“Every girl needs her daddy.”
My cousins and I were on a road trip to Wisconsin and at some point during our fun and conversations one of my cousins said the words written above. When she said those words it burned a hole in my soul. My dad and I were in a very bad place and I desperately needed my daddy.
My dad was a wonderful dad while I was living under his roof. But once I left home, our relationship became more strained and difficult.
Years ago I sought a Christian counselor in hopes of learning how to better navigate my relationship with my dad. There was something the counselor said to me that didn’t make sense at the time. But now it does.
”You can’t be mad at him for something he can’t give you.”
When he said those words I wasn’t having it. What do you mean he can’t give it to me? He’s my DAD. Mr. Counselor…you just don’t know him the way that I do. He absolutely can – but he won’t.
I recently heard a message that had a recurring theme that completely resonated with me.
Hindsight is insight.
It is so true. I could not see then what I am able to see now.
I see now that my dad couldn’t love me the way that I needed to be loved. And I can see now that I also could not love him the way that he wanted me to.
Little girls very often have a sort of hero worship for their daddys. And I did not. Once I was no longer a little girl I still loved him – but I did not hold him in the highest regard. I couldn’t. I loved him very, very much, but when he said or did something that was wrong or hurtful I pushed back. And whenever I pushed back it caused an enormous wedge between us.
My dad and I had a completely different view of what our relationship should look like. Whenever I pushed back, his view was – get over it, let it go, there’s no reason to dig things up – I’m the dad, you’re the kid. My view was – let’s talk about it, make apologies, offer forgiveness, and be healed. You are my dad, but I am a grown woman.
I went along with the family pattern all the way into my late 50’s. If something was said that hurt – I just stuffed it. When there was a conflict (and there were many) I went along with the program and pretended nothing had happened.
But things never improved and, in fact, they got worse. And finally the day came when I could not do it anymore. Just like my dad couldn’t love me the way I wanted him to, I could no longer “honor” him the way that he wanted me to. It’s not that I wouldn’t – I couldn’t.
I pushed back against some very hurtful things my dad had said and his response was that he no longer wanted me to be in his life. And this time I finally said, “OK.”
I asked my dad for a Biblical reconciliation. One where we each asked forgiveness, made apologies, and established a more healthy relationship. I begged him to sit down and talk with me or to even sit together with the Pastor from his church. But he could not.
A few times I cried out to my mom, to no avail, and I realize she was in a tough position because she loved us both. She felt I should let go of the things my dad had said to me and I begged her to understand why it was hard for me. But she couldn’t. She never called or asked me to visit and I don’t know if I would have even if she had asked. As the days unfolded I ended up being estranged from both of my parents.
I was tortured and had dozens of sleepless nights over all of it. I was mad – sad – hurt – frustrated – and I also felt guilty.
How could my dad not love me enough to even have a conversation? In hindsight – I believe he was also asking, “How could my little girl not come around – no matter what has been said or done?”
Our relationship remained in that state until the last week of his life.
Very often I cried out to the Lord saying, “Lord, you are the God of redemption…where is my redemption story?”
A week before he died, my dad sent me an email asking me to come and see him. My husband wanted to come along but I felt I needed to do it by myself. At that particular meeting my dad went through his list of grievances against me – just one more time.
I was covered by all my prayer warriors and was able to maintain my composure without crying or getting mad. I carefully answered his questions and accusations one by one. Finally, I said to him, “Dad, I can’t do this. We have been doing this for so long and I cannot do it anymore.” He agreed that there was no point.
I was getting up to leave and I knew he didn’t have much more time. I stopped and put my hand on his knee and looked him right in the eyes and said,
”Dad…I love you SO much. There are so many good things in my life that I owe to you. You were a wonderful dad when I was a young girl and I thank you so much for that. I love you, Dad. And I’m so sorry that you are choosing to end things this way.”
And I left.
A few days later I received an email from my Dad saying, “I love you and I miss you. Could we please try again?”
