My Father

I was having some quality time with God one afternoon. I sensed that He wanted me to call Him “Father.”
     You have more than 300 names, God. Is it really that big a deal if I choose NOT to call You “Father?” I’m just trying to have some quality time here. Why are we getting stuck on this? I’m ready to move on to other things. You know, the things I want to talk about.
The invitation came again.
I was quite annoyed by His gentle persistence on this issue.
“I want you to call Me Father.”
“Why?” I screamed.
“What’s the big deal? Father holds many painful feelings, and images for me. I can’t say it, and not think about, or see my earthly father’s face. And, that image brings back painful memories.”
When my daddy was alive I’d always called him “dad” or “daddy,” never “father!” I knew he was my father, but his name was Daddy.
The day he died I called my best friend, Theresa. In her thick Brooklyn accent she responded, “Your Faaaather?”
“Yes, my Father!”
I’ve never forgotten the sound and the pain of those words.
Initially, it was the pain of loss and separation.
I didn’t get to say goodbye.
There’d be no more hugs from my daddy.
I’d never see him smile or laugh again.
He wouldn’t walk me down the proverbial aisle.
This was the initial pain associated with my daddy’s death. Of course, this is before I knew the whole story—how he really died.
My daddy, a Christian man who served God to the best of his ability for nearly 30 years, died by suicide. He chose to end his life violently—forever altering, crippling, and distorting the image, and the meaning of the title, “Father.” When I heard “Father,” I immediately, like many people, felt abandoned, unsafe, unprotected, and unloved.
My father left me.

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He never consulted me.
He never warned me.
He chose to leave forever.
He had no ability to fight the demons of self-pity, despair and hopelessness.
He left.
He decided he didn’t want to be here anymore.
Did he even think about me before he died? Was I a thought or consideration? Did he have any idea how much pain his loss would be for me?
I know his body was tired from decades of hard physical labor.
I know he was fatigued.
I know he’d lost a brother only two years earlier. I understand he was told that his brother was diagnosed with a terminal disease and was given two months to live. I know he gave all of his “free” time serving others and his church. There was always something someone wanted my dad to do.
He was tired.
I know he didn’t feel successful as a father.
Maybe, in my daddy’s mind, all of his children were backslidden.
According to his beliefs, that meant he’d failed as a father.
I know that he was financially strapped, and when his truck engine blew up, he had no financial means to replace it.
But couldn’t he have continued fighting for me?
Wasn’t the thought of walking me down the aisle enough?
What about protecting my mom?
Wasn’t that enough? What about his granddaughter, and the other grandbabies that would soon follow? If he lost everything, he still had everything, didn’t he? Did my father have to reject and abandon all of us?
That’s why I’d rather call You “LORD,” than call You “Father.” I’d rather call You “Holy One,” than call You “Father.” I would rather call You “Faithful,” than call You “Father.” I’ll call You “Sovereign,” but don’t make me call You “Father!”
And, that was the end of my quality time with God that day.
I sounded quite self-absorbed, but I needed Him to see my perspective. I needed to be understood.
One day God asked me a surprising question. I was surprised because I believed God knew ALL things. I believed He was omniscient. But on this day, I wondered if perhaps God just might be having a senior moment.
“Cheryl, where did you come from?” [pullquote_right] I would rather call You “Faithful,” than call You “Father.” I’ll call You “Sovereign,” but don’t make me call You “Father!”[/pullquote_right]
“Uh, where did I come from God? You really don’t know? Well, I came from my dad’s loins and from my mother’s womb! That’s where I came from. I mean surely You must know about the birds and the bees, God! Remember, You created the anatomy with a strategy, right? I mean, husband and wife come together in holy marital union, and with proper use of their respective unique parts, they can make a baby!”
Then, more surprisingly, God asked another question.
“Cheryl, where did man come from?”
I understood He was asking about the first man and woman. In an effort to be sensitive to His senior moment, I mean after all, He must be a gazillion years old by now. I responded.
“God? Well, do You remember the first week of creation?
On the first day, You created the heavens and the earth, light and darkness, night and day. Remember?
On the second, day You separated the waters above from the waters below and the expanse above, You called Heaven.
And on the third day, You gathered the waters below together and called them seas. Then, dry ground appeared and You called forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and trees bearing fruit after their kind. Remember?”
I went on to remind Him of the fourth, fifth and the sixth day creation narrative.
“And to finally answer Your question, on the sixth day, You also created man in Your own image and likeness; male and female, and they, too, were made to reproduce.
You know, the birds and the bee’s thing I reminded You of earlier!”
Suddenly, a drip drop of revelation trickled into my tiny little brain slower than saline solution into an IV. Stuttering, I said, “Wait? Man, made in Your likeness and in Your image, came from You!
Man, came from You!
Man, came from You?
Oh, I get it!
You created man!
You made man to reproduce, but You create man!
Yeah, I do seem to remember Psalm 139 saying something about this!” I reached for my Bible and read verses 13-16:

