Being a Father

Loving my daughters has healed my spirit.

My mother died when I was 11 years old and my father was emotionally distant. I never heard him say he loved me. When he remarried I emotionally ‘left home’ and was an orphaned teenager for many years. I have no idea what it means to hear the affirmation from a father who is also a friend. It was the stiff upper lip environment of – boys don’t cry, keep dirty laundry to yourself, and ‘too much praise will make you swollen-headed’.

Loving my daughters and being their father has given me an insight into the heart of God the Father. I think of how much I love my girls and the emotions they evoke in me, the fact that I could write pages about them and the joy they bring me. How they can ever do anything that would cause me to want to be distant or disown them? In fact when they fail I am most especially waiting to embrace them with tenderness and even more affirmation. They don’t seem to understand that I have so much love and joy for them that I will never run out, they can’t exhaust my supply or make me change my mind. I can really get into ‘feeling those feelings’ for them…. And then God the Father sneaks up on me and turns it all around. “That’s how I feel about you too John, receive my love and pleasure in you as well my son.”

I wrote a song about that. Every time I sang the chorus for two weeks I cried as the Lord healed my heart…

That you should be my Father
And I should be your child
Beloved by your side
In mercy reconciled
It’s a wonder, it’s a glory
It’s a joy to be told
Abiding in your love…

I love being a father! From the second my first daughter was born nearly twenty-two years ago, a passionate love affair exploded in my heart that has never diminished or faded for her, or her sister who followed sixteen months later.

Nothing comes close to the joy of holding a newborn child, then watching them grow into adulthood. That pathway has undulated for us through the pain of physical injury, the joy and excitement of new adventures, the unexpected trauma of divorce, the pride of reaching goals, the heartbreak of first loves lost, and the celebration of growing confidence and independence.

I always hug my daughters and tell them I love them. I go overboard exclaiming how proud I am of them, and that I’m their greatest fan…. To the point where they say, “Stop it dad, enough!” “But I can’t help myself,” I reply with a mischievous grin, “It’s true, I am so fortunate to be your dad. I don’t want you ever to doubt my delight in you.”

I’ve never withheld my love from my daughters or struggled to be there for them unconditionally. Sometimes I’ve been disappointed with their choices and have grieved at the hurt they have experienced, but that’s all part of growing and learning; certainly no huge disillusionment or cause for rejection.

There’s good news for those of us who have not enjoyed the affirmation or unconditional love and embrace of a father. Some of us ache with pain from abuse, or emptiness from the void left by an absent father. I believe the father-child relationship is the most significant one for our growth, self-esteem, sexual identity, self-confidence, response to authority, and general well-being. The mother is the bedrock of nurturing and the father equips us for living.

It is no accident that God reveals himself through Jesus as Father. Before Jesus’ public ministry while being baptized in the Jordan the Father speaks out loud from heaven, “This is my son, whom I love, and in whom I am well pleased.” Every child or adult needs to hear public words of identity and belonging from his or her father, expressions of love spoken out loud, and words of praise. When there is silence we are diminished and many will look for those core needs to be met in unhealthy places.

But there is hope for those of us who are fatherless. There are two ways of living. One is looking backward and being defined by what has happened to us from birth until now and wishing ‘if only’ about our human fathers. The other option is to look up and forward and receive the welcome unconditional love of our heavenly father embracing us in Jesus. He makes all things new. If we will allow, he will begin to open our eyes and hearts to walk with him into the Promised Land he always intended for us to inhabit. He is speaking words of love and delight over you right now.

Remember how Jesus affirmed Peter as a rock when his heart was all shifting sand (in other words before it was real and true in his life)? When he called Lazarus out of the grave even though everyone else thought he was dead? God the Father sees qualities and gifts in you and me that he wants to release. You may think it is too late, or there is nothing alive inside you of any worth.

Not true.!

No-one need be fatherless today – you are invited and included. Come to him just as you are….. and see what happens. That’s all I ask of my daughters; love, time, and being present with each other will do the rest.

As the rain falls on the desert sands and releases nourishment for buried seeds God the Father waters you with his spirit and whispers words of acceptance. He will make things grow in you…. Tell him your dreams – dare to dream again – He’s saying ‘yes’ to you with an enormous grin on his face as you snuggle into His arms.

Welcome home.

©2009, John Cox

John Cox was born and raised in Cape Town South Africa and studied in England and Canada. He has traveled widely, worked as a veterinary assistant, a business consultant, and as an ordained pastor for 17 years. Divorced and now married to Sheryl they are the proud parents of three adult daughters and a son. John currently lives on Vancouver Island where he is involved in pastoring a church, counseling, and writing. He enjoys renovating, squash, golf, playing guitar and worship, and loves a great sense of humor.

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