What are some things you wish you could say to your dad?

When “father” means broken promises, unmet expectations, or complicated misunderstandings that we can’t help but carry with us as we forge our own way, what can give us hope?

This Father’s Day, three writers reflect on the relationship they have, or wish they could’ve had, with their dads. Hear from them as they share about the impact their fathers have had on their lives, relationships, and outlook on life.

Dear Dad,

I’ve realized that whoever my future husband may be, I might not be able to agree to his marriage proposal all that easily. But then . . . maybe I am not even worthy of love at all, so perhaps I should just scratch that false expectation of being proposed to.

As I thought more about it, my mind went back to the time you left mom when I was four. You wanted to be single again, to get back in the party scene, and date freely—instead of being tied down by children.

When we were younger, didi* and I looked forward to your visits. Once a week, you would bring us out to a nice meal or a swim. And once a year, we got to go on a short holiday to the beach! As we got older, these weekly visits became monthly visits, which turned into quarterly visits, and now, we probably only see you during Chinese New Year. Years later, we stumbled upon mom’s chat history and realized you only ever met us when she reminded you to.

I’ve always wondered: What did your wedding vows mean to you? How could you pledge your love to mom one day and turn to other women after less than a decade of marriage? Was it because we were horrible children undeserving of your love? It was both baffling and frightening to me. Perhaps marriage isn’t quite the “happily ever after” we often see portrayed.

In light of this, I hope you see why it is hard for me to believe in the institution of marriage. They tell me that marriage in God’s eyes is a covenant that is not meant to be broken, but how can I know if my future husband or I will be able to remain faithful until death do us part?

Mom told me that I ought to look to Jesus, and not you, as the role model of a loving husband. It confused me since Jesus was never married. But she explained that He expressed love in the greatest form—by sacrificing His own life. Later I discovered that Paul taught the same thing in Ephesians 5:25, exhorting husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

A love that lays down one’s own life? It sounds almost too good to be true. But the Bible has been showing me a different kind of love, a love that’s constant and unfailing, not the love I understood as a child—which seemed temporal and fleeting.

Even though I can’t fully envision what it would look like to be in a marriage where Christ’s love is the foundation, I hope to experience it someday. In the meantime, I’m learning to submit my life to Christ, so that I can practice for a life of love and submission to my future husband, whoever he may be.

Dad, I still feel bitter when I think about how you just left us like that, but I choose to forgive you, and pray that you will also one day experience God’s unconditional love.

Love,
Abigail

*younger brother in Chinese

Dear Dadda,

Many people, when they think about their fathers, feel security, acceptance, and love. 

As for me? My emotions towards you change as the years go by; they flash in and out of my life like harsh bursts of reality, unstable and unpredictable as your patterns of behavior towards me.  

When you beat me one too many times as a child and my wounds were tended to in the hospital, l forgave you, wanting to believe that you would never strike me again. And yet, you did. When you employed witchcraft against me, l prayed that the scales of lies from the enemy would fall from your eyes. 

When you refused to speak to me these last three years, despite my attempts to make contact with you, l prayed for God to soften your heart, so we could reconcile and find peace. And when you finally wrote to me to tell me that you have reconnected with other family members, and that you are happy with the life you lead without me, l felt anger, exclusion, and confusion at your prideful and unforgiving heart. 

You’ve made it clear to me that you hold me in low esteem, but, l won’t allow your opinions to steal my peace. For l know the love of a Father. God loves me and has adopted me as His own (Psalm 27:10). 

God’s love, mercy, and grace cover my frailties and the weaknesses that you can’t see past. Like a small child, l can run to God and He will always open His arms wide to catch me and offer me protection, provision, and love. He is my Papa.

I may fall short of your expectations, but because of God’s gracious sacrifice, l never fall short of His. Even if I never matter to you, I know I will always matter to God. 

It is not my place to repair our relationship without your cooperation. All I can do is be your daughter, and hope you’ll fulfill your duty as a mature, responsible parent. However, as a Christian, l do have my own duty: To love through the blood of Jesus Christ that flows through my veins, for God is love (1 John 4:8). 

Therefore, l will continue to pick up the shattered fragments of our relationship; I will pray for a softening of your heart from the brittleness of pride. I will pray for peace and unity in our family. And most of all, l will pray that you and my mother will come to know the love of God that l experience every day through the gift of Jesus Christ’s Salvation.  

And hopefully, in the future, we will be able to piece back the jagged shards of our father-daughter relationship. The cracks will be visible, a reminder of the pain that both of us have endured.

I know the only glue that could bring us together again is the power of God’s love—the same thing that challenges me to keep forgiving you every day, like God forgives me.

Love,
Madeline

Dear Dad,

Happy Father’s Day! This is the first Father’s Day that I’ve actually spent in person with you in years, perhaps one of the few silver linings from the COVID-19 crisis.

I want to take this special day to say thank you for all that you have done for me. I must admit, growing up, I had a difficult time relating to you. You were (and still are) not very good at talking about your feelings, having heart-to-heart conversations, or connecting with people. I always felt you were, in a way, absent in my life despite your constant presence—and I misinterpreted that to mean you didn’t care enough about me.

As I have gotten to know God the Father and His amazing love, He has taught me how to view the world from His more grace-filled and holistic perspective. Slowly, I’ve begun to realize that I’ve misunderstood you. You have always really loved me, just in your own way. It’s in the way you defended me as a kid, taught me how to ride a bike, drove me to my afterschool activities, showed me around your well-cultivated garden, and tried to impart your long mulled-over wisdom. It may not be the well-thought-out words and emotional availability I wished for, but your actions show that you have always put me first. It was your lack of communication that caused me to overlook those things.

Then, it’s as if God heard my prayers, as He always does. You suddenly called me one day and told me you would like to call me more frequently. You said that you have done some reflecting and realized that communication is important for building relationships. Now, you wish to “impart even more of your long mulled-over wisdom.” I was very happily surprised!

Over our many conversations since, I began to learn about your side of stories and understand the genuine intention and message behind your occasionally contradictory or jumbled points. Slowly, I found patience for what I previously simply listed as your faults. Of course, I still wish you would be gentler towards mom’s feelings and communicate your ideological arguments without adding often unrelated and confusing analogies. But I feel that God has been working in your life and slowly changing your attitude. I hope that you grow to rely on Him more and allow Him to work in you.

Thank you for doing your best to provide for me and protect me. Since God has been transforming my perspective and our family relationships, I’ve really grown to appreciate your love and care. I hope our relationship continues to grow as we learn to relate to each other.

Also, I know you’re always worried about my maturity and ability to take care of myself. Don’t worry! With God’s perfect help, I have been learning many things, including things you and mom haven’t been able to teach me. I’m looking forward to tell you all about them when the time comes!

Love,
Jiaming