Since I can remember, Father’s Day, has always been a difficult time for me. As a teenager, I struggled to relate to my father. The friction between us made Father’s Day an awkward and stressful day. Although our relationship was a bit rocky, it improved significantly as I entered adulthood. However, just as soon as our relationship had entered a good place, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The years that followed were trying. I knew the inevitable was coming, but nothing quite prepared me for the loss that I experienced when he passed from this life to the next. From that day forward, Father’s Day would hit my heart like a silver bullet entering the heart of a werewolf. Although I was almost thirty, I still felt like an orphaned child. Nothing prepared me for the feelings that I would experience moving forward.
To add to my Father’s Day dilemma, my desire to have my own children never actualized. I am now 40 years old and the possibility of me ever having my own seems as a dream that will never be fulfilled. Quite frankly, I’m usually faced with celebrating the Fatherhood of my loved ones, while simultaneously grieving both, what I have lost, and what I may never have.
Like clockwork, I face a bout with anxiety that kicks in at the start of May each year. This year, I knew that Father’s Day was approaching, and I didn’t want to spend it in my usual annual lament. Half-way through May, I knew that I needed to do something different. I needed to find a way to redeem the hold that this holiday had on me. I needed to do something to flip the script and make the day, not only palatable, but enjoyable.
After much contemplation, I settled on going on a solo-adventure, a trip by myself, to break away from the usual stressors and to meet with God. Initially I thought that I might ask other male friends, who like me, are also childless, to join me. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this would be cop-out. I knew that I needed to spend time alone and reconnect with the gospel, nature, and myself. I reasoned that the best place to do this would be Sedona, Arizona. The area surrounding Sedona if full of beautiful hiking trails that provide the perfect place to reflect and meet with God. So began the planning of my venture.
I arrived to Sedona on Friday evening, excited for the hiking adventures that I planned for the next day. I could hardly wait to go to bed, so I could wake up bright and early, step into nature, and breathe in the crisp air. Much to my disappointment, I woke up to the sounds raindrops splashing into the window pane. Just like that, my plans came to a screeching halt.
I was determined to not allow the rain to ruin my weekend. Although my spiritual retreat was placed on hold, I reasoned that I could still proceed with my planned adventure. I’d just have to make some adjustments.
Instead of hiking, I drove to a nearby ghost-town and went sight-seeing. This was done, entirely, from the comfort of car. Nevertheless, I refused to let it get me down. My car was comfy and dry, and in addition, I had some great Spotify playlists that made it the perfect backdrop for car-karaoke.
As I prepared to end the night, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My solo-adventure didn’t go as planned. My hiking plans had been a literal wash with the rain. And to be honest, I didn’t spend time with God like I had planned either. I went to bed a bit disappointed with myself, but also with the peace of mind that God was in control.
I woke up earlier than I had anticipated the next morning. However, it wasn’t raindrops or sunlight that woke me up. Rather it was a thought…. And the thought triggered an internal alarm clock that caused me to open my ears, eyes, and heart to listen. The thought spoke to me and told me that the Holy Spirit will always reveal areas of my life that are in need of God’s grace. But greater yet, God is always there, willing and ready to provide the grace that I need, when I need it. His grace is sufficient.
I wasn’t quite sure where this thought was going to take me, but as I opened up the curtains I could see that the sun was shining, and the rain had stopped. Without hesitation, I packed up my car and headed out to catch a hike.
The hike was beautiful…. better than I had imagined it. A cool breeze brushed across my skin and filled my lungs. And the view was spectacular. I was surrounded by red rocks, pine trees, cacti, and other green foliage.
As I walked and conversed with God, I came to understand where I needed grace. As I reflected on the reason for my trip it became evident that I needed grace to forgive myself. It became evident that my struggle with Father’s Day stemmed from years of hating myself for falling short as a son to my father. It also became evident that I was holding on to self-resentment for prioritizing others above my own desire to have children. It became clear that I was angry at myself for caring for others, who should have been caring for themselves, instead of caring for myself. In short I lost out on time and opportunity to bring my dream to fruition.
When I reached the top of the climb, I took a moment to view the scenery and admire God’s creation. As I took a deep breathe, I made a decision to forgive myself. I anticipated a climatic experience. Nevertheless, I was met with peace, calmness, and the knowing that I am not alone. I am held in the palm of the one who gave His life for me.
Although this season of forgiveness is new, here is how I am choosing to allow it to manifest in my life.
- I will embrace grace as the means to wholeness.
- I will stop any attempt to make myself pay for my sins of the past.
- I will celebrate my “new found” freedom by allowing myself to dream and create new memories.
- I will be open to the possibility that my future holds greater things than I could ever hope for or imagine.
John Eli Garay
John Eli is a transformational life coach who has spent over 15 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, any negative self-talk that keeps them from living life to the fullest. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”
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