Father's Day is, without a doubt, a very special day. It's a time to celebrate, thank, and honor those who have been blessed with the gift of father hood.
For me, however, Father's Day was not celebratory but just another Sunday and a sometimes painful reminder of what could have or should have been.
As a child, I remember watching Fantasy Island (I know, I'm dating myself here) and wishing, every week, to have an intact, nuclear family. I would envision each of us arriving on the island separately as "Tattoo" shouted, "Da plane, boss, da plane." And we would leave together to our happily ever after. But that was, after all, a childhood fantasy.
At the age of 2, my parents divorced. And with the stroke of a pen, my father was gone from my life. With a few exceptions, my father missed nearly all of my birthdays and every childhood Christmas. No calls, no gifts, no cards.
I wish I could say I escaped unscathed, but I did not. In my adult years, I began to understand how profoundly my father's absence affected my life, my decisions, and my self-worth. His absence, both physical and emotional, left me with many unanswered questions and self-doubt.
For many years I resented him. As I grew older, so did the resentment.
At age 21, I surrendered my life to Christ and became a recipient of forgiveness I did not deserve. That decision changed my life forever. I began to understand that if I could be forgiven for all that I had done, who was I to withhold forgiveness from my father.
But that was much easier said than done.
The first and second Father's Day after my born-again experience, God began to speak to my heart. HE wanted ME to extend forgiveness to my earthly father.
In my human frailty, I did not want to. I wanted to remain angry and bitter. I felt entitled to those feelings. Shouldn’t he be apologizing to me? He left ME, after all. I argued with God and myself.
I eventually surrendered. I exercised choice instead of right. I had a right to be angry, but I made a decision to forgive my father. I felt free!
At age 23, I asked him to walk me down the aisle, a privilege I thought he did not deserve and that I would never allow. But with God, NOTHING is impossible.
In the months leading to my wedding, I met my father on a few occasions. Each time, he handed me money towards the wedding. Curious, I asked why he was doing that, and he responded with four beautiful words, "Because you forgave me."
On my wedding day, he walked me down the aisle. It was a God moment. Yet, things did not change much thereafter. The years apart had left their mark, and we parted ways. Sporadic encounters and brief conversations over the years did little to bring us closer.
In 2012, my father fell ill. He was in a medical rehabilitation center for an extended period of time, and I was listed as next of kin. I assumed a role that I was not qualified for. I had difficult decisions to make and questions for which I had no answers
I didn’t know my father’s medical history. I didn't know him.
With this responsibility came waves of resentment and anger. How had this become my problem? I was conflicted, ashamed of feeling this way. I had an emotional setback, and I was back to square one before I had forgiven him.
I visited him frequently, meeting with doctors and social workers. I celebrated birthdays, Father’s Day and Christmas at the nursing home. I brought him gifts and cake, the very things he had not done for me.
I am not proud of this, but I was embittered. As his health improved, I began to scale back on my visits and distanced myself. I was fighting painful memories and the stranglehold of resentment and unforgiveness I thought I had overcome. I needed time to process these emotions, and I needed time to heal. Thankfully, time does heal.
In September 2015, my father passed away. Unaware that he was dying, I visited him a few days before his passing. I wanted him to know that I had truly forgiven him. I then had the utmost honor of praying with my dad who accepted Jesus that Sunday afternoon. Today, I know he’s in heaven, and that brings me such peace.
Our stories may differ, but I believe the pain and emotional scars are very much the same. I pray my story reminds you that there are hope and healing for you.