Dad. Pops. Father. Daddy.

We all have a definition that we associate with words like that. We have a mental picture of someone, whether it is our biological father, adoptive father, stepfather, father-figure, etc. We have a picture of someone who was supposed to fill that role in our lives. Unfortunately, not all of us have positive experiences in relation to the word “father”.

I was deep in a woe is me moment a few weeks ago, upset that I am unable to give my children the picture perfect family that they deserve. My son, in particular, was having a very hard time with male role models in his life not stepping up in the way that he needs and craves. I was listening to the song, “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music and Jenn Johnson while I was in my woe is me moment and a lyric hit me like a ton of bricks.

“I’ve known You as a Father. I’ve known You as a friend.”

It hit me so hard that I almost pulled over. For some of us, the definition of “friend” is a much safer definition than the word “father”. True friends show up. Friends speak up to protect you. Friends do not use you. Friends do not abuse you.

I have always been jealous of the group of girls that have been good friends since high school. I do not have those life-long friendships. But, now at 35 years old, I can look around and see the beautiful friendships that I have made recently, and just pour out my gratefulness to God for each and every one of them. I am surrounded by an amazing group of women that will (and have) gone above and beyond for me. They have shown up when I have literally had no one. I have had friends pack my stuff and move me into a safe space, unloaded my belongings for me, and let me cry to them when I was so overwhelmed. I have friends that have lovingly handed me very tough conversations when they noticed I was doing things that could have destroyed me. They have checked in on me, laughed with me and prayed for me.  

I worry so much about my children. I worry that their ability to see God for all the goodness that He is will be skewed because their definition of “father” is not the picture perfect family that I had hoped for them. I worry that they will try to fill that incomplete hole with things that are detrimental. I worry that they will not be able to trust God’s “fathering”; trusting that He knows best.

In my own relationship with God, I have had to really work through what a father is supposed to look like - what I always desired and what I long for my children to experience. My definition of “father” has been skewed and as a result my ability to trust God has been difficult to say the least. I have stripped my version of father down to what my soul deeply desires from a father relationship. I desire correction. I desire someone to have the ability to see a bigger picture and correct me when I am heading down a path that is detrimental. I desire for the love of a father to be pure and good and intentional. I desire to be hugged so deeply that I feel safe, heard and known. I desire to make someone proud.

I see all of that every single day radiating from my children. They desire the same. I pray that their fathers and I can teach them that no matter what our faulty situation looks like, that we can point them to the One that is the truest, most loving definition of a Father. He is everything that our soul desires. He is the only one that can fill that deep hole that this imperfect life creates in us.

Ideally, God is the greatest mix of each definition of Father and Friend, but we may only be able to see Him as one right now. It is okay if friend fits your definition of God better right now. I encourage you to work through the hurt that, perhaps, your father has caused you. Remember that they are human and have faults and sins and struggles just like the rest of us. The only one that can fill that void that is inside of you is God.

He is a good, good Father and His goodness is literally running after you. He’s running for you.

Let Him catch you.

Lindsie Flannery

Lindsie lives in Michigan with her three beautiful children. While she may never have imagined being a single-mom, Lindsie is determined to show her children un-ending love, protective loyalty, and how joy can be found in Christ no matter the circumstances you face.

Photos by Cate Autumn Studios