time and energy preaching in various places like Indonesia, New York, or Colorado and missed important events in my life as well as my younger sister’s. And because of the imperfections and flaws of my earthly father, it became very difficult for me to understand the love of the Heavenly Father. Whether you are coming into this article as a long-time practicing Christian or still searching for truth, this notion of the Christian God as a Father has been used for thousands of years going back to the Biblical Old Testament. Unfortunately for many of us, our imperfect experiences of love affect our experience of our Heavenly Father’s love (yes, God even loves those who aren’t Christian)! Yet I think that a steadfast truth remains about our Father in Heaven: God is not a reflection of your earthly father, He is the perfection of your earthly Father.
Throughout my life, I have virtually lost count of how many times I have disagreed, argued, and fought with my dad about things that, looking back, were not as important as our relationship. While one part of me was always angry at how my dad behaved and wished he would do better, another always recognized how I could have handled things better and more lovingly with him, which always left me with a feeling of guilt and dirtiness when we would be around each other again. This shame carried over whenever I came into God’s Presence, whether it be when I read my Bible, went to church, or in other situations. But what I discovered was the places where my relationship with my earthly father faltered were the same places where I started to feel the love of my Heavenly Father the most. Naturally, just like how darkness disappears when light enters, those feelings of guilt and dirtiness started to be less and less frequent. Though those feelings may still come up occasionally, I was now armed to fight off those lies with the truth that there is a Father who loves me. The more I realized and found stability in the love that God the Father had for me (and for you), the less I was dependent on my father’s love for me. It was only when I wasn’t dependent on my dad’s love for me that I could ever love him freely.
The more I began to open up to God and trusted people in my life about these past traumas and wounds, the more God opened my eyes to see that in many ways, my dad loved me so much but was not the best at expressing his love to my sister and me. I always remembered the many times my dad would preach and share a bit of his own story growing up: how he grew up in a broken home where his dad was constantly beating him, his brother, and his mother, while never coming home because he was with other women. Due to all of that, my dad and his brother left Christianity when they were teenagers in search of answers. While my dad turned to heavy partying, his brother turned to martial arts and even went as far as buying a katana that he promised himself he would use to kill their biological father. While the odds were astronomically stacked against my dad’s family, his mom never lost hope. Fully knowing that her husband was going to go out and cheat again, my grandmother always served my grandfather well and made sure to say “I love you” before he would go out again. By nothing except the grace of God, my grandfather’s heart turned back to my grandmother while my dad and his brother slowly and painfully forgave their dad and at the end of my grandfather’s life, he had given his life up to be a pastor in Indonesia for over 30 years while his two sons would go on to faithfully pastor churches in Indonesia and America to this day. Although I had listened to that story over and over again, I had always failed to connect that story with my relationship with my dad now. Through the Holy Spirit’s help, I realized that it was harder for my dad to be a good father to my sister and me because he never grew up with a good father until later in life. When I stopped creating expectations for my dad to exceed and started to understand him as just another person in need of grace, I became able to freely love him the way God the Father loves me.
In the Old Testament, one of the most fascinating books that I’ve come across personally was Hosea, a prophet of God who was commanded by God to marry a prostitute named Gomer. As the book went on, Gomer would become unfaithful to Hosea by returning to her prostitution and laying with other men. But the story gets juicier: knowing all this, God commanded Hosea to go and redeem Gomer from her unfaithfulness to restore their covenantal marriage. The craziest part? He does exactly that! In my head when I first read this, I felt even more anger than when Iron Man died in Avengers: End Game (if you didn’t know that by now, you deserve to get it spoiled). Yet what I have slowly realized through the Holy Spirit was that this story of Hosea is an allusion to God’s relationship with us as His Church. Although He had already stepped into our messy lives and offered us a new life as His collective Bride, we all rejected and have been unfaithful to Him in our ways and like Gomer, seeking other sources that would make us drunk with pleasure. Yet, one particular prayer that Hosea prays on behalf of Israel and, in today’s context, all of us who are offered salvation through the Cross stuck in my mind: ‘Come and let us return [in repentance] to the Lord, For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. After two days He will revive us; On the third day, He will raise us That we may live before Him’ (Hosea 6:2).
After reading that, the most common response that most of us would have is “Wow, God is so evil! Why would He tear us, wound us, and hurt us in the first place?” When we reflect on the broken relationships and deep trauma that exist in many of our hearts, we tend to question God’s goodness and why He would let such hurtful things happen to our lives. What we fail to realize is that a good Father would not only let their children experience good things, but a good Father would also let their children go through difficult situations that teach important lessons. More so, as Hosea prayed, the goodness of God the Father’s love for every one of us is that He is readily available to restore what is broken in our lives. If you have never heard this before, here it goes: God desires for every family to be restored. God does not desire broken families and relationships but He wants to restore our relationships and let us experience the fullest extent of His Fatherly love through every aspect of our lives. To say that my relationship with my dad is perfect now would be a lie. But truthfully, if God redeemed my dad’s relationship with his dad and is actively restoring my relationship with my dad, believe that there is a Heavenly Father who loves you supremely and desires for you too to experience restoration in your relationships. Happy Father’s day, Pastor Lukas.