Father’s Day, Hats, and Hand Grenades

fathersdaysignI suppose it would have been appropriate for me to post about Father’s Day a little earlier than 7PM on Sunday, but frankly I didn’t plan on writing a Father’s Day blog post this year. Then two things happened to change my mind.

First, my Pastor read something from the pulpit this morning. Then, I stumbled on this great Father’s Day picture and just had to share it with y’all.

While the casual observer might think this hilarious photo is out of character with the rest of this post, in a weird and wonderful way the two go together like steaks and charcoal. I’m quite certain that when my daughter Sara sees this she’ll roar, because she and I have such similar senses of humor that we usually can just look at each other, instantly think of the same punch line, and burst into simultaneous laughter while everyone else is wondering what’s so funny.

Sara, who is now 30 years old and just finished her eighth year teaching German to elementary school kids, is fond of saying that she is a fascinating study of nature versus nurture. The interesting thing is that when people who know us learn we are a blended family they always assume she’s my blood and Sharon adopted her, when in fact it was I who adopted Sara on December 18, 1992.

Which brings us to the second part of this post, the part that happened first. This morning, my Pastor read something from the pulpit. I recognized the piece before the first sentence reached the back row—a 500 word essay Sara wrote last year when she nominated me for the Arkansas Baptist News Father of the Year award. Here is what she wrote, without a single jot or tittle edited by me:

Most people just take the father God gives them at birth.  Not me.

God knew I needed a father I could touch to understand how much I am loved by Him.  After all, a woman’s image of God is often a replica of her image of her earthly father.  Since 1990, I’ve had a clearer image of God’s love because of my father.

I was nine, in 1989, when my mama met him.  She loved him a lot.  She asked if I loved him too. Until then, every man I had ever loved had gone away and left me and my mama behind.  I wanted my mama to have him.  I wanted to love him, but I was afraid he’d leave her, so I wouldn’t let myself. After all, it was my father who had abandoned me after my parents divorced in 1987.

About a year later in July 1990, my mama married him, but I was still afraid to love him.

It took some time, but eventually, I learned to trust him.  I asked him to become my father, legally. I was fourteen when on December 18, 1992, he stood before a judge, telling God and man that he chose me; that he wanted to be my father.  I wanted that too.

It’s been over fifteen years since that day.

I didn’t know it then, but I was broken inside, when it came to understanding what it meant to have a father who loves me and really does want me to be his daughter.  God knew that, and He always provides.

My father had been prepared, by God, to have a daughter.  He wanted a daughter even though there hadn’t been a girl born into his family in many generations.  God knew that he’d have a daughter and gave him the desire to be a little girl’s father.  God gives us the desires of our hearts.

At times, I have felt forsaken, abandoned, and so alone that I couldn’t see the presence of anyone around me–even God, Himself.  Thankfully, God put His skin on my father to help me learn to see Him when I feel alone.

As I have learned to trust him, I have trusted God more too.  I’ve always known, in my head, that God wants to tuck me in at night, wipe away my tears, walk hand in hand with me, and be my Father.  I can say that in the past fifteen years, I’ve been able to move that knowledge, slowly, from my head into my heart.

People often say that it takes a “real man” to be a father.  If you’re adopted, there’s more.  Because it takes a VERY special kind of “real man” to be a father to someone else’s child.

I’m exceedingly grateful that I know a “VERY special kind of ‘real man'”.  He’s more than a father to me.  He picked me to be his daughter.

His name is Dan Case, and I love him a lot.

–Sara Case, Fathers’ Day, 2008

Even though I’d read this before—more than once—I will admit to shedding humble tears. I am so very blessed, and so thankful for God’s amazing restoration and grace in my life, that I’ve found it difficult to find words to express myself. If you know me, you know that anything that can shut me up so effectively is a mighty big deal.

I love you, Sara. Thanks for a wonderful Father’s Day–and for the privilege of being your father.

Father by Choice, Son by Choice

Some men are fathers by accident; they are ushered into parenthood by an inability to keep their zippers in the upright and locked position. For these guys, fatherhood is an unpleasant surprise that they could do without. Some men are fathers by plan; they marry and seek to reproduce. These guys want to be fathers; unfortunately there are those who for various reasons are never able to follow through. They want to be fathers, but they aren’t. Some men are fathers entirely by choice. They could have said no, but they made the distinct decision to assume the responsibilities and joys of fatherhood.

I’m one of those “fathers by choice.”  On December 18, 1992, I adopted Sara. She was 14 years old, and her mom and I had been married for two years and five months. Next month will be our 16th anniversary; this coming December 18th will be the 14th anniversary of “Adoption Day,” a day that we celebrate each year. In fact, Adoption day is more important than celebrating Sara’s birthday. On that day, Sara stood before a judge and told him that she wanted to be my daughter. I stood before the same judge and said that I wanted to be Sara’s father, and after the judge reviewed with us the responsibilities I was about to legally assume, I said yes. I’ve never for a moment regretted that decision – it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Adoptive relationships are special, because they are relationships by choice. There is a bond between Sara and me that is deep and genuine, and unlike any other relationship I’ve ever known. We are so alike in so many ways that people who know we are a blended family have been known to conclude that Sara must be my biological child, and Sharon the adoptive mother. We understand each other. We laugh at the same things. We”get” each other’s jokes while others are standing around saying “What?”

I think God has a very special place in His heart for adoption. He’s an adoptive father, too:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6, NASB)

He became my father by choice. He decided to adopt me. He accepted me, complete with all my faults and shortcomings, and made me his adopted son. The passage above speaks to the closeness of that relationship. Abba literally means “daddy,” a term of intimate, heartfelt endearment. He loves to have me run to him with my arms extended, crying out “daddy, daddy!” It gives Him joy to have me simply choose to sit with Him and enjoy His company.

He is my Father by choice. I am also His son by choice — my choice.

Happy Father’s Day, Father, from your son… by choice.