Father to the Fatherless [first posted June 19, 2011]
When I read in Psalm 68 that God is father to the fatherless, I think of children of single moms, or of friends whose fathers have passed away. Oh, I have thought of myself as a beneficiary of this wonderful fact, certainly, but more in the context of God’s being a perfect father, compared with my imperfect earthly father. Today is the first Father’s Day I’ve thought of myself as “fatherless,” and it feels odd, as though I’m wearing someone else’s name tag.
Last June Dad understood the celebration. Today, although he was happy to receive gifts, he had no idea why we gave them to him. He made no comments about them. He recognized the cookies and candy; he didn’t recognize the jigsaw puzzles. He asked Mom to read our cards to him, but he didn’t assimilate the compliments. Mom had given him an ID bracelet so that he’d have something of his own in the nursing home. He liked the bracelet but didn’t recognize his name engraved on it.
Dad’s protection, provision, companionship, and guidance throughout my life are now all in a closed attic trunk of memories. This trunk is not yet locked or dusty; I still reach in and feel the warmth of those daddy memories that embraced and shaped me. An open trunk where current and future paternal experiences go will, however, contain none of these precious things.
This morning when the radio played a song about holding our heavenly Father’s hand, I pictured myself a small child reaching for her father’s hand to cross the street. My daddy was not there, but God stepped in and took my hand. This little girl’s lips quivered and her eyes spilled over because she longed for her father’s familiar hand. But kindness and strength in this new hand collected her tears and calmed her lips. I can’t explain how, but I felt changed, as though God not only walked me across the street but also lifted me up onto a Segway and then hopped up behind me and off we zipped together. It seems at least one benefit of losing my dad to dementia is a deeper desire for and dependence on God’s fathering. Today I’m especially glad God is father to the fatherless.