“Even when I couldn’t see it, there was Jesus.”

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I’ve never known my biological father. As a young boy, I longed for a father. The longing was so deep, so profound at times that I physically ached in my gut. I longed for a father to teach me, to believe in me and yes, even correct me. I longed for a father when grade school classmates talked about what they did with their fathers, or what their fathers did with them. I longed for a father when I watched TV shows like “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver”. And I especially longed for a father during those dreaded, long awkward walks across the football field on parents’ nights.

But there were men who, like an oasis in a desert, refreshed and nourished my soul. There was my uncle Don who walked the sidelines at my football games. I’d listen for and recognize his voice above the crowd, cheering me on. It didn’t matter to me that he was “under the influence”, at least he was there; he was proud of me, he embraced me.

And there was Mr. Newberry, the father of my high school friend, Bill. Bill told me in study hall one day that his dad was offering to pay for me to attend an expensive speed-reading course. I asked Bill why and he replied, “Dad said he sees something in you; he sees you going to college.” College hadn’t entered my mind, not until that day. Mr. Newberry believed in and inspired me. He gave me my only high school graduation present, a multicolored polo shirt that I wore until it became threadbare.

And there was Charlie. I worked for Charlie at his grocery store, Dodd’s Market, from the sixth through the ninth grade. Charlie taught me how to work. As I proved myself, he trusted me with increasing responsibilities. I thought I’d arrived when he allowed me to work the meat counter and man the cash register. And Charlie took me to Coney Island with his family. Charlie and his family included me.

And there was coach Pauley who pulled me aside in the tunnel of the old New Boston football stadium at halftime. He grabbed me by my shoulder pads as I was heading back to the field, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Loren, I know you can do better than that. I know what you’re capable of; now get out there and do it.” Coach Pauley challenged me.

You’d think that by the ripe old age of thirty-five, and married with children, that I would have outgrown my longing for a father. At that time, over thirty-five years ago now, my family was going through some very trying times. I routinely started out each morning at my old metal desk in our unfinished basement, searching God’s word and praying. That morning I prayed, “Lord, I don’t mean to whine and complain, but it sure would be nice to have a father to talk to about things from time to time.” God’s response was unexpected and immediate; His “still small voice” (I Kings 19:11-12) was loud and clear: “Who do you think it was who brought all those men your way? And I’ve given you My Spirit to lead and guide you; and I’ve washed you with My word? You’ve gotten to know Me in a way that some people never will. You’ve had Me.”

It’s amazing how one simple revelation from God can turn us right side up and inside out. That morning, God gave me “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” (Isaiah 61:3). And Father’s Day has never been the same since, and neither have I.

All those men that God brought my way have departed from this world and I’m thankful I had, and took, the opportunity to go back and thank each one individually for what they did for me, what they meant to me. There was Uncle Don, there was Mr. Newberry, there was Charlie and there was Coach Pauley, but more importantly, “There was Jesus”: “Every time I tried to make it on my own. Every time I tried to stand and start to fall; and all those lonely roads that I have traveled on, there was Jesus. When the life I built came crashing to the ground, when the friends I had were nowhere to be found; I couldn’t see it then, but I can see it now, well there was Jesus; in the waiting, in the searching, in the healing in the hurting, like a blessing buried in the broken pieces. Every minute, every moment, where I’d been, where I’m going, even when I didn’t know it, or couldn’t see it, there was Jesus,” (Zach Williams with Dolly Parton; 2019).

To those who may have never known their father, to those who never had a father who embraced them, believed in them, taught them, trusted them, included them, encouraged, and challenged them, Father’s Day can be nothing more than a painful reminder. But I have some “Good News” for you, “There is Jesus”. And we never outgrow our need for “A Father to talk to now and then.”

“Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD… Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God…” (Psalms 68:4-6, ESV).

Loren Hardin was a social worker with SOMC-Hospice for twenty-nine years. He can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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