(I apologize for this very late post. I’d lost my phone for 2 days and was unable to log into my hosting site. Everything else still applies!)

If you are a father and/or your dad is still alive, congratulations. Happy Father’s Day!

If you are a single dad, raising your children, a major Shout Out goes to you in a culture that often dismisses or, worse, puts down men, manhood, and fathering. May God’s richest blessings overtake you and wrestle you down to joy!

Lots of happiness, fun, love, barbecues, and guilt are going around this Father’s Day weekend.

To those of you who had a great dad, there will be that genuine happiness, fun, love, and barbecues.

The rest of us did not fare too well much of the time.

This is not a beat up on dads article. I pray this will be a reality-based but healing article.

Lots of dads went into this past Friday hanging their heads, dreading the acknowledgements and wondering how they got that stupid and abandoned their families. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Now they’re thinking of their kids and wondering where they are and what they’re doing this weekend. They know they could never make it up to their children, so why try? That nagging guilt follows them around like really bad gas.

Lots of children are still angry at their absentee dads. They don’t realize that their rebellion, ranting, raving, and risk-taking are angry lashes at a father who left more than just their families. Those missing dads left role models, protectors, guiders, trainers, providers, and stabilizers in those gaping holes when they walked away.

Lots of children are still looking for affection and approval in the wallets and beds of others when what they really wanted was affection and approval from their fathers, who never gave it to them.

Many, like I, simply mourn the permanent loss of a very imperfect man whom God ordained to become their dads.

If you were not just a child of God but a child of a hurtful father, or if you simply didn’t have a great father, have a seat next to me. Let’s talk.

I do not want to minimize what happened then or what has happened to you since that time in your life when you experienced pain because of your dad. I see you’re a crushed kid.

However, let’s not just talk about our dads and how imperfect or bad they were. Let’s talk about what the Lord would have us do, now that we’re 18 or 28 or 48 or 68 and grew up at some point without that awesome dad that some of us secretly wished we’d had.

Let’s acknowledge his good traits and his not-so-good traits. Few people are all good or all bad in their humanity. Everyone I know is a mixed bag of humanness, having done amazing, awesome, and great things as well as stupid, hurtful, and negative things. Seeing his humanity in balance is a good start toward the healing that the Lord may want to facilitate in your heart and life.

Let’s not compare him to other dads, current or past. I’m pretty certain you don’t like being compared to others in whatever classification you have cast yourself.

If he is alive, accept that this is what you have to work with today. Ask God for the ability to accept, love, and minister to him just the way he is, if you can.

Whether he’s dead or alive, ask the Lord for strength to forgive him, no matter how big or “small” the offense was. We may feel entitled to bitterness due to the heinousness of his sin or consistency of his inconsistency, but know that bitterness festers old wounds and prevents healing. If you are having trouble forgiving your dad, give your own self a Father’s Day gift and ask God to help you become willing to be willing to forgive him.

If you were the Bad Dad, have a seat on the other side of me. Let’s talk.

Thank you for acknowledging your shortcomings to yourself and to me and to this person sitting on the other side of me, that really hurt kid in a grown-up body. See that crushed, grown-up kid sitting on the other side of me?

I’m sorry, let me introduce you both. Bad Dad, meet Crushed Kid, the kid you wounded so many years ago. Bad Dad, see what your child fully was and what they became? Look at their face, look into their eyes, see what happened to their future from their perspective. See him, really see into his (or her) heart.

Crushed Kid, meet Bad Dad. Crushed Kid, see what your old man fully was and what he became? Don’t be too quick to condemn him so roundly. Hear him out.

Dad, it takes a really big man to admit his serious faults and be willing to do something about it. You are apparently now a much bigger, more mature man than the person you were when you abandoned your family. Now, if you are already a child of God, how about accepting the forgiveness of God as real, and bigger than your shortcomings and sin, back into your life right now?

BTW, if you have NEVER done so, accepting Jesus and His forgiveness personally is the first step toward healing. (If you are not sure you have ever gotten your accounts “right with God,” please read and apply my new sidebar article, “How to Know You Are Right with the One True God.”)

If you struggle with the idea that God loves you and could ever forgive you of anything, or especially the badness of abandoning your family, know that it’s natural to struggle. We humans generally know we messed up and know we deserve to be punished. If no one’s punishing us, sometimes we try to get others to punish us. In the absence of anyone willing and able to punish us, we’ll do it to ourselves, sometimes in the form of nagging guilt.

Dads, Jesus came to earth to do away with that whole entire system of us trying to punish ourselves in the place of His forgiveness. He died for your guilt and foolish choices, just like He did for mine. He does not always erase the natural consequences, but He can and will erase the sin and guilt that has stuck to us for so many years.

So—if you were the “deadbeat dad” or one of many other negative types of fathers, God, the grandest Father of All, is looking for your return with a smile (Luke 15:11-32). He will help you get over yourself and move forward in a positive direction that will no longer wreak spiritual and emotional havoc in your heart and life and that of your children.

You, now a real dad, get alone with God, the best Dad Who Ever Existed. Ask God, in the most sincere way you know how, to forgive and cleanse and heal your heart and mind. You can change your parental identity from Bad Dad to a Dad filled and empowered by the Spirit of God to treat his family right. Ask Him to help you move forward, with wisdom and patience, and make amends as needed, according to His will. Then—

If you owe child support, pay it.

If you stole something, return it. The Bible teaches restitution as one of very few valid ways of dealing with sin and criminal activity according to Old Testament law. We should want to do more under grace than we did under law.

If you are the hurting child or you were the hurtful father, God loves you both very, very much. He loves you both the same. He can heal, cleanse, restore, what was lost or stolen. And He can make a way for both of you to receive His new very best.

My prayer is that you, hurting child of the Most High God, will give up the way of pain for something better from Him (Psalm 139:23-34). He can change your childhood identity from Crushed Kid to a Child of God, full of grace and truth, healed by the Sovereign, Loving Creator of the Universe.

My prayer is that you, formerly hurtful father, and imperfect representative of our loving heavenly Father God, will give up guilt, shame, self-sabotage, and hiding, and will become a gloriously beautiful representative of our loving heavenly Father God.

Dad, son or daughter, I hope that you both can agree that God is good and God is love. I hope you can both agree together that He loves you both equally and He can heal you both completely. I hope you can decide together to ask forgiveness of each other and move forward into God’s mercy, love, and future as fellow, imperfect humans and heirs of Christ being transformed by the power of God.

Happy Fathers Day.

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