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I was not blessed to grow up with a father who had faith. Actually, I didn't grow up with a father much at all. That is why I spent a lot of my youth looking for substitutes wherever I could find them. Even though I had a lot of confidence, I somehow knew that I needed what only a father could give me. I think that's why my primary relationship with God as a child focused on God the Father, and why one of my favorite hymns was "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."
I remember how tough it was for me to hear glowing sermons about fathers who were "men of God" every June. (And I know how hard it has been for my husband to hear priests practically canonize their own mothers on the second Sunday of May.) Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day can be painful for those who have lost moms or dads. But for those who never knew them, or worse, have suffered negative relationships with them, these "holidays" can be devastating.
But I also know how very important it is to encourage fathers, and celebrate their place in our lives. Every human child needs the strong and active love of a man who protects, provides, and guides him. Our current and very confused culture seems bent on denying the importance of fathers. But those of us who have lived without one know better.
Sure, dads aren't perfect. The best ones never claim to be. To be honest, most parents teach their children as much about how not to live as they do about how to live. The examples we give are often not anywhere near what we hoped they would be. When it comes down to it, we are all weak and imperfect. And we love -- even our own children -- weakly and imperfectly.
Still, there is more than just something to be said for a man who takes his children personally, and tries however he is able to live his fatherhood as a corollary to his faith. It isn't just about grace at meals, family prayers, or Sunday Mass. But I know that on innumerable occasions Andrew has been more faithful to those basics than I have been.
There comes a point in our lives when we can no longer hold our parents responsible for what we've become or haven't. Even the very worst of situations is within the reach of transforming mercy. While forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean reconciliation in every case, it can mean peace.
When I left home for college, I packed a lot more than I thought I had. I took the hurt and rejection of fatherlessness with me. It didn't take long to notice the elephant in my dorm room. By Thanksgiving, I had found my dad's Florida address and phone number. I knew I had to forgive him.
That phone call was at once one of the most difficult and liberating things I have ever done. Talking with him after 10 years of absence didn't make the hurt disappear, and didn't end up giving me the father I had needed. What it did do was enable me to let go of unmet needs, broken promises, and reasonable expectations.
Perhaps you or someone you know needs to forgive, or ask forgiveness from a father. Maybe there are fathers, too, who need to be forgiven. Whatever regrets or hurts, whatever disagreements or disputes, whatever obstacles there are between children and their fathers, it is not impossible to set them aside. You don't even have to trust your dad to do it. You can trust your heavenly father, and have faith in Him, instead.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.