Today I write about the father wound. It’s a wound all too familiar for many people. The father wound has always existed in humankind. It’s nothing new. It exists because mankind is fallen. We are all far from grace. We all make mistakes in parenting. It goes way back to Adam and his decision that “knowledge” was more important than his father’s warnings. Adam’s son Cain was so upset by the rejection of his offering to his heavenly father God that he killed his brother. And the cycle of father wounds continued all the way to the present generation.
Let me tell you about my father wound. This wound ran so deep in my heart and soul it was part of my identity for decades. It was a wound that couldn’t be cured by running away. It couldn’t be cured by sleeping around for men’s attention. It couldn’t be cured by drugs or alcohol. It couldn’t be cured through co-dependence. It couldn’t be cured through isolation and depression. It couldn’t be cured by the obsessive striving for success. It couldn’t be cured by the becoming a control freak. It couldn’t be cured through anger and anxiety. It couldn’t even be cured through therapy and medication alone (though they were helpful). No. What it took was a relationship with my heavenly father to cure the broken relationship I never had with my earthly father.
Let me explain. My parents divorced when I was 5. My father had been abusive and controlling of my mother. We went to a safe home after we left for a while. I was confused and didn’t know how to share my feelings, so I stuffed them. I swallowed my feelings and went through the motions for the sake of others. This was a pattern I would continue until it nearly destroyed me as an adult. I was confused because I wanted to love the man we were leaving, I missed him. He was broken, but I missed him. He wasn’t involved after we left. He had one chance for visitation and he messed it up. There was one occasion we received gifts for Christmas but I was so rejected that I threw them away. The stage was set, the roles were cast, and I would be given the part of the girl without a father.
I felt rejected. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt unloved and unwanted. I was young, and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of love. I didn’t attend Sunday school; I didn’t attend church for many years. I didn’t know “God the father” was an option. I began my journey toward God as a father in the chapel of a Catholic church. It was in the silence that he awakened my spirit. It was when I was reading a book full of testimonies from the nuns that work a youth outreach shelter on skid row. The stories of the displaced children resonated with me. I began to ponder, that if God could love these kids making all these bad choices, maybe just maybe, he would love me too. Maybe he was my father after all. Little did I know that this reading on runaway youth would inspire a short-lived runaway journey of my own.
I was in middle school and was desperate to escape. I was convinced I had lived long enough in the streets of Detroit that I would have the “street cred” I would need to survive. Who was I kidding? I was just a crazy little white girl from northern Michigan now. I wanted to go somewhere bigger. My father wound had convinced me I was the biggest reject at school. In my delinquent mind, it was his fault I was binge drinking alcohol in the 6th grade while other kids were doing productive recreational activities. It was his fault I was hooked on cigarettes, not many other 6th graders understand the depth of nicotine withdrawal, so I was isolated. I hung out with the other “rejects” and “loners.” I felt less than, so I became what I thought was less than. I convinced someone else she needed to run with me. I had the accomplice, the plan, the food and supplies, and the journey had begun one afternoon after school. We had taken a path that ran parallel to the highway and walked a full 7 miles. My young feet thought they might just fall off and die. We came across a factory and decided the next thing to do was hitch a ride with a trucker. We could have been murdered and dumped somewhere. But we weren’t. We were picked up by the police and taken to the station after making it to the next town. Our God is a good father, he had plans for our lives, and we were protected on our ignorant journey.
I spent the next decade trying to earn attention from boys. Once again, I was that little girl, setting myself up for the rejection I felt I deserved. I kept men at an arms distance and kept them emotionally detached. This behavior led me to a teenage pregnancy that defined my relationship with God. I kept the baby but soon miscarried. When I reached all the humiliation and pain I could handle, I then committed the ultimate sin. I told God he gave me a shitty father, and that he himself was a shitty father, and I didn’t need him in my life anymore. I then filled the void with pain killers and club drugs till I found myself in the bottom of a ketamine hole on the bottom a dingy motel floor. It was then that I cried out to him again.
