Following is an entry from my Journal written a few years ago.
Last night in Bible study as we practiced how to disciple people, I asked Destiny the “Miracle Question: If God would perform a miracle in your life, what would you ask him?” She answered, “that I would have a relationship with my dad”.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all (since I don’t believe in them at all) that right before I went to Bible study, I went to the mall to get a Father’s Day Card. It’s Sunday, and I need to get mine in the mail. As I stood there looking at the dismal selection of appropriate cards, I was reminded of this exercise I’ve had to go through over my entire life. All of the cards are appreciating Dad for being strong, supportive, around, present in their life, a leader, teaching them many things about life, etc. I’ve asked many times before where are the cards for dysfunctional daddy-daughter relationships? The ones that are sent on Father’s Day just to say, “We might not reflect perfection, but it is what we’ve got, and we don’t want to let the day go by without recognizing that despite all of what’s missing, we are still daddy-daughter.” This card search is always exhausting, and frustrating. I know going in what to expect. How many years have I gone searching for a card, but gave up; left without buying anything because nothing matched my sentiments? Did the lack of an appropriate card mean I had nothing to say on Fathers Day? Often it did. Was I the ONLY daughter in America wanting to celebrate Father’s Day despite the dysfunction? Where were the cards that simply said, “Happy Fathers Day, from your loving daughter?” I’ve said there needs to be a card section called “Awkward Reality”.
“We might not reflect perfection, but it is what we’ve got, and we don’t want to let the day go by without recognizing that despite all of what’s missing, we are still daddy-daughter.”
And so here I was looking at the hurt in Destiny’s face, as she answered her miracle question having just felt that same hurt at the card store that wasn’t a fresh hurt, but one that I’ve carried my whole life. When she spoke it, it almost buckled me. I don’t know if I could have, would have said it out loud to anyone at her age. She admitted what I carried around as a secret until I was 30 years old: I really wanted a relationship with my dad. And that’s how I know that God was using this life-long experience as an opportunity—my destiny could help Destiny. The fact that she recognized that it is a miracle she is asking of God, and that He is the only one who can do it is enough for me. Enough for me to do whatever I can to encourage her. To be the example that things can get better.
All the times I’ve talked about my dysfunctional relationship with my dad growing up as an example of forgiveness when I taught Sunday School, I thought I was talking to the adult women in the congregation. Never occurred to me that I was speaking to any of the youth. How wrong could I have been?
I feel honored, glad even that I actually lived all those years through my own hurt and emptiness in order to help Destiny in any way I can. I felt an immediate connection to this tiny little 13-year-old girl. I saw myself. I remembered how it felt back then at 13. Not much different than it felt at 25, and 31, and 42. The hurt was relative to the relationship and the relationship was the same all those years. The emptiness was more numbing at different times, but it was always there. I remember wondering how could I miss a relationship that I had never had? How do you know to desire something you’ve never experienced? That was the spiritual side of it. That was how I knew my need for a relationship with my dad was God-given. It was created in me. I was born with it. I didn’t choose it.
I told Destiny, if I could go back to my 13-year old self, I would tell her to not give up trying to build a relationship with her dad. To call him, or send him a Father’s Day card this Sunday. I asked her to try not to be mad at him for not being the adult, the parent…the Dad. To apply all the Christian principles we are to apply in every other situation: forgiveness, patience, long-suffering, love. I told her I understood exactly how she felt. I had lived a lifetime of those same feelings. I told her to consider that maybe her dad didn’t know how to be the parent. That maybe he struggled with where to start; how to start. That maybe he thought since he had been such a bad parent, he felt like he didn’t deserve to be her dad anymore and that’s why he was distant. I told her that she could help him. She could be the one to make it right. I told her to pray for her daddy. And that I would pray for the both of them. I made those suggestions because those were all the “reasons” I had come up with over the years. Especially the years when I could think about the relationship without being angry; when I was really trying to figure it out.
Of course, I’ve since learned that probably all of those “reasons” applied with my dad at one point, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand fully why. I don’t think he will either. And learning to go on without understanding was a challenge in and of itself.
I’m honored to help Destiny. I believe I really can. It feels like getting another shot at it for my own self. Even though today, my relationship with my dad is not perfect, it’s the best it’s ever been. Better than I ever imagined. The suggestions I gave her, I tried them too, but gave up when I didn’t see my daddy responding like I needed. Maybe I can encourage her to try a little longer. Maybe I can put into words for her what I looked for many, many years and didn’t get. Maybe I can shorten the amount of time of her brokenness. Maybe, just maybe I can help Destiny get onto the journey of self-esteem sooner than I did. And understanding men, and not treating every person who comes into her life as if they are subject at any point to leave. Maybe I can help her hold on to that place in her heart that only her daddy can fill, and save her from trying to fill it with all the things that don’t fit. Maybe for Destiny, when she gets to be a mature adult, she’ll look back and see that it wasn’t the best part of her life that she lived without her dad, but she’ll see how the struggles grew her to be her best.