Father’s Day was difficult for me this year. I experienced emotions that I have not experienced for years. I was angry, sad, and confused for most of the day. As I viewed the myriad of Father’s Day posts on my newsfeed, I wanted to scream, “I don’t miss my Dad!” I don’t have anything good to say about him!” “What kind of person does that make me?” Perhaps others who experienced abuse have similar thoughts on the day that honors fathers. The intensity of the emotion surprised me this year. I forgave my father years ago, but this year some of the old anger resurfaced. Most likely the feelings reared their ugly head because I am writing about the abuse I experienced. Whatever the reason, I wanted to share some of the thoughts that came throughout the day.
Forgiveness not Acceptance
My father stole my childhood and my innocence from me when I was barely able to walk. The abuse continued until I left home at age 18 to go to college. My father cared about only one thing-making certain I knew he was the only person who would “love me.” He shared me with friends and even got me pregnant when I was 11. I was his property and his toy. In his later years, my father was broken, disabled and senile. He never asked me to forgive him, but I did forgive him. I turned him over to God and let go of my need for revenge or retribution. The act of forgiveness came after I allowed myself to experience the anger, sadness, and loss of my childhood. Forgiving him did not mean I welcomed him back into my life. I did not. He refused to acknowledge any wrong and could not understand why he needed forgiveness. Consequently, having him in my life was detrimental to my emotional wellbeing. He died alone in a nursing home in west Texas.
How does one reconcile celebrating Father’s Day when your father betrayed the most sacred trust between a parent and a child? Sometimes well-intentioned Christians suggest merely remembering that you have a heavenly father who loves you. While the statement is true, it took me years to reconcile how a “loving God” allowed my father to abuse me. I did eventually realize that my father had choices to make. God does not and will not take away our freedom to choose. When we make wrong decisions, He does all he can to protect innocents. Depending on the circumstances, that protection may simply be allowing you to survive the ordeal.
God was the consistent thread.
As I have already shared in other posts, I always knew God was present in my life, but that may not be true for others. I am thankful for the prayers of many that kept me safe from death on more than one occasion. My father could not take away my faith. My heavenly father somehow always showed up when I needed Him most. I did not always understand God’s methods in my trials but looking back He was always there to save my life, direct my path or provide a comforting word. Perhaps God was the parent I did not have. He knew what I needed, and He delivered it. My journey was long and difficult, but the consistent element was the presence of God and Christ.
I believe I can celebrate Father’s Day because I do have a Heavenly Father who cares for me and loves me unconditionally. You may not be able to accept that because your journey is different than mine, but I hope my words bring encouragement to you as you reflect on Father’s Day. Remember healing is a process and each person heals at their own speed. Most of all, be patient as you travel the road to healing.