Father’s Day hasn’t always been an enjoyable experience for me. My parents divorced when I was eight years old. Before they separated I was “Daddy’s little girl,” but after the divorce, the time with my father was limited. That, plus the addition of a new stepmother and stepsiblings, changed everything.

Late into my 30s, an excellent counselor helped me discover that I blamed myself for my parents’ divorce. Those wounds to my young soul formed a self-hatred and a distorted view of God. For more than ten years after I gave my heart to Christ, I didn’t really believe God loved me. This lie manifested into a continuous state of attempting to perform for Him. I’d take three steps forward and two backward. In my heart, I felt He saved my soul because that’s what God does for a living. It’s His job description. But does he like me? No way. Why would he? What is there to like?

Fortunately, my Heavenly Papa loves me too much to leave me wallowing in lies. He exposed the villain that stood between us — Fear. Fear of trusting, fear of abandonment, and fear of rejection were keeping me from his lavish love. I had to decide. Would I abandon myself and leap into His embrace? Or would I settle for the frigid slap that performance offered? It all boiled down to trust. I knew this was the turning point in my voyage with God.

Through a long, painful process, God revealed his deep desire for me to climb onto His lap, place my head against His chest, and listen to His heartbeat. He wanted me to know the comforting, steady rhythm that whispered, “I love you, Laura. I cherish you. You are precious to me. I will never abandon you.” At last I knew — I am loved. I don’t understand how or why he loves me. He knows every flaw and foolish choice I make, and yet He never leaves me.

I loved my earthly father, and many of the gifts I have came from him. This was my first Father’s Day since his death, and it did feel strange. However, it’s my Heavenly Daddy who fills me with joy. He is the one who replaced the emptiness and shame in my life with the truth that I am Beloved. His relentless love broke through my wall of fear and taught me how to breathe in the abundant life Jesus promises. He assures my mind and soul that I truly am “Daddy’s little girl.”

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5 NIV).