I was blessed with two of them. My “Dad”, is the one who raised me and taught me to love animals, take risks and that you don’t have to answer every question. I learned unconditional love from him because God showed me how to love when it made no sense. I would not be the person I am today if Dad had not been who he was.
Over time I realized that my dad’s suffering was what helped teach me unconditional love. And boundaries. And some stuff I’d rather not have learned. But there is so much more that I am so grateful to have learned! Things like: It is OK to bite if you get backed into a corner. You can always drive in snow; go slow and watch out for the other guy. If you want to eat you better damn well make sure you have a job. And sometimes your dreams get fulfilled in ways you didn’t expect, but that is OK, just go with it.
My second blessing was my stepfather, who married my mom many years after I was an adult. He fell in love. She fell in love. They decided to make a life together. For all the years of their marriage (20+) he loved her so well. She loved him so well. I suppose without the stresses of raising children or paying mortgages, their marriage was truly a refuge and delight for later years. He was the most gracious man I’ve ever known. Never in a hurry. Always interested in what was going on in our lives. And he loved our mom.
Their marriage blessed me with extra siblings, and most of all it blessed me to experience what joy and delight can come when you least expect it. In the last year of his life there were a few health challenges. I was in their home for an overnight visit once when I woke up to someone singing. It was my mom. She was serving him breakfast on a tray, and she was singing to him as she entered the room, “Good morning! Good morning!” I could hear the love in her voice. I could see the appreciation and love on his face. They did their last season together so very well.
I think dads have a tough job. When I finally “grew up” and experienced some big falls myself, I realized that my dad did the very best he could with his life. He was a very tough man. And broken, like all of us. His heartaches and life griefs were overwhelming. But he continued. It wasn’t always smooth or what he imagined, but he persisted until he took his very last breath. And then he was free.
I know Dad could have given up and stopped living at many different points in his life. But he didn’t. He kept going. And because he kept going, we did too. We kept learning about love and mercy and grace. We kept asking God to show us how to navigate the days, and God was faithful to help us. We all just kept living and doing the very best we could with what we had to live with – including our broken selves!
Both of my fathers are in heaven tonight. They have no pain or sorrow. And anything that was not resolved on earth for either of them, has been completely resolved in heaven. I’m so grateful they were both chosen to be my dad and stepfather. I’m so glad we lived all the way until their very last breath, and we lived fully. It is a gift I always cherish, and a gift that never stops bearing fruit.
A Night Prayer on Father’s Day
Holy God, thank you for our dads. We never need them to be perfect, we just need them to be our dads. So please give all fathers an extra measure of your love, wisdom and care. Please remind them of your mercy and grace that is always available and give them courage to ask you for it. Most of all, as this day comes to an end, please cover all dads with your great compassion, and please cover all of their children with your steadfast love. Thank you, gracious God, for being our perfect father, and for giving us our imperfect and amazing dads. Amen.
It’s Always Been You – Phil Wickham