Let’s reflect for a moment on our father as our family’s provider and protector. Inevitably, such thoughts conjure up childhood memories that leave a lasting imprint on who we are. How did he fulfill these roles? Did he fill them fully, or did he fall short? Many fathers fall short and these short comings can affect their families profoundly – often for generations to follow. However, the pain that results from human short comings can be transformed and a life full of happiness and love.
So who is this first man in our lives, the man who we would measure all other men against? Where did he carry the pain handed down to him from his father and his father before him? Did he succumb to alcoholism, drugs, workaholism, anger, rage, control, indifference, apathy, or perhaps was he not present in the lives of his children? To accept him as he is lends itself to our own self-acceptance. After all, half of our DNA came from our father. When we stand in physical, emotional, and/or spiritual opposition to the man who was responsible for giving us life a struggle ensues within our heart. Can we be free of the struggle to accept him as he is? Can we be free of the need to expect more from him then he was given from his father? Yes we can, God’s father love can free us. He will heal our daddy when we allow him in.
ACCEPTANCE: THE KEY TO FREEDOM
While most fathers are loving and they strive to do the best for their families, there are many fathers in this world who are unable to fulfill their family’s need for protection and provision. If you had a father who protected, provided for and loved his family then you are blessed indeed. Your father was also blessed because he was able to fulfill the role God gave him as head of the family. If your father was not able to fulfill the role God intended for him to fulfill then you have likely suffered heartache as a result. However, it is precisely through suffered heartache that you can experience heightened healing, love and transformation.
If your father has hurt you then accepting him for who he is will help you to experience the freedom your hearts yearn for. However, accepting your father does not require your agreement with what he may have done and it most certainly does not give him permission to hurt you again. While most fathers, as I have shared, love and care for their children, sadly, some fathers have done some very horrific things to their children.
Remember, Jesus calls us to love and forgive one another proclaiming that our father in heaven causes good things to happen to both the righteous and unrighteous. Yes, our father in heaven loves all of us unconditionally, even the human father who has wounded his child. So how, if you have experienced heartache at the hands of your earthly father, do you move beyond the pain and into acceptance and forgiveness?
He (Christ) did not say, you will not be tempted; you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed. What he said was, “You shall not be overcome.” God wants us to pay attention to these words and be strong in absolute trust, in both well and woe. – Julian of Norwich (1)
Perhaps recognizing your father is doing the best he can given his life experiences up to this point in time will prove helpful. We are all affected by the relationships we share with others and these relationships, in part, mold our behavior. Fathers are no exception. However, for the Christian, knowing your father was created in God’s image poses a further question “How can he hurt his child so?” How could this first man in your life, who is created in the image of an all-loving God, cause so much pain? There is only one answer here my friends – sin. Sin causes death, death of the love God intended to live between father and child. Sin is the foundational piece that creates the life experiences in a father’s life that leads him to hurt his child.
OUR STRENGTH AS CHRISTIANS
As Christians, we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin – tough words to live by under normal circumstances. And now, we are talking about “daddy” issues here… oh my that is a tall order. Perhaps reflecting again on the fact that our father was created in God’s image will help here. This proclaims that our father’s heart is good, unfortunately, it has been hardened by sin to one degree or another. Remember, we all, father’s included, carry and suffer from the pain original sin set into motion.
It is helpful to recall that only God has access to the deepest recesses of our hearts. We do not have the insight into our father’s heart to understand why he does what he does, in turn, no one else has this insight into our hearts (whew!). We will never fully understand why our father does the things he does. Perhaps instead of asking why our dad behaves in the manner he does we would be better served by asking how we can transcend the pain.
Only God offers the true path to forgiveness and acceptance through his son Jesus Christ; however, it is up to us to seek him. Inside of Christianity we are presented with a multitude of avenues that lead to the healing our heart cries out for. I have personally received significant transformation in my heart as the result of daily Mass attendance and reflection of the daily readings while in Eucharistic adoration. Healing happens when we are in the mist of the great physician – Jesus Christ. God has a plan for our lives, and that plan is for our joy and happiness.
“I have said these things to you so that I may have joy in you and so that your joy may be complete” In other words, we will only find complete joy in Christ Jesus, the Christ who desires a deep and abounding joyful relationship with us. -John 15:11 (NABRE)
GOD IS CLOSE TO THE BROKENHEARTED
Perhaps your earthly father struggles to find the freedom and joy his heart desires; however, the father love that only a sinless father can offer is available to each and every one of us. God will protect and provide abundantly for his children who seek him. And seek him we must because seeking God will indeed lead us into the healing our hearts yearn for. The key is perseverance, my friends. Remember, our father in heaven is close to the brokenhearted. At those moments when we need him the greatest, he is there. He has certainly been there for me.
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
—John 4:23-24 (NABRE)
My own father certainly had his battles while alive, which in turn affected our family profoundly. Ironically, or perhaps by the great design, this experience with my own father led me down a path towards greater love, appreciation and acceptance of others and the world around me. It lead me into the work I now do – helping individuals find the peace and happiness God offers through Jesus Christ in the love of the Holy Spirit. I now give gratitude for the heart pains and unfulfilled dreams I held as a little girl. I now see how my father struggled with his own buried pain and I see that he provided and protected the best he could. It was this pain that, in part, lead me to seek my father in heaven who provides for me and protects me beyond measure.
I now experience acceptance and gratitude for the earthly man who gave me life, my dad, Harold Lee Bullard. I love you dad. May your soul rest in peace. Some day, much much later, we will be together again and we will immersed in God’s tender love. Love, your daughter Carolyn.
If you would like to schedule a session with Carolyn or inquire about inviting her to speak at an upcoming event or retreat of yours we invite you to click here: Carolyn Berghuis, MS, ND, CTN
1 Julian. The Showings of Julian of Norwich: A New Translation, ed. trans. by Mirabai Starr. (Charlottesville: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2013) Ch. 68, p. 187.