During my first pregnancy, I learned something surprising: Many daughters have difficult relationships with with their mothers. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own mom, I needed time to process this. What I’ve since concluded: mothers either drive us crazy or keep us sane, but, regardless, most of us do have some sort of powerful bond with them.
I suspect this is part of the reason Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914, whereas Father’s Day — though unofficially observed much earlier — didn’t make it on to the calendar until 1972. There’s something about that emotional bond — whether it’s “Thank you, Mom, for being my best friend” or “Mom, even though it’s been rough between us, I’ve always known you’re there for me” — that makes us empty the flower shops and fill The Cheesecake Factory to overflowing every year in the beginning of May.
Father’s Day, on the other hand, often stops us in our tracks. We know Dad doesn’t really need another tie, and eating out isn’t that big of a deal for somebody who doesn’t cook,* and golf is expensive, so…how do we show our appreciation? For that matter, who is this guy, anyway?
I confess that, for quite a while, I felt closest to my mom. The same is true for many of my friends. Even those who had difficult mother-daughter relationships end up calling mom when adulthood has become overwhelming and they just crave a heart-to-heart talk. We instinctively sense that Mom knows how to listen.
Fatherhood, I begin to suspect, can be very isolating.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve learned a lot about my own dad. Almost everything I’ve learned has always been true; I just didn’t realize that the lines of communication — the emotional connection that made it possible for me to know his heart — had always been there. He just had a different way of showing it.
My mom is a gusher. It’s awesome. She makes me (and everybody who knows her) feel so good about themselves…and she really is being genuine, too.
My dad . . . is not a gusher. He doesn’t waste words, and is very honest, though never cruelly so. In my younger years, what I didn’t see was that, when my dad did offer words of encouragement and admiration, it came from deep down, where he really, truly saw something exceptional and felt moved to express it out loud.
When my dad compliments my writing, it buoys me up for weeks afterward, because he has read extensively and written excellently, and if he thinks I’m good, I must have some business trying to be a writer.
When he describes me as a good musician, I have to believe him, at least partly, because he is one of the most gifted and dedicated musicians I know…so maybe I wasn’t wasting my time as a music teacher.
When he says he’s proud of the person I’ve become…I feel like going on. Because he must see some good in me that I can’t see when I feel like I’ve failed at almost everything. Because of who my father is, words of encouragement from him are among my most precious treasures.
It’s easy to think of Mom as the nurturer, the sympathetic listener, the one whose heart breaks when her kids are hurting. With my mother, all these things hold beautifully true. Something I’ve discovered, though — the thing that blows me away — is this:
My father feels my joy and my sorrow even more deeply than I do.
When I’m in pain, it hurts my dad, and I know he fervently lifts me up in prayer with more passion and persistence than I do. When I rejoice, he rejoices along with me, thanking God that his girl is happy. I know that whatever I confide to him, he will tuck away in his heart and guard carefully.
Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a father who so wonderfully reflects God’s love for us. Some are deprived of even having a father who is present. As long as the world is fallen, broken relationships will exist, and it will be harder for many to believe that God really loves them.
He does, though, and a father who truly loves God with all his heart will embody that love, giving his children a glimpse of what God’s love looks like.
I am so thankful that I have a dad like that.
* I know this is a sweeping generalization, and that a number of dads share in the cooking, but…humor me.