Father’s Day-A Reflection

Father’s Day is sometimes difficult for me. Most years I ignore the multitude of Father’s Day posts that fill my social media News Feed, but some years, the words of praise and love bring tears of sorrow and anger to my heart. I want to scream, “I don’t miss my Dad! I don’t have anything good to say about him!” Perhaps others who experienced abuse have similar thoughts on the day that honors fathers. The intensity of the emotion surprises me because I forgave my father years ago. Most likely the feelings resurfaced this year because I just completed the draft of my memoir. Writing about my father brought the pain and sorrow to the surface once again. With Father’s Day approaching this weekend, I want to revisit a post I wrote two years ago. Perhaps my words will comfort other survivors who struggle with the celebrating Father’s Day.

Forgiveness not Acceptance

My father stole my childhood and my innocence from me at a very young age. 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.” 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.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you’re turning a central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before… slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”[1] As the years passed by, I saw my father turn into a shriveled, broken hellish creature who lost his grip on reality. I think there came a point when he relinquished his humanity for the pleasures of the flesh and he was lost for eternity. He died alone in a West Texas nursing home.

God was the consistent thread.

How do I celebrate Father’s Day with such a father? 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. God’s actions modeled what my father should have done. He knew what I needed, and did His best to provide for me, not always in the way that I wanted or thought He should, but as a faithful parent. 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. However, for some, celebrating this Hallmark holiday feels forced and uncomfortable. For others, the day triggers feelings of anger, fear, and resentment. For those individuals, I want you to know that it is okay not to celebrate a day that honors fathers. However, I invite you to consider the idea that there is a heavenly father who loves his children.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 86.