He should have told me to piss off. I certainly deserved it. But that’s not who God the father is. Through sobriety, I learned he is the ultimate father I felt I never had and he was there all along. God is a gentleman, and he will not intrude in your most sinful moments unless you ask him to. I scraped up enough faith to do something with my life. I joined the Army to travel and go to college. I went to war instead. I also met the man of my dreams, the one God designed for me. The costs of war took their toll on our marriage and I was once again begging God to step up and be part of my life again. I had this pattern of using God until something resolves then putting him on the shelf for use at a later time. Long story short, my father God restored my marriage. He did it by introducing me to his son Jesus. What a good father indeed.
When I finally admitted defeat I found myself in a church full of strangers hugging me and welcoming me, as if they had known me forever. I remember thinking to myself, “what a bunch of weirdos.” It was during worship one night, though, that my soul was touched and I finally came undone. I was in a program called Celebrate Recovery. I didn’t know what I was there for. I just knew I was a broken sinner with a dozen different hurts, habits, and hang-ups that needed to be fixed. I thought my marriage was over, I even had a lawyer. Back to that moment of worship. I began to see a vision of the hand of Jesus reaching out to me. He smiled and told me “come along little one.” Here I was, a grown woman, and this guy Jesus was speaking to the broken little girl in me. He knew that underneath every hurt, habit, and hang-up, was the father wound. He knew I wouldn’t be right until that was made right with my creator. I trusted him, he led me to the cross, and I surrendered that wound once and for all. Or so I thought.
Flash forward a couple of years, and I was back in the middle of an alcohol relapse. My career wasn’t going in the direction God had planned, and my marriage was once again weak. We were living, but not really living. God had been put back on the shelf, even after his son intervened on his behalf. What a wretched sinner I am indeed. I was feeling terrible about my walk with my heavenly father when I got the call. I got the call that my father had passed away. Not only did he pass away, but he passed away 4 months prior. There was no memorial service, no funeral, no body, and no grave. There was nothing. I had to do the research and the medical examiner contributed his death to depression and alcohol dependence. I was numb for a good month. Then the emotions came. Grief was a tidal wave of emotions. I cried more than I ever had in my life for a father I never really had. I made attempts through the years to reconnect, and it never worked. I thought I had time. I was wrong.
I found myself on the floor of my bedroom in the fetal position one night. I was absolutely devastated. I was cussing my dead father out. “You couldn’t even die right, you fucking jerk.” Yeah. I said it, and I didn’t even regret it. What came next was even worse. I cussed at God for leaving me. I cussed at him for disappointing me. I cussed at him for taking him before I got another chance. I told him once and for all, to piss off. I questioned if he was ever there at all. Was it all just a fallacy of my imagination? I was afraid it was all make believe. I felt absolutely abandoned and I considered ending my life. I was once again the worthless little girl, only I was all grown up, and had little girls of my own looking up to me. I begged God to show me his presence. It was more of a challenge than a request really. My daughter knocked on my door to check on me. She entered the room and the thought of death fled. What a selfish, terrible thought to have had. She saw the pain on my face, a pain I could no longer deny, and she held me. Here was my baby girl, comforting her grown mother. It dawned on me suddenly all at once.
She was Jesus in the flesh. I called out to him and he showed up. God sent his son to save his girl, and he did so through this little girl in this moment of surrender. He was showing me that that little girl inside me was capable of healing and helping others. So, that’s what I’m doing with my life. I’m helping others who have had the same walk. My father wound left me with one hell of a scar. I can’t say it’s healed or finished, about the time I do, grief comes in with buckets of tears to remind me I’m not alone. There is a process to healing, it is slow and methodical. It is difficult and it is painful. It is the road less traveled, but it’s a beautiful journey. What happened next was a miracle. My father’s body came back to me in the form of ashes and I planted them into a tree. This tree is now growing on my property. How good is our heavenly father? Only he could make that happen. Only he can take death and create life with it.
I’m obviously not formally educated in theology. I leave that to the professionals. I simply choose to share my story. That’s the structure of the bible anyway, right? It’s a combination of books, of stories, of testimonies that tell of his promises and healing…and to think, it all began with Adam. Check out the Father’s Love Letter below, it has all the biblical reference you need to confirm the love of our father, God. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out. All the healing you could ever want is on the other side of fear.