I’ll never forget the moment I thought God was dead.
I was driving home from work, south on I-15 towards Provo, and trying not to cry. For months I’d been watching in bewilderment and horror as my relationship with God seemed to burn endlessly on until nothing but ash and soot remained.
In the shock of it all, I couldn’t help but cry out in confusion and despair. My hands gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white.
“What’s happened here? How have things gone so terribly wrong?” In frustration, I blurted out to God:
“It’s like you’re dead!”
The moment the words left my lips, I knew. I knew exactly what this feeling was. I knew exactly how I saw my relationship with God. How could I have missed it? If there was anything I was an expert in, it was how to lose a father and live a life without one.
My father was a Green Beret in the Special Forces and struggled with mental illness. He died by suicide on April 8, 1999, when I was only ten years old. My stepfather, despite valiant efforts to claw his way out, lived in the pit of severe alcoholism for as long as I knew him. Unfortunately, my siblings and I were dragged into the pit alongside him where we suffered abuse for the majority of our adolescence. Eventually, my stepfather died on July 14, 2012 from injuries sustained in a car accident while I was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in California.
As obvious as it should have been, I began to realize that day in the car how the lives and loss of my fathers had been affecting my relationship with God. Though I knew God wasn’t dead, I didn’t expect it to feel any other way. Everything my fathers had done I was subconsciously expecting God to do. As I’ve unraveled the twisted thoughts in my mind that expect betrayal and abandonment to reveal the full majesty of a loving Heavenly Father, I’ve also started to see something else.
When we interact with those around us, especially our dearest loved ones, we are representing our Heavenly Father. When a father on Earth loves his daughter, he is teaching her about the supernal nature of God. When a father on Earth abuses his son, he is very likely damaging his son’s ability to internalize the love of a Father in Heaven.
And this doesn’t just apply to fatherhood or motherhood. It applies to all of us as we live our lives seeking to be representatives of Christ. Lately, as I’ve gone about my day to day actions, I’ve asked myself:
“By interacting with me today, did someone better understand or feel the love of Heavenly Father?”
Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Admittedly, it is one of my least favorite days of the entire year. However, this year, I am determined to make it a day in which I can share the knowledge I have about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the undying love of the Father willing to give Him up. Whether you have someone to give a card to or not, I invite you to join with me. Even in the midst of all that has happened, that is the best way I can honor the beautiful memories of my fathers and continue to create memories with my Father in Heaven.