Father envy

I think eye rolling in church might be inappropriate.

But I’ve done it my whole life—if not outwardly, inwardly.

With Kay and John Egan, circa 2000
With Kay and John Egan, circa 2000

Confession: Until recently, the two concepts of “God” and “Father” did not mesh well in my mind. A local preacher I know used to—and perhaps still does, but thankfully I don’t know—insert “dear Fathuh” every 12-15 words during his prayers, or maybe “Fathuh God.”


Why the disdain? There are plenty of references in the Bible to God as our Father. Of course, there are multiple other analogies and metaphors as well, but why should this one feel so ingratiating?

It’s hard to explain to people who have dads like John Egan, a family friend of ours who passed away a few years ago. He was the ultimate family man. Served on the school board. Always there for his family. Cracked jokes in his recliner, complimented his beautiful wife often, and barked at anyone who called the house after 9 p.m. Would definitely have taken a bullet for anyone in his family on any occasion. Took care of business.

George Woolf and his daughters
George Woolf and his daughters

Or take George Woolf, for instance, who also moved on to heaven a few years ago. Best hugger in the world. Spiritual in a quiet, no-frills kind of way. Fun to the core. Always up for a new adventure with his wife and three daughters. Not afraid to take risks, and not afraid to deviate from the status quo if it meant being happy.

Mickey Jones, photo by Sandra Stroud
Mickey Jones, photo by Sandra Stroud

Or Mickey Jones, maybe. Married to the love of his life for several decades. Leads musical worship in a way that makes me cry every single time I’m lucky enough to be part of it. Passed on his passion for God to his two daughters, who are passing it on to their five children. Pays the bills, but more importantly, prays, laughs, and leads.

My dad wasn’t much like John Egan, George Woolf, or Mickey Jones. He struggled with addiction almost all of my life. He either wasn’t around or was temporarily a whirlwind of fun. The problem was that I never knew when That Fun Guy was going to disappear again. I wasted a lot of wishes on chicken bones over my dad, hoping he’d rejoin our family. I hosted many pity parties for myself because he never did.

To sit in church and have GOD, the Creator of everything beautiful, the Lover of my soul, the Redeemer of my life, the Light that cut through the blackest darkness to find me, the Peace that replaced quarter sacks of weed—to have that God compared to “father” felt a little sacrilegious to me.

Let me make myself clear—I have a wonderful stepdad, and as the years go by, we continue to

grow closer. He wasn’t very emotionally available when I was growing up, but as a former stepmom myself, I can cut him some slack for that now. Step parenting is tough—anyone who’s done it is nodding in agreement while reading this. And my dad was not the worst dad ever. My dad never abused me. My dad always told me he loved me and still does. His addiction just kept him from being the kind of dad I know he could have been. And it left me with a cynical perspective when it came to the father/God comparison.

I wanted a John Egan dad. I wanted a George Woolf dad. I wanted a Mickey Jones dad.

But God knew better.

He gave me just what I needed. He knows me, and He knows that due to my stubborn, controlling, and independent nature, He’d need to take the Father role into his own hands. Maybe He held back what He knew I’d never find in Him if He gave it to me any other way. Maybe He knew that someday, I’d need two dads in my life who have been total wrecks from time to time because I am often a total wreck, too. He might have known that I’d need to watch Him give them both countless chances at redemption because I’d someday need multiple opportunities to get it right myself. Maybe He knew that if I watched them grow into strong, spiritual people, I’d believe in His ability to carry me when I floundered, felt like I could not continue, and take me where I needed to go safely.

He is my Dad, after all. That’s what dads do.

4 thoughts on “Father envy

  1. Planting Potatoes says:

    very good read Bethany….! I can relate…as I grew up with several step dads…my real father not wanting much to do with me. What Father’s Day really makes me feel grateful for is that each step father was to me what God wanted him to be…..even when I didn’t know it.


    1. bethany says:

      Thanks Mark. I can relate to that for sure. I think God does things like this best of all–turning things that are scarred, imperfect, and complicated into things that help us, beautify us, and glorify Him in one way or another. Thankful I can see these kinds of things in my own life now and no longer feel the need to host my own pity parties :).


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