Every Father’s Day my mother bought herself the same present: a tool. Might be a new hammer or a shovel or a set of wrenches. With my father living in another state, a farm to run and two children to raise, she filled the role of both father and mother and accordingly treated herself to a gift on the big day.
I’m sure she helped us pick out and mail a card to our actual father, who we saw, on average, once a year, but the celebration of Father’s Day was largely lost on me. It was a non-holiday to go with the non-word in my childhood vocabulary: Dad. When I married, shortly after college, I scheduled our wedding for Father’s Day weekend without a second thought. The following evening, my groom, Dana, and I looked out the dining room window at the historic White Mountain resort where we’d gone for our honeymoon, and I was shocked to see fireworks, thinking they were for us.
“They must be for Father’s Day,” Dana said.
Mom was strong and independent—growing our own food, shearing our sheep and spinning their wool; earning a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s and eventually a private pilot’s license; and ultimately moving to the Middle East where she lived in some pretty sketchy places for much of the past two decades of her life. Yet, even she could not take the place of my father.
There was, however, One who could. Calling to me from the music we sang in church. Reaching to me through the pages of the children’s Bible I carted around our farm, reading while my Mom did chores. Comforting me with the inner knowledge that I was known and loved and valued, even when I felt most invisible, unlovable and undervalued.
So many times when I was leaning toward a choice that would have surely hurt me, I felt my Father calling me in a different direction. His Spirit strengthened and protected me. And even when I made mistakes, I felt his love and forgiveness. Sometimes not until years later did I recognize his presence, always there when I needed him most. Always providing what was best for me.
When I was a child, we often sang a simple chorus, “I am my beloved’s and He is mine; His banner over me is love,” from the Song of Songs (2:4). In Biblical times, a banner, or standard, was flown to call out an army or to indicate the location of a military camp. In the Song of Songs, this banner flies in the King’s banquet hall in preparation for a feast.
The image reminds me of the Father who called me to himself. A Father who is stronger, wiser and kinder than any earthly father. A Father whose camp resides in the Kingdom of Love and who welcomes all to dine at his table. A Father who never leaves. A Father to celebrate all life long.
Award-winning author, Meadow Rue Merrill, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her picture-book series, Lantern Hill Farm, releases this fall with The Christmas Cradle, which you can preorder here.