When Dad disappears…

doorways

For some, Father’s Day is when you sit in church and try to hold yourself together because you’re missing a dad.

There are many, many reasons you may not have a dad in your life now.

  • Dad died.
  • Dad and Mom are divorced and you don’t see your father very often or ever.
  • Dad abused you physically, mentally — or both.
  • Dad’s elderly and doesn’t remember who you are anymore.
  • Dad ditched you, and you don’t even know WHO he was.
  • Dad ditched you and you remember who he was, but he doesn’t fit the bill of dad anymore.
  • Dad is chronically ill and disease has taken away the person you used to know and changed dad radically.
  • (You can add your own reasons to this list.)

For whatever reasons you’re not connected to your dad anymore, my heart and prayers go with with you.  Please read on — there’s hope! Father God offers to BE a Father to the fatherless.

For children with a chronically ill father, this post is especially for you. My heart bleeds for my daughter and for all of  those who are “fatherless” in a very different sort of way.

Grief IMG_2273

(meme credit to lessonslearnedinlife.com)

Care-giving friend, recognizing that your children are grieving and may not even realize that’s what’s going on is one KEY to helping them navigate this difficult time. Their grief needs to be acknowledged as valid and deep!

Chronical illness affects every family differently, depending on the types and duration of the illness.  I think there some commonalities:

  • Having a chronically-ill parent is like being on a roller coaster ride that you can’t get off of — until death or significant healing occurs.

One of my favorite photos of my daughter is at the last happiest memory we made together away from home four years ago. She’s beaming, contentedly curled up on “Papa’s” lap, face snuggled into a giant beard, at my brother’s college graduation. Life wasn’t perfect, but life was good at that moment.  Dad had her. Dad held her. Dad was reasonably present in her life. Now Dad cannot. Her old dad has disappeared in so many ways.

I recently spent a good deal of time and money (for us) attempting to make new happy memories in a rare opportunity. I only half-succeeded. Illness has changed life for us in a way that we can never retrieve.

Was the effort worth it? Yes. Learning to love those who are broken is important, especially when they’re your own family members. Our Father in heaven invites these to His table especially — the lame, the halt, the blind. If you’re navigating the teen years, as I am, this flies in the face of their natural self-absorption. Only the power and love of Christ makes this truly, fully a possibility.

Chronic illness as it progresses may mean that Dad’s not there either physically or mentally. Dad’s distant. It feels like you’ve been forgotten and forsaken. You have to learn to love in a different way. Emotionally, it’s a roller coaster ride.

  • Milestones in your child’s life without the old Dad present are significantly painful. 

That recital ( one reason I think my daughter quit piano…), the awards ceremony, the soccer games with enthusiastic dads cheering from the sidelines… Sound familiar?

  • Looking forward to a future without your dad’s support leaves a huge hole in your heart. 

No dad for your wedding, college graduation, or beyond? No Mr.Fix-It to come to your rescue. No dad sitting on the porch with his shotgun as he interviews your first potential suitor? (LOL, an old threat some of us have heard.). No dad safety net.

  • In fact, the “new dad” might be significantly more embarrassing than your child’s “old dad”.

Did dad have a stroke? Lose mobility? Does dad speak with slurred speech or have days when he’s just not “with it”? Chronic illness often amplifies a teen’s usual embarrassment with their parents.

Add the medication factors in, too. Dad might be in bed for many hours a day. When he’s awake he might be unpleasant and unreasonable for family (usually never for the rare visitors) due to pain and medications.

Side note: Chronically ill people are usually able to pull off a bit of “normal” for visitors to try to retain dignity and the often diminishing friendships of those visitors. How many of you have friends after many years of chronic illness who STILL come regularly to visit? You can start counting these friends on one hand usually. Hard truth.

Daily living with chronic illness? It’s a steady drain on your emotional and physical bank account, and ONLY those living inside your four walls see the full scope of this. Not your pastor. Not your friends. Just family.

What’s a momma to do? Is there HOPE? You have to step into dad’s shoes so many times and be both father and mother. It’s impossible, right?

You’re walking through the fires and floods right now, dear caregiver, with and for your children and your chronically ill loved one. Anyone who says otherwise should just shut up like God told Job’s friends to do. Hang on! There is a God who sees your suffering and tears, too.

There is a Father who knows and loves your children as they suffer through fatherless days. I know. I’m treading water with you, as you can see from the silence lately on this blog. Life’s been incredibly hard, but God has not forsaken His daughter.

Here’s the HOPE: Our Father God loves the fatherless and the PRODIGAL child (if your child struggles with anger at God and their earthly father).

Today’s Scripture readings at church were Psalm 103:8-13

Psalm 103:13 Modern English Version (MEV)

13 Like a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord gives compassion to those who fear Him.

 

AND Luke 15:11-24.

Luke 15:11-24 Modern English Version (MEV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 Then He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided his estate between them.

13 “Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, and journeyed to a distant country, and there squandered his possessions in prodigal living. 14 When he had spent everything, there came a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and hired himself to a citizen of that county, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the husks that the swine were eating, but no one gave him any.

17 “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have an abundance of bread, and here I am perishing with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 So he arose and came to his father.

“But while he was yet far away, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and embraced his neck and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. 23 Bring here the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry. 24 For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ So they began to be merry.

Spot on! It was my HOSANNA moment. Remind yourself and your child that you HAVE the perfect Father in Heaven. You are not alone. Your children are not deserted. So hard to hang into when this journey gets long, I know!

What is God like as the Father of your suffering children?

  • He’s abundantly merciful.
  • He’s full of compassion.
  • He sees all.
  • He knows all.
  • He is ever-present.
  • He’s all wise.
  • He’s forgiving (even to the scoundrel son who completely shamed him in front of all of his family and friends — his whole community saw his shame.)
  • He offers a robe of righteousness, clean and pure.
  • He offers the family signet ring to his children. You’ve access to the family business and bank account. (My God shall supply ALL your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. How many times do you feel bereft of the physical and financial support of a father, too?)
  • He offers shoes because you are His child, not a slave in his household (slaves didn’t wear shoes in the context of this story.)
  • He celebrates the sinner who repents with a full-blown PAR-TAY.
  • He promises His Spirit to you and your children. (Pray, pray, pray for that promise, dear momma. Don’t ever give up on that one!)
  • So much more… search the Scriptures. The fatherless are IMPORTANT to our Father God.

What does our Heavenly Father mean to you? I’d love it if you’d share a Scripture and bless us all in this struggle.  Our Heavenly Father sees and knows when you reach out a helping hand to the fatherless, dear momma. Your work is SEEN and KNOWN.

 

 

 

 

 

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