I stood in the Family Christian Bookstore, reading through a dozen Father’s Day cards. The card stand had a section just for the occasion and, as I flipped open each card to read the message contained within, I realized yet again that something standard and glib wouldn’t do. I remembered the reason that I often chose a blank card and wrote my own inscription: our relationship has never been usual or picture perfect.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have even bothered with Father’s Day. Years where I simply didn’t. I try not to think too much of those years, and the hurt it probably caused him.
Our relationship has been a journey, you see, as many relationships are. The type of journey that required a near-literal amount of blood, sweat and tears to bring us to where we are now. We worked hard on our commitment to each other. I spent over a year in counseling working through my issues. Together we tackled the difficult conversations and, through the overwhelming grace of God, found a level of healing that makes our relationship the beautiful thing it is today.
And there are very few cards that capture the enormity and beauty of that.
My dad isn’t perfect. None of us are. He’s my dad, though, my one and only papa. No one in my life works as hard to live by the powerful and restorative grace of God than he does.
He is Len’s and my most faithful prayer warrior. In conversation he will sigh helplessly, knowing the pain in our lives, always acknowledging it for the burden it is, always wanting to help. He knows he can’t, not from this distance and simply because of what NF is, but he is always praying, always loving, always reaching out.
He is my most faithful example of what it means to have a living and active faith, a deep hunger to always grow in knowledge of the Lord. When I visit there I know that the first hour of his day will not be social. He will make himself a coffee after his shower and disappear into his study, where he will journal and read Scripture and pray. The house is silent around us during this time and I often spend that time praying for even a fraction of his disciple and devotion.
He is always busy, and that busyness is typically serving. He works several days a week at a thrift store, supporting their work to raise funds for the prison ministry that has been part of our lives for as long as I remember.
He has buried two wives, whose graves lie a short stone’s throw from each other. I don’t know how that doesn’t shatter a man wholly and completely, but for God. It has been two years, and an anniversary is creeping up that will again stab the heart with sorrow and longing, and yet we are witness to the healing and peace that God has wrought in his life.
I love my Dad. He has his foibles, yes, as we all do. He loves McDonalds and the fact that they always have a newspaper. He is very particular in his music choices, and he uses the same pot of coffee over several days. (That last sentence probably made him snort and scratch his head.) He walks faster than some people sprint, making it nearly impossible to keep up with him. He tackles the New York crossword puzzle because he loves the mental challenge of those ridiculous clues. I tease him about his peculiar way of eating yogurt (round and round that little bowl spins), and try not to misplace things in his kitchen, as everything has its place. The beauty of all of this is that he laughs. We laugh.
We didn’t always laugh. We do now. We tease and joke and sprinkle hard and meaningful conversations with a laughter that signals a hard-earned familiarity and respect. And it’s a pretty beautiful thing.
I did find a card, by the way. It made me blubber a bit in the bookstore, and when Len read it he agreed it was a great card.
Happy Father’s Day, Papa. I love you.