For a long time, Father’s Day has been a day of conflicting feelings. On one hand I understand the sentimentality of it and its contrived holiday selling purpose but on the other hand, it’s a day I would just as soon pass quickly and let’s move on. There is nothing wrong with recognizing our fathers once a year but are we only recognizing them on that one day? What about the other 364 days of the year?
“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
– Isaiah 64:8 (NIV).
The conflict for me starts with my biological father. I don’t recall ever sharing much about him, only a few times in some of our meetings. I struggle to do so because there is little if any good to share and because I want to move past it and forget as much as I can. You see, my biological father didn’t want much to do with me. He hung around long enough to father my brother, David, but as far as contact with me it was rare and probably in most cases forced on him.
What memories I can dredge up that may be good all end badly. I know there is much I have forgotten or repressed but I am good with that. I really don’t care to remember more, since it is almost a certainty any new memory would join the other miserable memories. My parents would divorce when I was 6 years old. It really didn’t change much. My Mom has always been a source of love, strength and stability and thankfully she is still so today at the age of 78. I don’t have any conflict when it comes to Mother’s Day.
Three years later, he would make the choice to take his own life. To be brutally honest it may be the best thing he ever did for me. There is no telling how I might have turned out if his influence had been present as I became a teenager. I have no clue of his salvation. I have heard people say that he made a profession of faith one time and was baptized but I cannot recall a single example of “good fruit” in his life. The closest thing I can think of is when he drove by our house and gave my brother and myself each a brand new football. I don’t recall what he said. My mind wants me to think he told us he loved us but I can’t recall that with any amount of certainty. This turned out to be the day before he committed suicide.
Suicide is the ultimate act of incredible selfishness. If this is something that you are struggling with I implore you to get help and talk to someone. This is never the answer. Never. It leaves a trail of devastation that in some ways never heals. Thankfully he just took himself out. I know he struggled with taking others with him. Yes, I mean me. So when you are offended that I said this is the best thing he ever did for me, think about that. On top of all of this, I was named after him. Every time I hear about someone taking their own life, it makes me angry. And when I hear of someone taking their families lives and then theirs it makes me even angrier. If you struggle with these thoughts, please get help. Don’t do this to the people you leave behind.
So for years the closest thing I had to a Father was my Pappaw Armstrong. He stepped in the best he could and so did my Mom. I can remember hearing the not so quiet whispers from people around town about who my father was and what he did. It took many years to overcome what happened. It was not too many years ago that I finally forgave him for what he did. That brought a sense of peace but I can’t look back with rose colored glasses on his effect on my life.
Right before I became a teenager, God brought a man into my Mom’s life. I didn’t like him at first, really didn’t want anything to do with him. I was that surly pre-teen and was still carrying a lot of anger and baggage from my biological father. But this man was different. He talked about God a lot and wanted to know about my relationship with Jesus. I thought he was nuts.
It wasn’t long before they married. And life changed. It seemed the more I didn’t want to love this new man in our lives the more he loved me. It was clear he loved my Mom, I had never seen her like this before. Eventually, his two sons would come to live with us and he took every chance he could to show off his new wife and four boys. Life would become an unpredictably incredible experience. There is not enough space or time for me to share even a small part of our family life. In some ways, if I had not experienced it first hand, I would not believe it myself.
His name was Carthy Ryals. But I just call him Dad. He was a gift from God. He showed me how to be husband and father but more importantly, he showed me how to be a man of God. Unfortunately, it would take many years before I realized that but maybe it is better late than never. He passed over 30 years ago but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and wish he was still here. He was not perfect by any means but without him, I cringe to think where I might have ended up. I am thankful and proud to be his son.
Becoming a father is at the same time one of the most exciting experiences in life and one of the most challenging. God has allowed me to be a father to four unique children. I love them equally but differently. It is easy to look back and see the mistakes I have made as their father. For many years I was not the follower of Christ that I should have been. So I was not the godly father that they should have had in their formative years. As they are reaching the age where parenthood is about to become a part of their lives, I pray that they will not be the father I was but be the parent that God commands them to be.
“One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
– Ephesians 4:6 (NIV).
But no matter what kind of man your father was or what kind of father you are today, we all share the perfect love of a Heavenly Father. God the Father loves us more than we can comprehend. I can look back and see where he was working, allowing me to go through experiences that would shape me for the future. Can you see where he has done the same for you? He is always faithful and will never fail us nor forsake us. You can completely trust and count on Him.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
– James 1:17 (NIV).
So this Father’s Day, if you have had a great Dad, and he is still around, make sure he knows how much you love him. If your Father wasn’t what he should have been, seek to forgive him and be released from that burden. Maybe you are like me and you had both but no matter which one you had, we are called to honor our parents.
No matter what kind of earthly father you had, on this Father’s Day give honor and praise to your Heavenly Father. Thank him for all he has done for you. If you don’t think there is much to thank Him for, start with Jesus. If Jesus was all that He ever did for us, it would be more than enough. But we have much to be thankful for when it comes to the blessings, grace and mercy we are showered with every day.
As a father, give your children the most valuable gift they could ever receive from you, give them the gift of an earthly father that loves God and seeks to be the follower of Christ he is called to be.
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