When I was in fourth grade, there was a father–daughter dance at my school. I remember the feelings I had hearing the buzz from all the girls, talking about what dresses they were all going to wear, and how they were going to match with their fathers. I absolutely dreaded the thought of going because I knew I wasn’t like the other girls. My father died when I was 8 years old, and I had been living with my grandparents since I was 4. And even though I had an amazing father figure, I knew I was going to be looked at differently.
I talked through all these emotions with my grandmother one day, and after hearing her out, I decided to go. My grandmother even encouraged me to enter my grandfather in this contest they had for “King,” or in other words, best dad. You did that by entering a letter for your father (or whoever you were bringing) about why you believed he deserved to be King. I went ahead and entered a letter (my grandmother’s very persuasive if you couldn’t tell). The letter was all about how my grandfather had swooped me off my feet when I was only 4 years old and given me the chance at life that my parents could have never given me. How he had helped me up when I’d fallen down, forgiven me whenever I messed up, and how he woke up early enough every morning just to pack me a lunch every day. They say superheroes don’t really exist, but they obviously haven’t met my grandfather. And sure enough, he won. We never did get that letter back, but it totally changed my perspective on things. I may not have my biological father here with me, but I have my grandfather, and it means exactly what it says: grand-father.
I know I am not the only teen in the Church who has lost a parent, or who doesn’t live with their parents. I know there are people who have even lost both parents, or who maybe just don’t have good relationships with their parents. And I know that it feels different, because no one can substitute the place in your heart where your parents should be. It’s almost like a void waiting to be filled—I understand. And if you’re reading this and you know what I’m talking about, I want you to know that you’re not alone. But I’m here to encourage you not to shut down and question your beliefs or your outlook on life because of your unfortunate circumstances.
Have you ever heard of the term, “the father wound”? In the medical field, it’s used as a term for someone who had an awful relationship with their father, or their father was absent in most or all of their childhood. One article explains, “The effects of an emotionally absent father can impact an individual’s self-esteem, relationships and even their motivation in life” (fherehab.com/learning/father-wound-family-trauma). Throughout the Bible God puts things into a physical perspective so it’s easier for us as humans to understand, and family is a great example of that. Sadly, experiencing the absence of a physical father could make you question if there really is a heavenly Father. After all, the world is full of doubting Thomases, not believing because they cannot see, which ultimately is just lack of faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Even though you may lack the presence of a physical father, one you can see, you and I have the great blessing to know and have enough faith to believe that we do have a spiritual Father. And you have the opportunity right now to start cultivating a relationship with Him if you want one. In Jeremiah 29:13 it says, “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me, with all your heart.” God wants a relationship with us, and maybe now is the time to start thinking about the Church and your beliefs more seriously, if you haven’t already been doing so. There will come a time when you will no longer be able to say you only go to this church because your family goes, a time closer than you think will come and you will have to choose. And one thing that will help the most at that point is knowing with complete certainty that there is a heavenly Father who loves you.
I know for me, I’ve always had faith that there’s a God. Sure I’ve had questions and doubts, but the Bible has answers and so much proof of what we believe. Delving into all of the evidence and scriptures has led me to have a personal belief in God, one that is no longer tied down or related to my family being in the Church, but me really believing what we practice. I have the blessing of having a great father figure, which I’m sure has had an impact on my viewpoint as well, and I know not everyone has a sense of security in that area as I do. But for those who don’t, that’s all the more reason to find a reliable, stable sense of security in your heavenly Father, and really find the Church for yourself on a personal level.
Something else to think about is what you do have. It’s so easy, as humans, to dwell on what we don’t have. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “you never know what you have till it’s gone.” Well, the truth of the matter is, generally we do know what we have, we just take it for granted until it’s no longer there, and it’s too late. There’s a common saying, “I cried because I had no shoes, but I stopped crying when I saw a man with no legs.” Which means, always be grateful for what you have because there will always be someone who’s less fortunate, or should I say less blessed, than you are. Earlier I shared my experience with my grandfather and the father–daughter dance. I realize now how blessed I am to have him. In my mind I was dwelling on not having a father, which blinded me from seeing how blessed I am to have such an amazing father figure in my life. Some kids don’t even have that much.
My grandmother always says, “happiness is a choice.” And I do truly believe that. No matter what you have, or don’t have, you can choose to be happy and content. Your heavenly Father will never disappoint you or let you down. Humans are flawed and parents mess up, but God doesn’t. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22, New International Version). Trust God enough to give all your worries, all your cares to Him, and you’ll be happier for it. Now that doesn’t mean kick your feet back, relax and not do anything, but to trust that God will bring you through whatever comes. Don’t be like Jesus’ disciples and let the storm phase you. Do you remember what He said to His disciples in Matthew 8:26? “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Have faith, don’t fear.
Maybe you don’t have a physical father, or a physical mother, maybe you have neither, maybe you have both. But no matter what your circumstances are, no matter how the wind tosses you to and fro like it did Jesus’ disciples, no matter what you have or don’t have, you have a heavenly Father who loves you, who wants a relationship with you, who is waiting for you with open arms. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). There’s a quote I read and it said, “in order for a wound to heal, you have to stop touching it.” Now, you can continue to touch your wound, or you can finally put the past behind you, run to your Father who really loves you, and finally allow your father wound to heal.