Father’s Day, to me, is a joy-filled day. Every father I’ve ever known has been amazing including my own dad, my husband, and many other male figures in my life. However, this past Father’s Day, I was reminded that this is not the case for everyone. There are many who have not had such good experiences with their dads and others who have never known their dads before at all—they have always been fatherless. An example of one such person sat with us in our living room this past Father’s Day morning.
It was another emergency hosting and this 10-year-old girl was seeking safety and shelter for the weekend. We didn’t think about how her stay with us would overlap with Father’s Day, how she didn’t have a dad, or how this day might be difficult for her. At least not at first.
But the moment we all woke up and I whispered into the kids’ ears to go give daddy a big hug for Father’s Day, I saw this girl’s momentary smile fade away while the rest of the kids continued to squeal and laugh as they took turns jumping on daddy’s back.
That’s when it dawned on me.
Right. She doesn’t have a dad. Think fast. What do I do.
For the next minute or so, I paused and drowned out the laughter in the background. I looked at her as she withdrew and tried to think about what was going through her mind.
What was she feeling? Was she sad? Was she angry? Was she numb, perhaps? After all, she had never even met her dad before.
I could not tell what she was thinking, but her blank stare simply told me that Father’s Day, to her, was not as joyous an occasion as it was to the rest of us.
So as covertly as possible, I nudged my husband’s arm. Very quickly, he caught on to the somber mood in the room. Immediately, both our eyes dropped down low as we frantically searched for the proper words to say, as if they were hidden somewhere on the floor.
Then at the same time, we briefly looked up at one another before moving into action, doing what I think we both would’ve naturally done if this was our own child who was suddenly sinking into the quicksand of sorrow.
Our bodies swiftly gravitated towards her, not allowing isolation and loneliness to accompany her a second longer. My husband joined her on the couch and wrapped his big arms around her. I sat at her feet on the floor and looked into her eyes. For a second, no one spoke, but it felt like a million words were exchanged in that silence as she finally allowed her tears to stream down and my husband held her tight.
She had already told us how she never met her father before, that he left when she was a little baby. At the time, however, she said it so matter of factly that I didn’t catch onto the hurt inside. But of course it was all in there somewhere. It had to be.
This was her dad we were talking about. The man who was her very own flesh and blood. The man who was meant to protect her, provide for her, and tell her how precious and beautiful she is. The man whom she was supposed to be able to safely come home to each day, even when everything else was falling apart. No matter what happened out there, she should have been able to find value in herself and the strength to face the world again, simply because her father told her everything was going to be okay.
This is the man who should have been here this day and every single day before. But he wasn’t there and he never was–not once. From birth until now, he has missed out on a million moments that beckoned his presence.
And whether she ever mentally knew this or not, her heart, her soul, her spirit knew it, and her entire being deeply and longingly missed all of that and more in this moment.
So there she was, bearing witness to our happy little moment on Father’s Day. For a minute there, I felt so badly for her that I was tempted to feel guilty and sorry that my children were given the fortune of having such an awesome dad. It just didn’t seem fair.
Where was her dad??
Nobody knew, but one thing was for sure. All those things that she had missed throughout her life from the absence of a father, she still desperately needed now.
And right there—in that need—was the hope.
Yes, her heart still needed and yearned for it. When that yearning is still alive and kicking and crying out, there is hope for a response, hope for life.
And on this day, my husband was there to answer her cry as she let it be known to us. He heard her unspoken questions, hurts, and longings, and he spoke to them warmly, telling her she was beautiful, that she was loved, that her pain was acknowledged, that she was seen, and that everything was going to be okay. In that exchange, I could visibly see some glimmer of hope and life being restored, even through just her eyes.
Although not from her real father, my husband was the messenger of the words, the strength, the validation she needed to receive. This is how God has used my husband, not only for our children, but also for the fatherless. To strengthen them in the knowledge that they are loved.
And perhaps because they have been fatherless on this earth, maybe their hearts’ yearning will continue to cry out that much stronger and that much louder and persist and never settle until they are found and answered by the perfect love of their true Father in heaven.
That is our greatest hope. Because when their yearning is met by God alone, the ultimate Father, Provider, Encourager, and Lover of their souls, they will be absolutely healed, transformed, and able to walk out the fullness of life that was intended for them.
Until then, we will continue to speak that truth on behalf of our Father.
Husband, you are an amazing dad and I am amazed at how you welcome the Lord to use you. Without striving and just by being you, you are being that father to both our children and to the fatherless on behalf of our mighty God.
Happy Father’s Day, to you and to our God!
Because of You, Lord, we are never truly fatherless.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”