A dear friend recently lost his father and another friend commented that the “father thing” is huge, no matter the relationship.
Those with good fathers mourn the goodness of the relationship and the sweet memories of good days gone by.
Those with fathers who caused pain and turmoil in the family by their presence (or by their absence or indifference) mourn the relationship that neveIr was but might have been.
The father thing, indeed, is huge.
In an autobiography of his life, the late Christian recording artist Rich Mullins said that when a child grows up without knowing a father’s love and acceptance, as an adult he or she will “struggle with issues ranging from shyness and insecurity to a profound and crippling shame over his or her very existence.”
Some have called it the “father wound,” and like any wound, the wounded seek healing for it.
Internet blogger Mike Genung writes about his own “Grand Canyon sized hole” in his heart, his father wound, that he spent most of his 20s trying to fill and heal with his workaholism and porn addiction. He called it a furious merry go round of chasing — something.
He didn’t know what that something was until he saw the 1989 movie “Dad.” In it, Jack Lemmon plays Jake, a workaholic father, with Ted Danson as his son, John, also a workaholic, following his dad’s example. Both men have sacrificed relationships for their careers, only to find themselves miserable.
Toward the end of the movie, Jake’s in the hospital and when John visits, Jake says, “We’ve never hugged before. Can we try now?”
Genung writes, “Watching ‘Dad’ was like running my heart through a cheese grater for two hours … Jake’s story had hit the deepest nerve in my heart — I was the hard-charging, empty workaholic who was starved for his father’s love and acceptance.”
One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller who wrote “Blue Like Jazz.” He also wrote “To Own A Dragon,” a book about growing up without a father. To him, fathers may be real to other people, but they were like characters in a fairy tale or on TV. Not ever having one, he didn’t know what he was missing, although he often wondered.
He also wondered, by having his father take off and leave the family when he was young, if his picture of God is skewed.
“The feeling a person who grows up without a father has is that God is disinterested,” Miller writes. “It’s difficult to explain, because I also believe God is loving and good and involved. But there is a doubt, you know, a feeling He is somehow removed … There are times when I don’t see God as much different from my friends’ fathers when I was a kid. In the end, He has a family of His own to deal with.”
Miller said he felt like maybe God saw him as a burden, a pesty neighbor kid who needs to go home.
It’s true, isn’t it? We tend to view God the Father through the same lens we view our own dad (or lack of one). It’s no wonder people say they like Jesus, but when you mention “Our Father who art in heaven,” they shut down, cringe, shudder or even rage inside.
Think of those whose fathers were cruel. Those who only cared about work. Those who sat on the couch with the TV remote or on a barstool from morning until night.
Those who left their families to start other families.
If that’s what a father is, then that’s what the Father may be like too.
But Jesus once told his follower Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:8). He also said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Same tender compassion, same mercy and pity, same kindness and gentleness, same fierce loyalty and fidelity toward those who run to him for shelter.
The same faithfulness and the same willingness to lay down his life for those he loves.
The father thing is huge and some father wounds runs deep. But God is not like any father, not like the one you loved or the one you cursed or the one you never knew.
He’s the father you need and the best father you will ever have.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or at email@example.com.