Fathers and Forgiveness

I’m thinking about my Dad as Father’s Day approaches.  He was a wonderful man, although I didn’t realize it until I had children of my own. Growing up, my father and I had polar opposite personalities, and I was a bit of an anomaly to my dad.  I was the youngest of three, and the only girl and so he thought I should be a “refined lady.”  Instead I was a Tom-Boy and tagged along with my older brothers and climbed trees, played Cowboys and Indians with the boys, and played Three-Flies-Up on the neighborhood streets.  No dolls for this gal! 

My dad never quite understood my bubbly, outgoing personality or introspective thoughts.  He never came to one of my high school volleyball or softball games, nor did he come to watch me play when my high school softball team won the CIF championships my Junior year of high school. I even hit the winning run, no less! Likewise, I never quite understood him either, and couldn’t relate to his rigid, black and white thinking. 

He was an aeronautical engineer who had a pocket protector that held his mechanical pencils. I eventually learned that encouragement wasn’t in his DNA because his analytical mind and engineering background wired him to look at how something could go wrong or analyze how something would fail.  His lack of relationality was hard for me since I’m wired for relationship and he was practical, analytical, loved routine, was linear, didn’t color outside the lines and ate the exact same thing every day for lunch. So we didn’t speak the same language and as a result we didn’t enjoy a particularly close relationship during my childhood.

After I married and had kids, my parents moved to Northern California to be near us, and to be close to their only grandkids.  My son developed a love for Papa that was endearing.  “Mommy, Papa can fix anything!”  I learned to appreciate his practicality and the fact that although we didn’t speak the same language of love he still loved his family and cared for us by providing for us financially and with a wonderful home.  He wasn’t exactly knowledgeable in the emotional and spiritual aspects of supporting and raising children, but you do the best you can with what you’re equipped with.  As a grandfather, he loved his grandkids and spent a lot of time making up for lost time. I think he had regrets about things towards the end of his life, but being the practical guy that he was he chose not to dwell on it.  He died in 2001.

Could my Dad done better as a father?  Sure he could have. Could I hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness for things he wasn’t programmed to understand? Absolutely…and I dabbled in that for a season.  Could I bash him after he was gone and blame him for being the reason for my own lack-luster ability to be more of a positive encourager with my own kids?  Oh, that would have been the easy thing to do. But what I am learning is that the key to successful relationships (especially parental ones) is forgiveness and grace.  There’s that word grace again.  Ugh.  Grace!  Giving my Dad something that he certainly didn’t deserve!  But what if I want to hold onto the resentment for a little while longer until I’m feeling better and THEN I offer him grace when I’m good and ready?  Nope, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

The place that I’m at now is this:….I certainly don’t deserve forgiveness from my Heavenly Father, but he outlandishly offers it to me.  And so today I choose to offer grace and forgiveness to the man who cared for me the best he could as my earthly father. It was the only way he knew how and I will continue to allow God to heal any broken places in my heart that need mending.  The happy ending to the story is that we eventually enjoyed a time of comfortable relationship; the outgoing bubbly daughter with the black-n-white unrelational father. Now that is God’s grace in action.

So today I will say “Happy Father’s Day” to my Daddy and rest in the knowledge that my Heavenly Father offers me the best love and support my earthly father couldn’t give me.  So it’s a win-win.  Forgiveness is for me to offer, and when I have trouble walking through that all I have to do is ask God for help.  And forgiveness is also for my sweet Dad.  

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Oh….and by the way….guess who now is just as linear as her dad?  I seriously want to roll down my car window and reprimand people whose bumper stickers aren’t placed evenly in the middle of their bumper. I’m also the one who is adjusting the pictures hanging on your wall when I come to visit. And guess who eats almost the exact same thing for lunch every day?  Uh huh.  However, I DO draw the line at pocket protectors!  Just sayin’. 🙂

Always in the grip of grace.

Vic and Ruth Sorensen
50th Anniversary
* This blog is a reprint of one I wrote in 2014 on Father’s Day.  I thought it appropriate to remember.

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