A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:5
I was cleaning my bathroom a few days ago, and since this is a task that doesn’t really require much brainpower, my mind began to wander. There was a song that my daughter wanted me to hear. It was a song by a popular band entitled, “Colder Weather”. It’s a song about two people who can’t seem to get it together because he is always gone; on the road. It made me think of my dad. He’s been a truck driver his whole life. When he and my mother met, she was waiting tables in a truck stop and though they were never married, they lived together and ended up having me. But because his being on the road further complicated an already complicated situation, she left him before I was a year old. And she left while he was…on the road.
Fast-forward many years to find me; a little girl/young girl who had never met her biological father. I don’t really remember how old I was when I first became aware that I didn’t have a dad. I do remember one time, when I was about 4, referring to my mom and my oldest sister as my parents. I remember that like it was yesterday. Maybe that’s when I started realizing something was different about my family. I’m still not sure. But nonetheless, somewhere along the way it became evident to me.
I did have a step dad. He and my mother met when I was 4 and married when I was 7, so he was the only father I ever knew. Although he provided for us, he wasn’t much of a safe, inviting, and soft place to land. In fact, I remember being afraid of him the first time we met. He was big and strong with a gruff, intimidating presence that seemed to loom over my 4-year-old frame as if he were 7 feet tall. Of course he wasn’t, but it felt that way to that little girl.
As time went on, we meshed and grew into a family…a DYSFUNCTIONAL family, but, whatever. I wouldn’t call our home a happy place to be. There was always arguing and yelling and cussing. But in some strange way, the man that probably always had a hint of regret that he took us on (me and my mom) became one I would look to as my dad. It’s safe to say that I never felt affirmed by him, although I do know now that he loved me. Looking back and as a parent myself, I can see him as a real person with his own childhood that he probably wished had been different. I can look back and see hints and traces of his parental protection, love and concern that he kept hidden behind a domineering and controlling exterior. I can also see now, all of his emotional baggage from the hurts in his heart, abuse he suffered and the loss of his mother when he was a young boy. For whatever reason, he couldn’t risk the vulnerability that showing honest love requires. So, there I was, little girl without her birth daddy, living with a step dad who didn’t know how to do the job of “daddy” either.
Fast forward again to present day. I’m 43 yrs. old, married for 25 years with two adult children ages 22 and 21. I find myself very passionate about parenting and family matters and how those things have an impact on our society as a whole either positively or negatively. I love the topic of parenting and have always approached it from a two parent perspective, until recently when I was asked to be a part of ministering to the single mothers in our church. Feeling certain that this is something the Lord is telling me to do, I said yes.
I began having some doubts about how I was going to talk to these ladies about parenting from a single parent perspective. The closest experience I have to compare would be when I was working full time, my husband worked full time and went to school full time for 5 years starting when my youngest wasn’t even a year old. I felt like a single mom at times, but that doesn’t even come close to what these moms experience day in and day out. What a lame example to hold up to these women in an effort to try and say, “I understand.” Truth is, I don’t understand. I still had financial support and emotional support at the end of every day. The whole purpose of my husband being gone was because of his love for and commitment to giving us a better and more stable financial future. Yes it was hard doing dinner and baths and laundry and housework and discipline and everything by myself on a daily basis, but I knew my husband would walk through that door every night…even if wouldn’t be until 11pm or midnight most of the time.
I do want to go back and say that I do have a lot of good memories of my step dad though. He could be very funny and witty and wow!…what an amazing cook he was. But I had to choose to remember those things for they were a key part of my journey of forgiveness toward him, which was the key to my emotional healing. Just a few years ago, I became a first hand witness to how much that forgiveness was really more for me than for him. This complicated relationship with a man that hadn’t been in my life for years had not culminated in our reconciliation here on this earth like I had hoped. Because he pushed everyone who truly loved him away, he died alone and there was no one to claim his body,so he was cremated by the state. We claimed his remains and held a ceremony. There were only about 12 of us there. I can say that because of the gift of forgiveness that I had given him years before in a letter, where I explained that I would choose to remember the good things, I was able to sincerely and freely celebrate the life of a man that no one else cared to celebrate.
But this day, standing in that bathroom, cleaning and thinking of my own dad who wasn’t there while I was growing up, I remembered a time when I felt broken because of his absence. But that’s just it…the broken feeling was a memory. It no longer held me captive; it no longer consumed my thoughts; it no longer made me feel inadequate.
That’s when I realized that through all the pain of growing up “fatherless” in a way, God had truly been a father to me. As I stood there I realized, for the first time, that I no longer even wish I could go back and change any of it! What a miracle had been performed in my own life. It is a miracle that gives testimony to God’s incomparable ability as Father.
Maybe I don’t have anything to offer these single moms in the way of relating to them as another single mom who has “been there and done that”, but as one who can relate to their children as one who knows what it’s like to grow up never having a daddy’s arms to run to for either consolation or celebration. I’m the kid whose dad didn’t call; I’m the little girl whose dad wasn’t there for the father/daughter dance; I’m the kid who didn’t know what it was like to be held on the shoulders of a man who was trusted to the ends of the earth and back with her heart. But if all that had to be so that I could stand where I am today…so be it. I can say I am content. For although I didn’t have an earthly father or daddy to rely on, I was cared for by the creator of the universe and He also holds another title that is and will always be more dear to my heart; He is a father to the fatherless.