My mom and dad divorced before I was two. Perhaps it seems unlikely to recollect anything at such an age, but there are two very vivid memories I have of my father from that time. I remember wobbling over to hand him an orange Popsicle as he was putting on shoes in his bedroom. I also remember falling ashes from his cigarette as they burned a hole through the material on my little green, felt-covered stool. I was told later by my mom that he only smoked when he was nursing a hangover (which may have been often since he struggled with drinking, thus the whole reason for the divorce).
My mother made me keep in touch with my father over the years, though I’d never visited or saw him face-to-face growing up. Our contact only came by way of letters – and he was very faithful to write. I found it such a chore to compose letters to him. My mother would often read my letters and tell me that I could write better than that, and to do it again. This practice, I’m sure, is what served as the training ground for my future love of the written word! At the time I viewed it as drudgery and would write out of obligation, not because I felt any real connection or love for this man known to me as “Daddy John.”
When I was five, my mother married a man who I reluctantly call a wicked person. We both endured his various forms of abuse for almost eight years. It was after this divorce, and after several letters and telephone conversations with my dad, that he and my mother agreed to visit each other. You see, my mother always loved my father very much, and he in return adored her. But alcohol proved to be a real taskmaster and tore them apart. In the 11 years that had passed, he hadn’t remarried, and it was only months after he and my mom began to communicate again when they decided to exchange vows once more.
The marriage dissolved only a few years later as his drinking began to resurface. But during this season I gained a few more experiences interacting with my dad. When I was 16 he had once commented to me – innocently and purely fatherly in tone – that I would be a knockout in hip-cut flared jeans. This was the 80’s, and that fashion trend of the late 60’s was long gone and hadn’t yet reappeared. I had thought, “Oh yeah, right, whatever! Those are sooo not in and totally lame!” The flared jean trend has now once again come and gone. And just to note, my dad happened to be right. 😉
One night, a few years ago as I was ironing a pair of jeans, that memory flashed through my mind. My next thought was,
‘My dad is the only male figure I can recall who had told me I was beautiful as I was growing up.’
He loved me. He was my father. Even when I didn’t return that love, He loved me still. He saw in me what no one else saw. For as imperfect as he was, he loved me unconditionally. I didn’t know it then, or even cared. Unfortunately, he died only two years later, while I was still too self-centered and selfish to return the love he had to give. I reflect on those few memories I have of my dad and realize that my Heavenly Father is completely perfect, and loves me far more than my earthly father ever could.
Somehow at some time, people will fail us, and we fail them in return. I didn’t know it as a teen, but I craved my father’s unconditional love, even when I threw it back in his face. Our Heavenly Father will never fail us, even when we are distant, unfaithful, and unwilling to receive His love. If your perspective of a good and loving God is altered because of man’s imperfect example, let your true Father speak words of comfort and life to you today.