And this little girl jumped in her car as fast as she could to be with him.
I knew it might be one of the last times I would see my dad and my husband wanted to come along. Even though my dad had been the source of a great deal of pain for me, my husband also loved him.
When I arrived at the nursing home, my dad was very agitated and unsettled. I prayed that the Lord would help me to help him and suddenly it occurred to me how much my dad loved hymns. I grabbed my phone and played Alan Jackson’s old hymns…it seemed to help him. And when I sang along…he seemed a little more settled.
And then…a stunningly beautiful woman dressed in a nurses aid uniform whisked though the room. She sang along with the hymns in a voice that was so pure it seemed otherworldly. While she sang, I held my dads hand and thanked God for all the good things about him. I asked forgiveness for the ways I may have hurt him and I prayed God would receive Him into His presence.
After a few songs the angel lady said, “My name is Isabella…I don’t normally work on this floor.” Then she looked straight into my eyes said, “You and your husband have done a wonderful job” (emphasis on wonderful) And I thought to myself, “How would you know? I haven’t said one word to you since you came into the room. Who are you?
One of these days I will call the nursing home to ask about Isabella. If she wasn’t a real live angel I think she should know that on the last night I ever saw my dad she was an angel to me.
My dad died the next morning.
Since that time, I have been freed up to remember many good things about my dad. He really was a good dad while I was living under his roof. He worked hard, we shared many lively conversations together, he rubbed my back when I was sick, and he believed I could accomplish what any boy could accomplish. He delighted in my kids and had a big booming laugh when he was around them. He brought a great deal of good to my life.
Do I have regrets? No, I do not. Did I make mistakes? Oh, yes…I am most certainly sure that I did. There were definitely times when I lashed out in my hurt. My emotions were so raw there was nothing I could do to contain them. But regret? No. I had sought Christian counsel and advice from many Christian friends and mentors. I did what I believed that God was calling me to do and that was the only thing that I could do.
And when that day came, when my dad said that he loved and missed me, I cannot describe what that meant to me. It was completely out of character for him. And this little girl was pretty starved to hear such words.
In this life, there are times when we are unable to have healthy relationships – even with those who should be the closest to us. It doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is right or someone is wrong, but that maybe we are just different.
Relationships should be mutually beneficial. We are not called to go along with someone else’s terms for the relationship, nor should we expect that they should go along with ours.
I do not believe that God calls us to be in a relationship with someone who continually causes damage to our souls.
While the Lord doesn’t always call us to remain in a relationship – He DOES call us to let go of our bitter feelings and to learn to forgive. I think it took me a thousand prayers before I was able to completely forgive my dad. And just about the time when I had completely forgiven him…he asked me to come.
I got my redemption story. After many long, hard, years, I was able to kiss my dad on the forehead and tell him I loved him before he left this earth. I was finally able to give him the love that he needed and I was finally able to believe that my dad loved me to too.
Every girl needs her daddy….and I loved my daddy so very much.
***For any of you who has a broken relationship with one – or both – of your parents, I empathize with your pain and I understand the deep hole that is in your soul.
I want you to know that God will give you enough good things that will overshadow your pain. As long as you are willing to lean into Him…He will get you through.
He is the God of redemption and He will redeem your past. And maybe…just maybe…if you never give up hope…he might even redeem that difficult relationship. I pray with everything in me that He does.
Until next time,
Ahhh, you made me cry. I have 3 teenage girls who want their dad to be something he isn’t. I pray they have wisdom beyond their years and that he one day soon can understand what they really need from him. Thank you for your story.
That breaks my heart for them…its such an important piece in a child’s heart – to be loved by their dad. Even in my 50’s it was devastating. I have always been envious of girls who have close relationships with their dads. But my greatest thrill has been seeing the relationship my husband has with my daughter. It has more than covered my heartache. I will add your daughter’s to my prayer list. Thanks for sharing.