Father’s Day has never been the easiest holiday for me to celebrate. Normally the day comes ripe with stinging memories of all that I couldn’t be for my father, what he couldn’t be for me, and how much we both had hurt each other. It’s a day I avoided talking about; spending my time binge eating in front of the T.V. instead of joining the celebration at church or posting my favorite father daughter pictures on Facebook.

There has always been so much baggage attached to this holiday that delving deep enough into my feelings to begin healing was an idea I never gave second thought to. All my life I’ve yearned for a father that was proud of me, that accepted me, that didn’t look at me like I was the biggest disappointment he ever saw. Seeing all the smiling father daughter pictures and father son pictures that others put online was torture. They just brought up all of my inadequacies, everything I wanted my whole life but never had, things that were much too hurtful to deal with.

That was before.

Before God welcomed me into His arms to find shelter. It took me quite a long time to accept what God was offering to me; to see Him as enough of a father for me. My idea of what a father is, was detached from the reality of who God is. Heavenly Father was just a concept to me, without the flesh that made it seem like truth. Whenever someone would call me a Child of God I would smile idly, awkwardly, unable to feel the joy that normally accompanies hearing or reading those words.

Slowly I began to learn the truth. The truth of who God is, and how deeply he loves me, His daughter. I began to see, in the models of other strong Christian men, the reality of what makes a man a father. I began to feel, deep in the most broken pieces of myself, that my worth is not attached to the feelings that my earthly father has or had for me. God showed me that my worth has and always been attached to how He feels about me. How deeply He loves me. How much He would sacrifice for me, has sacrificed for me.

And now?

Now I know the qualities that make a man a true father. Loyalty, Courage, Sacrifice, Vulnerability, Love, Respect, and Forgiveness. These are just a few qualities that God embodies in the way He loves His children. These are just a few of the qualities that He calls men to embody when they begin their journey as fathers. They are also qualities He calls His children, children of flawed earthly fathers who mess things up on a regular basis, to embody.

You see, God knows more than anyone else the difficulty of loving a child, protecting a child, raising a child. He knows the fallibility of man just as well. So He calls His children to the same standard He does their fathers. This was perhaps the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in this regard. To forgive my father for all the pain he caused me, to stay loyal to him, to give him the respect he is due, and to have grace for his shortcomings.

But our Heavenly Father often sees what we cannot, in this case, He saw that if I never came to terms with the baggage surrounding this day I would never be able to heal. Worse still, I would never be able to see my husband as the man and the father that God created him to be. The reality of it is that my husband has far more in common with my earthly father most days, than he does with the Heavenly Father. Shortcomings, Flaws, a Sinful Nature, these are just a few of the things that would drive a wedge between my husband and I, and breed resentment in our home if we let them. If I hold my husband to an impossible standard, without being mindful of when his failings require my absolute grace and forgiveness, then I would impart a legacy of bitter disappointment on my children.

But this is not what God wanted for my childhood, and certainly not what He wants for my marriage. More often than not my husband strives harder than I can imagine to be like our Heavenly Father. To live up to the responsibility, and enjoy the blessings, that come with being entrusted with little souls. But if I focus on his shortcomings, if I cannot find peace with this day and the memories accompanying it, if I cannot find forgiveness in my heart, then I will never be able to see my husband as Christ does. In light of his immense love for our daughter and our unborn baby. In light of the qualities God has laid out for him that he strives so hard each day to live by and embody.

God has worked a miracle in my heart. In my marriage. In my past. In light of my future. He has healed my soul like no other can. He has shown me the qualities of a true father, the love of a true father, and the forgiveness it takes to be a daughter, wife, and mother. He has made it so that I can raise my hands and sing His praises on a day where it was impossible for me to get out of bed. He has made it so that I can watch with love and pride and respect as my husband lifts our daughter in his arms and showers her with hugs and kisses as she yells with delight.

So if you are a woman who struggles on this day, who is still dealing with her own baggage, her own flawed father-daughter relationship, her own crushed expectations; this post is as much for you as for me. My greatest hope is that God would draw you into he shelter of His arms, and that you will let Him. That He will show you the meaning of a true father, and that He will help you heal. And for those with children, I pray that we always be mindful of the reality of who our husband’s are. They are children of God as much as we, they deserve our utmost love, respect, and forgiveness; and on this day, they deserve to know just how special they are to us and our babes. Happy Father’s Day all! I hope it can be a day full of love for you.