every sunday night we go over to my mom’s for dinner. it all started a few years ago when the refuge used to meet on sunday nights; when she’d come i’d give her $20 to take the kids to mcdonald’s on the way home for me. she hates fast food and after a few weeks said “i’m going to make good food at my house for everyone instead”. several years ago the refuge moved to saturday night but we still go over to her house faithfully every sunday for good food & cable tv. then my inlaws helped me on mondays when i was teaching a class a few years ago and now we still go there every single monday night for dinner. these two traditions have become a beautiful part of our week.
on sundays, when it’s someone’s birthday or special occasion, we do a fun ritual of blessing that we call “affirmations.” it was my husband, jose’s, idea. basically, whoever’s special day it is receives love & good things from every person there. we each go around and share what we love and appreciate about that person. it’s really evolved into something deep and meaningful.
in may it was my jose’s birthday & so his parents were there celebrating, too. as we went around telling jose all the things we love about him, it became his dad’s turn. my father in law, roberto, is one of the most precious, dear, loving people i have ever known. his only child, only son, is the treasure of his heart, and when jose was 4 he left all he knew in el salvador to build a new life for his family in the united states. when roberto started to share his heart for jose, no words came out, and he burst out bawling, overwhelmed with love for his son that couldn’t be expressed in words. it was a holy moment that i will never forget.
my husband is loved well by his daddy. and he loves my babies well, too. he is seriously an amazing father to our 5 little bunnies and has that same heart and dedication to them that my father in law does to him.
my dad is a good man, too. he’s got a heart of gold and is seriously sweet and kind. the only trouble is that he also hasn’t had a sober day in 44 years. not one. he lives in an RV in a trailer park in northern california and i only talk to him when i call him. he loves me. his heart toward me is good, but the reality is that he can never give me the kind of love, stability and support that i deeply long for.
it’s made believing in God’s love for me harder. it just has. i connect with my dad when i reach out to him, but he rarely if ever reaches out to me. it used to feel that way with God, too. like it was all up to me. i was pretty much on my own & if i wanted something, then it was up to me to pursue it. that message has created a lot of trouble for me in my life. it’s tiring. it’s sad. it’s lonely.
i know in my head that’s not true about God but my heart has wrestled with feeling differently. all my wacked-out-God-stuff isn’t all my dad’s fault, but i know he hasn’t helped.
then, a chunk of years ago i met my friend mike. we became connected through a recovery ministry and over time he began to do some of the things that a good daddy would do. he showed up for things i was doing. he told me he was proud of me. he prayed for me. he hugged me and told me he loved me. he listened when i cried. he worried about me. in loving redemptive community like this, part of my soul has been restored. he’s helped me restore some of my relationship with God & myself & my real dad, too.
his daddy love is what i needed.
in the body of Christ, we are supposed to be mothers & fathers & sisters & brothers & daughters & sons for each other. it’s hard to pull off because it requires intimacy, work, risk, trust, and a host of other things we are scared to do. but in the end, so much healing and transformation can happen.
i was thinking yesterday how the world doesn’t need more “strong men who can lead and take control”. the world needs more “strong, kind men who can love deeply & passionately & freely”, who are willing to risk their time and heart and egos and pride to love their families–both biological & adopted–through little-pockets-of-love.
i am blessed to be part of a community where men cry and love and care for others and participate in healing wounds that need healing. they reflect Jesus and help restore dignity & worth in places it’s been stripped. it can’t fully replace the love and presence of our biological families, but it sure can help this side of heaven. so many of us have been orphaned, physically and emotionally.
the world needs more daddies (and mommies, too, but it’s father’s day)
thank you, dear men who offer your hope, presence, and love to others. you matter.
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ps: this picture is of my oldest son, my father-in-law, and jose. i love this picture.