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was none.

My jaw dropped and my eyes quadrupled in size.
“Well, they certainly didn’t tell me this when I learned about those birds and bees.
You are my Father! You’re my Father! Oh yeah! The Lord’s Prayer says something about that, too, I think!”
I found Matthew, chapter 6, and quickly located the famous prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Oh my goodness, I hadn’t found the prayer yet, but look, Jesus said this in verse one.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (emphasis added)

Wow, it’s right here.
It’s not even in black and white.
It’s written in red.
I was always taught the red words were the ones you needed to pay attention to.
Well, let me read on and try to find this prayer. Lo and behold, verse four is written in red, too.

So that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (emphasis added)

I was fascinated and continued to read.
Jesus was using His red words to talk about the prayer in verse six.
I was always taught that to make the Bible meaningful and personal, that I should personalize the scripture with my name.

Cheryl, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you, Cheryl. And, when you are praying Cheryl, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: My Father who is in heaven…

I fell to my knees, buried my face in my hands, and cried like a baby.
“I have a Father!
My Father is God!
He lives in Heaven.
I’m His daughter!
I’m not a fatherless child anymore, I’m not a fatherless child.”
I sobbed and sobbed. [pullquote_left]Well, they certainly didn’t tell me this when I learned about those birds and bees…[/pullquote_left]
I felt my Father, who is in Heaven, reach down and embrace me. Gently, He pulled my head close to His chest and His arms of strength surrounded me.
He kissed my forehead, and then wiped tears away from my eyes.
His relentless love gave me stability and security.
I no longer had to be on this emotional rollercoaster with all of its ups, downs, sudden twists and turns.
This exhilarating revelation was an anchor for my floundering fatherless heart. It began to anchor my soul in truth. This truth—the revelation that God is my Father, changed my reality.
It changed everything!
It was a dramatic and unfathomable declaration of my identity, dignity, value and worth. Creator of everything seen and unseen, He’s my Father, my daddy, He’s not just Creator, He’s a lover at His core. He had revealed Himself to me in a way that awakened love inside of me.
Many of you reading this book have had deeply negative experiences with your earthly father. Many of you have not experienced the tender touch of a loving dad.
This void is a great source of pain that compels you to look for love in all the wrong places. You look for love in so many different faces and relationships.
Beware—the devil seeks to use the pain of your unfulfilled longing to confuse you, to deceive you, and to distort your image of a father. His ultimate goal is to keep you from desiring to search for your real father, your heavenly Father. Satan never wants your heart to know or connect with the truth about your Father in Heaven.
You were created to know your Father, and to be in relationship with Him.
Instead, Satan wants you to seek to fulfill your legitimate longing, to know that you are loved and enjoyed by your Father, in wrong ways.
A romantic relationship cannot fill this longing.
Close friendships will never fill this longing.
Financial stability will never fill this longing in your heart.
It never can and never will.
Because that longing has your Father’s name on it and only He can fill it. Every human heart, fatherless or not, was created with this longing.
Sure, I still experience the painful loss of my beloved earthly father. I still feel the absence of my earthly father every Father’s Day, holiday and anniversary. I miss him so much. My family pictures still prove that someone is gone and someone is missing—it’s my earthly father.
But, my heart is anchored to truth, and the reality that my Father in Heaven is not MIA. He hasn’t left me, rejected me or abandoned me. He’s here—present, and actively involved in my life. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. His Stubborn Love will never let go of me. I am His, He owns everything I see and cannot see. I am His daughter.
Our hearts are unsettled and broken until we know the embrace of our Father who is in Heaven.

Copyright 2012 Cheryl Ott
Stubborn Love: A Recommitment To Live When Giving Up Seemed So Much Easier

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