"You were always there for me, Dad!" Sierra shoved that card back in the rack. "How can I thank you for all the things you taught me as a child?" Not quite right, either. She grimaced. Where's a card that won't make me feel like a hypocrite? Something like "You were always too busy with your career to come to my recitals and school plays so I don't really have childhood memories of fun times with you and now we feel so distant from each other that conversation is mostly about the weather or the news, but Happy Father's Day anyway."
No father is perfect. Eli and David were both godly men placed in leadership roles who devoted themselves to the Lord. Yet they each made serious mistakes in parenting that not only damaged their own families, but had a negative impact on the nation of Israel. Another example is Lot. Even though the Bible describes him as a righteous man (see 2 Peter 2:7-8), Lot failed his daughters in a way that caused much misery and degradation. When men from Sodom surrounded Lot's house and demanded sex with the two men who were his guests, Lot offered them his virgin daughters instead. Lot placed greater importance on his role as host than on his role as father and protector of the children God had entrusted to him.
It's hard to imagine how the girls felt about being offered to a half-crazed mob for sexual pleasure, and by their own father at that. We do know from their later actions that they had no respect for themselves or for Lot. After God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his daughters lived a secluded life in a cave in the mountains. The girls tricked their drunken father into having sex with them. They placed greater importance on continuing the family line than on basic laws of morality. The sons born from this incest grew up to be the ancestors of two of Israel's bitterest enemies.
Each one of us has probably felt let down in some way by our parents, whether by minor disappointments or by deep, lasting wounds of neglect or abuse. We may have a distant or strained relationship with our father; we may even be completely estranged from them. Maybe a part of us still feels like a needy child, longing for our daddy's love and approval, which may never come. It's easy to forget that all earthly fathers are human and prone to mistakes, just as we are. Our parents most likely had their own hurts and emotional issues that we were never aware of.
Regardless of our relationship with our dad, we can rejoice that our heavenly Father is perfect and loves us with "an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). That love led Him to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We can rest assured that He will never let us down; He will never fail to meet our needs and satisfy our deepest longings. And if we ask Him, He is also ready to help us forgive all the hurts that have been done to us. In cases like Sierra's, he can help us rebuild that father-daughter relationship so that buying a Father's Day card is a lot easier.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
(Read Lot's story in the Bible: Genesis 19:6-8, Genesis 19:30-38)
This devotion is adapted from The One Year Women of the Bible with permission. (Tyndale House) © 2010 Dianne Neal Matthews