Last week I wrote about how my earthly “father issues” have negatively impacted my relationship with my husband, but with the emphasis being on my relationship with God. And I want to follow that up next time with how my father issues have impacted “my marriage.”
But this time around, I want to take the opportunity to clarify an important step in healing my father wounds … forgiveness.
|My Dad and I at a church picnic in the park|
I lived with a father who was not evil nor intentionally unkind. In fact, my father often tried to over-correct for the harshness that my mother sometimes displayed. It probably was in those moments that I felt “loved” the most by him. And yet that one connection was unhealthy because of his tendency to “emotionally rescue.” (Makes sense when you know that his own father physically abused his mother, and as a teen he tried to intervene.)
Most of the time, however, I felt “disconnected” from him because … he didn’t know how to connect.
I didn’t understand that important fact for a very long time. So I resented him for never really paying attention to me, never really trying to get to know me, and never really showing his affection or love to me. As a teen and young adult, I told myself that he knew what he was doing, but chose other priorities over me.
It probably wasn’t until he was in the hospital and facing a health crisis (that he believed might take his life) that an important piece fell into place. I was at his hospital bedside when he apologized for putting God’s work ahead of me and my siblings, but with the caveat that it was what God had called him to do.
I boiled inside.
I think I needed to hear that apology, even though it stung. And in time, I came to realize that he didn’t know. He didn’t believe that what he had done was wrong. I think he trusted that God would be our Father and fill the gaps that he had left in our hearts (Sadly, more than I trusted that truth).
It was then that I realized that my father was a flawed, skin and bones, creature of dust … just as I was and am.
So I began to forgive him. In fact, I’ve worked very hard at letting him off the hook and have felt closer to God and to my father, as well, having done that. Part of forgiving him involved, not just making the decision, not just processing my loss and pain, but also giving to him.
I began to meet with him regularly to ask him questions about his life. As I recorded those stories, God opened my eyes to the man I’d never really known all those years. I grew in compassion and understanding for him. I think, perhaps for the first time, I really began to love him. And I think it helped him to open up and love me more too.
My father has since died. And I can honestly say that I didn’t have any regrets in my relationship with him when he died in 2007. It was a step, in a series of many, that’s healing the wounds of this life for me.
So, if you haven’t already …
I hope that you give the gift of forgiveness to your father and yourself today!