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To you with no father on Father’s Day

I leave for Swaziland, a land with few fathers, two days after Father’s Day.  It made me think of what an uncelebrated holiday this is for many people.  How do you celebrate a day when the person you’re celebrating is gone or has failed you?  This Father’s Day, what do you say …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I leave for Swaziland, a land with few fathers, two days
after Father’s Day.  It made me think of
what an uncelebrated holiday this is for many people.  How do you celebrate a day when the person
you’re celebrating is gone or has failed you? 
This Father’s Day, what do you say to the father who isn’t there? A day
like this can stir up a foul-smelling stew of emotions that for many, is better
left on the back burner.

Fathers are supposed to protect and counsel; they are
friends and providers.  But what if, when
you needed protection most, your father was absent?   This
weekend my daughter Emily called me and said, “Daddy, I had a blowout on the
highway and I steered it to the median – what do I do?”

I was there in 15 minutes! 
That’s what dads do.  The world is
harsh; something in the DNA of a dad sends us rushing to help our children when
they need it.  And if you don’t have a
father to protect you, it can leave you feeling deeply alone and insecure.  Without a dad, you may find yourself putting
up high fences of protection everywhere in your life.  The world may feel perpetually dangerous.

If you’re fatherless today, my wish for you on this Father’s
Day is that you see your father’s humanity. 
So many fathers not only failed to protect, they may also have been the
source of great pain in their children’s lives. 
They said and did things that cut to the quick. And though they’re gone,
their words still ring in your ears.  Why
did they hurt you so?

We fathers who failed you don’t need excuses on this or any
other day, but so many of us, if we had the words, would tell our own story of
fathers who failed us.  And if we could
see the pain we caused you and could tap the true response of our heart, we’d weep
and ask your forgiveness.  Maybe we’d
explain our failure in a way that you could see our humanity.

If your Daddy is absent today, if he’s failed you, or by
dying, gone so far away that all your conversations are frustrating monologues,
let me just imagine what he might say to you if he could put you on his lap and
talk to you from his heart. I think he might say something like this:

“Honey, I’m so sorry. 
I never intended life to go this way. 
I wanted so badly to be there for you. 
I know I failed you and I’ll never be able to make it right.  I had such dreams for you and me. In my minds’
eye, I was doing all the things for you that a father should do. When you were
born, I was so proud of you.  You were the
apple of my eye.  Your mom and I loved
you so much.

It wasn’t supposed to work out this way.  I was supposed to be there for all the
important things in your life.  When your
teacher or your boss didn’t see your potential, I was supposed to be there to
encourage you and kiss you on the head. 
That’s was my dream for us.  I
wanted the world to see you for the rock star that you always were to me.  I wanted to love you like you deserved to be
loved.

And life just didn’t go according to my plan.  It’s a Father’s Day without me, the main
attraction. All those oceans of pain that separate us now – if I could, I’d swim
through them all again just to wipe the tears from your cheeks.  You were so special to me.  And if I were there and could say the words,
I’d ask you, “Baby, can you ever forgive me for not being there?”

Comments (10)

  • my earthly father tried to get me into prostitution… yet, he *did* make good on his promise to send me to Catholic schools; for that i remain ever thankful! i sent many prayers up for my dad’s soul on Father’s Day. may he rest in peace!!!

  • dad, thanks for always being there for us and being a wonderful father. i am so blessed. i love you and happy father’s day!

  • Have little to addbeautifully expressed and I trust will be an encouragement to all of those with a huge “father hole” in their hearts.

  • Thanks for the great words. I miss my dad. One of the most awesome sights was seeing a small church in Pomona Kansas jam packed with lives he had touched.

  • thanks it’s been 12 years since my dad passed away and reading this brought tears to my eyes. thank you for reminding me how much he loved me and not just being numb to his lack of presence.

  • Seth, what happens when a father has “walked away from the faith” and family to pursue worldly passions? How does one respond to a “prodigal father” on Father’s Day?

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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