No parent is perfect, nor are they expected to be. Chris Tomlin's popular song, 'Good Good Father' describes the highest degree of a father who is 'perfect in every way'. The song's popularity reflects the hunger we all have to be loved unconditionally, and the lyrics wisely inform us of the “only perfect one” who can completely fill this need for each of us.
The call of parents, as God has designed, is to prepare a child to transfer their trust and dependency on the ultimate parent, our triune God. After 25+ years in ministry and counseling, I have witnessed the profound effect that a neglectful, hurtful, or abusive father can have on one's capacity to see our Heavenly Father as good, trustworthy, or loving. That may sound like an obvious connection to many, but as attachment theories confirm, the first few years of a child's life are critical in shaping the mind and heart for relational health and emotional well being as they mature. The sad reality is that a 'good enough' parent seems to be a rarity anymore.
I was fortunate to have a loving mom and dad, who while imperfect, always provided my brother and I with a secure and loving home that acknowledged God and valued honesty, kindness to all, loyalty, family (yes, a very expressive and fun Greek clan) and a humble gratitude for the opportunities we were given. In particular, my dad provided me with a solid sense of value, being cherished, loved and 'fought for'. The term 'daddy's girl' would apply for me, but the deeper experience of having a father who loved and encouraged me, corrected and guided me, and showed grace, patience and forgiveness when I chose foolishly, allowed me to accept (easier than most) that my Heavenly Father loved and accepted me.
My journey with Christ started at a young age, but over the years it deepened and layers of awareness kept increasing for my need to surrender and transfer all of my dependence on Christ. That 'need' became inevitable the day my dad dropped of a heart attack and died in my presence as I feebly attempted to administer CPR. While the circumstances were sudden and shocking, God had put me in a place in my spiritual life that gave me peace that is unexplainable. Poor CPR technique or not, I am sure of two things - it was God's time and I could not have done one thing better, different or life-saving; our God is sovereign. The other thing I am sure of is that my peace came not only from God, but from a relationship with my earthly father that was honest, expressed, secure and loving - I knew he loved me, he knew I loved him and nothing felt like it hadn't been resolved or expressed....OK, I do think one thing my dad might have said to me if he miraculously revived that day was 'that's my girl, proud of you for trying' ... I imagine (perhaps to my comfort) that God's grace to my dad was the last glimpse of his on earth - his little girl responding in a way that showed him one of the many ways he 'trained his children well'. I do not share that to take credit for heroic effort on my part, for I was in crisis management mode - but to show the amazing capacity of response God alone could supply in such a traumatic experience. There was a lot of conversation between my earthly dad to come back and my heavenly Father to use His power, but 'my will' did not prevail.
When I read Jill Anthony's story last week, I couldn't help but find the similarities eerie. My dad died when he was 61 and I was 35 ... too young on both ends, but I am grateful to have had a good father for 35 years of life as so many never have that opportunity. There were other similarities and maybe her story was enough ... why share another sad example? But God has His ways of using the experiences we have in common, that while different and unique to our own journeys, are similar enough for us to say to each other, "I understand your loss and your grief, I have lost too, how can I walk with you?"
For me, that is what the last 25 years in particular have been. Christ-centered soul care, whether in ministry, a counseling session, sitting with a friend, or teaching and sharing with strangers over and over again on retreat weekends and discipleship studies. Yes, Christ-centered soul care in part is honestly sharing how Christ has entered into the hurts, difficulties, highs and lows of our own experiences and equipped us to respond with faith in His goodness, His sovereignty and His timing. We have a good, good Father in Heaven, who despite our paths and early beliefs, is ready and able to forgive, love and transform us into His own - children who reflect the hope of Christ and can point to an eternity where one day all tears are redeemed and our family life is healed and perfected.
While I often miss the comfort and encouragement of my strong, wise and loving dad, my Heavenly Father has provided, guided, forgiven and blessed me in countless ways.
Wherever you are in relationship to your earthly father, my prayer is that you will seek out the healing, redeeming and life-giving relationship through Christ to our Heavenly Father. He is Good, all the time, no matter what.
If you would like help connecting to a counselor to work through some of your grief or family of origin difficulties, please reach out to ICP at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Lia Vassiliades has made Louisville, Kentucky her home for the last 35 years. Her degrees in Psychology and Business led to several years in the field of management and training. She has owned and operated a small business for the last 26 years, while serving in various ministries at her church, Southeast Christian. In 2008 she received a Masters of Arts in Christian Counseling and started her private practice of Christian Counseling and Spiritual Direction.
Her main ministry focus is teaching and discipleship with the spiritual development retreats, Faces of Christ through the Potter's Wheel Ministry.