Today is Father's Day, and as I write this, it is nearly almost over. Having spent time today enjoying family and seeing a movie marked what turned out to be a very nice...albeit extremely hot day for the first day of summer.
Today I am very grateful for the fathers in my life, and as much as I feel led to write about what I am feeling, the words are somewhat stuck in my throat. I do not believe this to be a result of writer's block...but as the result of having a lot of important things to say all at once. It is kind of like being at a formal dinner and taking a bite of something that was deceptively large and then having someone ask you a question. The time it takes to chew behind your napkin seems interminable. I hope that reading this won't seem the same...
So here goes...
There have been many special people in my life who for whatever reason in place or time...have filled the role of a father. I believe that daughters (especially) put a lot of pressure on one person...our Dad...to be every man to us. In fact, it is my personal belief that this tendency is something that they probably don't even comprehend. While our mothers are more likely to love us in spite of what we do, what we look like, how well we perform, or who we turn out to be...we seem to instictively understand that our fathers may or may not. Unfortunately, our view of ourselves, our gifts, and our value stems from how our father relates to us. And much like we remember any negative comment that a young man makes during adolescence, it seems even more painful and harder to bear if those comments...or any judgment...comes from our fathers.
Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond their control...or ours...there seems to be a mismatch between the gifts or abilities of a father and the child that he is given to parent. And while some children have a strong sense of self...others are just slower to develop.
As a child, I grew up with divorced parents before this was more socially acceptable. I had also been an only child for the first six years of my existence. By the time my sister was becoming a real little person...I was not only competing for attention...but I was competing for it from one parent. For an overly sensitive child, who was high maintenance to say the least...this became the beginning of a rough road ahead.
Skipping forward a decade, I tried to figure out how and where I fit in...and I never seemed to get it right. I have forgiven myself for being stupid and stubborn...but it is hard to apologize for being young. A less sensitive or a compliant child would have had an easier time...in fact, my sister did. But for me...the kid who needed a lot of reassurance...not having that put me into a spiral. This spiral finally ended in a gas station parking lot in Fort Deposit, Alabama when I met Big Dave in 1983.
After going home with a girlfriend for the weekend, I met David and I decided to transfer to another college in Alabama. My home life was very positive, my grade point average soared, and I found myself actually happy. I believe this to be the benefit of God's grace and timing...to bring me to maturity at an advanced rate. And as much as I do love the state of Georgia...it was not until I became a resident of Alabama did I really find myself...home.
I look back on those years now and am so grateful that I had the gifts of men in my life who probably do not fully understand their impact. Our across the street neighbors modeled marriage to me at a time when I needed to see that example. I believe that Mr. Billy put together many bicycles for me over the years, kept an eye out on my grandmother in her later years, and even saved my wedding day by getting black shoes for David from his store (on a Sunday). (Somehow...he ended up with white shoes and didn't notice until about four hours before the wedding.) Miss Charlene was a wonderful cook and never seemed to mind if I was there at dinnertime. I am sure that it was very inconvenient...but she always made me feel very welcome. I am grateful today for fathers like Mr. Billy (and for mothers like Miss Charlene.)
During my college years, I began to truly understand and respect my stepfather - Ralph - and build a relationship that seems to get stronger over time. He chose to support me both financially and emotionally...although he certainly didn't have to do so. It was his choice...and one that I understand...now that I am a parent. After the first initial rocky years of their marriage...he has never failed to believe the very best about me. He has never once suggested that I change...but has encouraged my strengths. He has told me numerous times that I can do anything that I set my mind to...and I believe that part of the reason I have is because he gave me the courage to try.
I've also had a wonderful father-in-law...who has always made me laugh...encouraged my efforts...and accepted me the way that I was. He has also been I also have a wonderful uncle, brothers-in-law, nephews and son. Each of these men in my life has been uniquely special to me.
I was blessed with a wonderful husband who has stuck it out with me for almost 24 years. It has not been an easy ride, but he would never admit this. I'm just grateful that he is the father of my children...who benefit from his love, care and concern.
And I have a father in Texas who has understood and accepted that sometimes we have to accept less than what we'd like in a relationship. He has a wonderful relationship with his three children in Texas, and I understand that there were limitations on both sides that just are what they are. I know that he cares, and I know that he tries...which is now enough for me. I am grateful for the family vacations, and feel that my strong sense of family is due to the fact that he took us to family reunions...and has made sure that we all spend time at the beach every year.
But on this Father's Day...I am most appreciative that all of these added a dimension that allowed me to realize that I've always had a perfect father in my heavenly one. And while I would not have picked my path...it has all turned out fine. There are days where I do wish it had been easier...but I also know that because it was a little "different"...I've been able to broaden my focus a bit. Through the years with the benefit of retrospect, I have been able to see that God gave me all that I really needed.
So, as you go through your week...think of all of the fine men who God used to bring you to maturity. Coaches, friends, fathers of your friends, neighbors, coworkers, family or in-laws...all are important...and all are on my mind this Father's Day.