The other morning on my commute, the song "Piece by Piece" by Kelly Clarkson played. It's a popular song, which I hear on the radio multiple times a day.
The song begins by telling the story of a daughter whose father wouldn't love her, at least not when she had nothing to offer. She remembers her father walking away. She begged him to want her. He wouldn't. When she grew up and "made something" of herself, he then wanted to be in her life. But she realized his love had a price. (Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwTMz6Nfhjg)
This was the umpteenth time I have heard it in the last few months, but this time it took me back to a couple months ago when I was driving to my apartment. I had a wearying extended weekend, and I was emotional. To add to my emotions, the van following me carried my stepmom, two half-siblings and my father. They had come into town for my little sister's archery tournament and wanted to see me. We were leaving my favorite pizza place, and I was on my way to show them my apartment and, by extension, a snippet of my life.
On the short drive that evening, I prayed, "Please let 'Piece by Piece' come on." And it did. I don't believe in coincidence, so it made me more emotional. I soaked in the song and continued on with my evening, which turned out to be fabulous.
This seems like a normal situation, having a nice dinner with my family and sharing conversation in my apartment. But the truth is, this is a new situation for me. Prior to a couple years ago, I could only remember one or two times I actually just "hung out" with my father's family. Things with him are in a better place now. But the song "Piece by Piece" hits home with me because I am like the girl that Clarkson describes in her song.
I am that fatherless daughter.
On another occasion I was with my sister, my cousin and my cousin's daughter. I played the song so they could hear it, and my sister turned to my cousin and said, "This will be her song one day," referring to my cousin's daughter. So far, she is right. My 3-year-old cousin will grow up without a father, at least, her father. It's a sad truth, because I know the pain, and anger, and rejection she will feel each day of her life.
Honestly though, we are not isolated cases.
This song gained popularity for multiple reasons. Yes, Kelly Clarkson is an amazing vocalist. Yes, her tunes are catchy and her music in general is relatable. But, I believe this song made the charts because the culture today is full of people like myself and my little cousin, fatherless daughters and sons. These are the ones who have known heartbreak from childhood because the first person to break their hearts was the one person who was supposed to protect it.
Thankfully, when Clarkson gets to the chorus, the story changes. It's now the story of her child's father and how he loves her. He is there for her. Piece by piece he mends Clarkson's broken heart and trust issues. He proves to be a loving father and a devoted husband. He restores her faith in what a father should be.
I can't speak for what Kelly Clarkson meant as she recorded this song, but I take away a much deeper meaning to an already intense song. I see an opening for a Heavenly Father to fill.
In my life as a fatherless daughter, I was blessed that an uncle stepped in as a father figure and with a mom and sister and grandmother who lavished unconditional love on me.
But the one who filled the void left within my heart by my father wasn't human. He was my Heavenly Father. The raw, overwhelming beauty of this Father is His perfect nature, wrapped in mercy and grace.
He calls me His child (1 John 3:1).
He loves me unconditionally (Romans 5:8).
Before the world began, He chose me (Ephesians 1:4).
Based on His marvelous love only and nothing else, I don't have to earn His greatest gift to me, His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Even more, He sent his Holy Spirit to comfort me and guide me (John 14:16, 16:13).
But better yet, He's promised to never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).
These sure sound a lot better than either of the fathers that Clarkson mentioned in her song. Her husband is going to have multiple times that he lets his daughter and wife down, even if it's only in simple ways. Fathers are fallible, even the best ones.
So when I hear that song played, think of the hurt my father has unintentionally caused me, and dream of the day I find the man I will marry who will become a daddy to my children, I take heart.
This world and the people in it are flawed. I know this because I, too, am a sinner. But I also know that the love that saved my soul comes not from a mere man; it comes from the Heavenly Father, who loved me enough to send His Son to ransom me.