Many women today lack the happy and warm memories of a caring, loving father who poured out his life for his children and loved them unconditionally. I know that this deficit in their experiences can make it difficult for those women to relate to their Heavenly Father and to believe that He has only their best interests at heart and that He works constantly for the benefit of His children. But I also believe that our Heavenly Father can heal any old wounds that our earthly fathers have inflicted. This Father’s Day, I thought I’d tell you a little about my Dad and how God worked in both our lives.
My Dad was one of those fathers who had struggles and problems to the point that he was not really a “good” or consistant father. He was an alcoholic and that sin caused him to be ambivalent, uncaring, harsh and neglectful most of the time. I grew up being hungry sometimes, sometimes not having proper clothes to wear and craving a man’s influence in my life in my teen years. But what I have learned nearing my 50’s is that my understanding of him and his ways has changed and deepened as I have experienced life and as my Heavenly Father-God has worked His grace in my life.

Looking back, I can see some of the wisdom my Dad imparted to me, even in his fog of alcoholism. When I began to drive at age 15, he warned me that I was responsible for not only myself and my car, but for every other driver on the road. Shocking as that sounds, I have lived and driven by that rule for 32 years and have never caused an accident or been in one caused by someone else. I attribute that not only to my Dad’s counsel but my Heavenly Father’s protection.

My Dad was filled with practical wisdom that his alcoholism would not let him use or share except on occasion.One saying that my Dad was fond of was, “You are Daddy’s baby and you will always be Daddy’s baby if you live to be 90 years old.” Granted, when I was 13 I wasn’t really crazy about that sentiment, but as the years went by, I knew my Dad loved me and I learned that he showed it as best as he could. My Dad was lacking in emotional skills. It was hard for him to say that to me, but he made himself say it and he meant it. He missed out on acting on a lot of his good intentions, but I can see from my vantage point of age that he meant those that he did act on. I don’t condemn him for that, and I don’t excuse him, I simply observe and understand.
As a child, I worried about my Daddy. I prayed every night that God would “help my Daddy to stop drinking and save my Daddy.” When I consider how much I prayed for him, I wonder if that was my calling from the Lord in those early years. I spent so much time praying as a child that I was a strange child. Different from my carefree playmates, different from the adults in my life. God used me even as a child to pray for my Dad and you simply can’t be the same after spending time with God.One evening, I don’t remember exactly how old I was but I was about 8, he apologized to me about his behavior. I don’t even remember what the behavior was, but I do remember his apology. He told me that he knew that the Lord did not approve of his behavior, his drunkeness, and that he would not drink any more. And he didn’t for a while.

Dad never gave me any gifts in all my life growing up. Mother always bought the gifts. Daddy never gave me anything that I can recall except one day in July of 1981 he gave me something.I stared in wonder at it as he handed it to me in his living room that day. My husband and I had been married almost a year. Daddy had not come to the wedding. He said he was sick, felt too badly to go. I just think he was sad that his baby was getting married and didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t hold it against him. Was I just too naive? Some people in my family think I am. But I’m not all that naive, I just understood my Dad better than they did.

Daddy placed a shiny gold necklace in my hand. It was a pure golden chain with a very beautiful copper penny set in a golden charm. The penny was dated 1902. It was so perfect it looked new. The face on the Indian was chisled and clear. It was just exquisite.

And Daddy said to me, “This is a late wedding present. I love you” Six years later Daddy was gone. I was relieved, angry and brokenhearted all at once. It took me several years to come to a place where I could even grieve for his leaving. Today, I don’t idealize my Dad, he was just a man with troubles, sins and struggles, but a man who loved his child.

I’m really thankful for that love, as difficult and imperfect as it was.Two weeks ago, a woman at church whose husband had been my Dad’s best friend, came to me and said that she had had something on her mind and heart for a long time and didn’t know if I knew it or if it was any of her business to share it with me. She said that her husband and a local pastor had gone to my Dad’s house before he died and the pastor had led my Dad to the Lord.

I knew that he had changed in the few years before he died. I knew that he was a different man but I wasn’t sure if he was saved or not. All those prayers I prayed for my Daddy when I was a child had been answered. All those hours spent questioning and praying over his salvation and repentance and whether or not my Dad would be in heaven were put to rest in a moment. And I found out about the answered prayers long after the fact. I got a little taste of heaven that day.

Dads come in all varieties. But most of them were once young men who had dreams and plans and ideals. As we grow older we really need to be able to look at our Dads with the eyes of age and wisdom, seasoned with grace and forgiveness. They are sinful people in need of a savior just like we are.

© 2006 Sylvia Britton