When I was a little girl my dad nicknamed me his “little Butterball.” When I was very young, the name made me feel special because my daddy called me that name with love in his voice, a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. Once I got older and my body rounded out and I became a card-carrying member of the “chubby girl” club, the name caused me great embarrassment and made me cringe.
As an adult my nickname and all the subsequent humiliation it caused me lay dormant deep in my memories; tucked safely away as a painful reminder of the childhood I preferred to keep buried. My father went to be with Jesus more than a decade ago and now that so much time has passed, I find myself digging out some of those long-forgotten memories and examining them in the light of maturity and understanding.
Father’s Day has always been one of those difficult days because my relationship with my father was a far cry from the warm fuzziness of TV sitcom dads. My dad wasn’t a terrible father, mind you, but fell somewhere between an absentee father and a hypercritical you can’t do anything right kind of father.
My dad was schooled in the spare the rod- spoil the child method of discipline causing his children to cower in his presence. On those rare occasions when we were with him, he was oftentimes stern and demanding. My childhood shyness and insecurity was no match for his uncompromising, tough demeanor.
Make no mistake – I loved my father and wanted nothing more than to be daddy’s little girl. That became increasingly more difficult to realize the older I got as fear became the emotional front runner whenever I was with my father.
For years after I’d become a Christian, the fear I carried for my earthly father mirrored a fear I developed for my Heavenly Father. As with most things, time brings with it a certain amount of wisdom and enlightenment. While I still have a holy, reverential fear of my Heavenly Father, maturity has allowed me to appreciate my relationship with God without that “shaking in my boots” fear I often felt with my dad.
If my father were still here, I’m not entirely sure I’d ever get past that fear I had of him. He had a way of making me feel like that chubby, shy little girl – even when I was well into my 30s and early 40s. However, as Father’s Day approached this year I spent some time thinking about my dad and trying to see our relationship through new eyes – eyes that are now able to assess situations through a shiny veneer of healing and forgiveness.
With the help of my loving Heavenly Father, I was able to actually see a brighter side of my embarrassing Butterball nickname. God lovingly pointed out to me when I was growing up, the best turkey to serve on your Thanksgiving dinner table was a Butterball. The Butterball name was synonymous with greatness. If you wanted the absolute best on your Thanksgiving table – you got the Butterball.
Today as I celebrate Father’s Day with my husband and my children, I am thankful for the Dad that God blessed me with. He was tough or critical at times, that’s true enough; but underneath he really did have a marshmallow center he rarely showed – for his generation didn’t encourage the softer side of manhood. I know my dad loved me and I’m finally able to appreciate the fact that I was his little Butterball, because my dad thought I was the best!
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Psalm 27:10 (NLT)
“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.” ― Maya Angelou