About 14 years ago, when I was 14 years old, was the last time I had a normal functional relationship with my father. He was literally home one day and gone the next, and I don’t remember seeing him for years after he left. My dad would text on birthdays and holidays, but it was no typical paternal relationship. My dad had been caught in affairs and decided that a change in geographic state was in his best interest. To add insult to injury, he had been involved in ministry, which added layers of hypocrisy to his moral shortcomings. Clearly, my dad’s relationship with my mom was a thing of the past, but what I didn’t understand is why he didn’t make more effort to be there for me and my brothers. I guess his personal demons and priorities were such that he could not fulfill his most basic responsibility as a man.
Today, my dad and I are cordial. We don’t have a close relationship, but there is no ill will between us. We occasionally exchange text messages. When he is town, I will typically get lunch with him. I’ve processed a lot of what I experienced, and I can talk about my childhood openly and freely. I decided to publish this article, not for myself, but because I know there may be at least one person out there reading this who is going through the same thing.
They say truth hurts, and sometimes that’s true. But the truth for those in the path of God is actually optimistic and encouraging. Here are the 4 most important truths that helped me process some of the trials and tribulations that I went through in my life.
1. My father is not God.
Borrowing from an article I wrote last month on parenthood, our parents are said to represent God to us more than anything and anyone else. God is the life-giver, and our parents are the ones who gave us life. God is all-powerful, and parents are like superheroes to children; as babies, we depended on them to meet our every need. As for God’s words, they command instant authority. As children, we naturally believe everything our parents tell us. We accept their word as the absolute truth.
We often consciously and unconsciously attribute our parents’ defects (and positive qualities) to God. If my father is quick to anger, then surely God must be an angry God. If my mother is cold and distant, then surely God must be cold and distant. In similar fashion, we transfer the trauma of being rejected by our parents to our relationship with God. If my parents do not love or understand me, then surely God must not love or understand me.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.Psalm 27:10
Psalm 27:10 is powerful because it refutes this common tendency to conflate the character and actions of our parents with those of God. Psalm 27:10 asserts that even if our parents abandon us, the greatest act of disavowal possible, God would turn around and do the opposite.
2. I am not my father.
There are a lot of English expressions that express the similarity between parent and child. “Like father, like son.” “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” It’s a fact that children often turn out like their parents, not just in appearance, but in character and personality. However, there are a latge number of counter-examples. In addition, if you are growing up with one parent, then that one parent more often than not exerts the strongest influence on you.
In every case, we all get to choose what kind of person we become, and are we morally responsible for those choices.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.Ezekiel 18:20
In the Bible, many of the prophetic patriarchs had wicked sons. David and Samuel are prime examples. David’s son Amnon was a rapist, whom his other son Absalom murdered. Absalom was alao responsible for mounting a rebellion against his father’s kingdom, likely due to a spirit of offense, and committed numerous obscenities recorded in the Bible. As for Samuel, who was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible, the text has this to say about his sons.
Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.1 Samuel 8:3
On the flip side, the Bible offers a counter paradigm. Asa, for example, was a king who walked in honor of God, unlike his father Abijam, and unlike his father’s father, Jeroboam.
1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. . . 3 And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. . . 9 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. . . 11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done.1 Kings 15
Choice is ours.
3. There are teachers, mentors, coaches and elders to help fill the void.
I was fortunate in high school that a mentor from a local church came into my life and played a supportive role during high school. He took me out to eat, attended my soccer games, and showed love during a difficult time. The relationship was far from perfect, but it was a blessing. Even as an adult, I benefited from a mentorship relationship for a couple years with a guy who poured into me whenever he had the opportunity.
Maybe you have relatives or teachers or coaches or elders that you can look up to as positive role models. Pray and ask God to help you identify people you already know worth trusting, or to send someone new who can help fill that void. Oftentimes, we get the love we need, not from the people we think owe it to us, but from the people who owe us nothing. Many of you growing up without fathers have a mother present in your life. While your mother can never be a father, whatever love and support you are able to receive from her is worth a lot.
Oftentimes, we get the love we need, not from the people we think owe it to us, but from the people who owe us nothingCultural Quote #77: People
4-) God is my Father.
Lastly, and most importantly, never forget that you have a heavenly father. The first line of the Lord’s prayer is, Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. The fact is that even the best of men are men at best. People who grew up with awesome fathers still do not come away with a perfectly accurate picture of God. If you want to know what God is like, then read the Gospels. And if you have faith in God, don’t self-identify as fatherless again. Use this trial as an opportunity to develop a closer relationship with the greatest of all time.
Meditate on these verses.
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.Psalm 68:5
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.James 1:17
If you liked this article, you may also be interested in The Plight of the Fatherless | I Am Angry With My Parents! (5 Critical Reminders) | Though My Mother And Father Forsake Me. . .
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.