The Father Wound
Father’s Day on June 17, 2012 marked six and a half years since I’ve seen my father. The last time I saw my father was in his physical therapy office. That day I waited four hours to talk to my father and all I remember was that the conversation didn’t end well. The sad thing about this meeting was around Father’s Day my junior year in 1999 my father and I were reconciled as the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin while reading the Word of God the day before. The next day, after getting convicted of anger, bitterness and resentment, my father and I went on a walk and I told him that I forgave him for all the hurt and pain he had caused me.
While I truthfully don’t give much thought about my father these days, this past Father’s Day was particular hard on me as I started thinking and then dwelling on memories I had of my father. Normally I enjoy watching golf tournaments after church on Sunday (and throughout the week) but I found it so hard to watch the US Open that my wife told me to turn off the TV and had to give me a hug. The reason this was hard is my father and I spent considerable time together playing and talking about golf. Before I left for church, I had already cried, and when I got to church Sunday morning I went into the associate Pastor’s office and asked him to pray for me which he gladly did.
Since I’ve been in ministry for some time, I know I’m not the only one who has experienced the pain of a father who has abandoned his family. I also know I’m not the only Christian who has reconciled with his father only to have his father turn his back on his family. While I’m still processing and healing from what happened on Father’s Day, I thought it would be helpful to share and discuss why the “father wound” is so prevalent in our day.
While my family has no explanation for why my father left, and we’ve tried to find out where he is. I do know that my father’s father (my grandfather) left his sons (my uncle and my father) the same way my dad did. As a child I heard this story of my grandfather leaving his family from my mom. After hearing that story I committed as a child at an early age that when I got married I would never leave my family.
While the memories are painful of my father leaving our family behind, the Lord truly blessed me with a lot of great godly men who’ve helped me to heal from the mess my father caused. In high school He sent several godly men who helped me through my parent’s divorce. After high school the Lord sent several godly men who showed me what it meant to be a godly husband. While I made a lot of mistakes after high school, the Lord was always with me and continues to woo me, amaze me, and overwhelm me with His grace.
Men, you may have a father wound in your life, and this past Father’s Day may have been hard for you. Maybe you have a father who abused you verbally, mentally, physically or sexually. The fact is the problem of absentee fathers is not going away and will continue to increase in our society.
My own father was a leader in his local church, an intercessory prayer warrior for Cleaning Streams Ministries, and helped train fathers to be better dads; however, he still abandoned his family. The point here is not to shame my father or his involvement in ministry, but to point out that just because someone is involved in ministry does not necessarily make them a godly person. Being a man or woman of God involves actually bearing fruit in keeping with one’s repentance and displaying evidence that one has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
The problem of absentee fathers is one of the effects of living in a world that is experiencing the consequences of the Fall. Thankfully the Bible doesn’t end at the story of the effects of the Fall but continues to teach us about how God sent forth His Son to be virgin born, live a sinless life, die a brutal death by dying in our place for our sin, being buried, rising again and ascend to the right hand of our Father in heaven. The good news for those who’ve experienced an absentee father is that our heavenly Father, who is the Creator, sent forth His Son Jesus to deal with sin and now longs to adopt those who have experienced brokenness (that absentee fathers cause) and bring healing to such brokenness through His death, burial and resurrection.
Many people who’ve experienced the fall out of an absentee father struggle with viewing God as loving. Rather than viewing God as loving, kind, good and just, such people view God as distant, unloving, unjust and not good. While this is understandable that people feel this way, and I myself have struggled with this at times, the Word of God teaches that God is the God of the fatherless. The Bible uses the word fatherless more than 40 times by more than 10 different authors from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
Psalm 68:5 declares that God is the, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” God said that He is the Father of the fatherless which means that God isn’t disinterested in those who are fatherless but rather deeply interested in those who have experienced the pain of a father who has abandoned his family. The Lord longs to adopt all those who’ve experienced the pain of an absent father and does this through the Gospel.
When God transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, He immediately places us into His family and adopts us as His sons and daughters. At the very moment this happens God who is sovereign in and over the entire work of salvation, no longer calls us His enemies, but His friends. This is especially good news for those who’ve experienced the “father wound.”
This past Father’s Day (June 17th) was one of the hardest days I’ve had in a long time. Whether it was thinking about my father or reflecting on the memories of the good and bad times I had with my father, I cried more that Sunday than I have in a long time. As I reflected on that Sunday I came to realize how much I have to be thankful for. The Lord opened my eyes even further to the Truth of the Gospel, even as He exposed the pain of hurtful memories in order to drive me closer to Himself. Through this situation, God also used my wife’s tender words of care and compassion to show me His love.
The “father wound” is becoming more real to many people every day as more and more adults are getting divorced. Divorce is causing many children to experience the father wound. The best way to minister to those who have experienced the “father wound” is to testify to the love of Christ (1 John 13:35; 1 John 3:18). Throughout the ages, one of the greatest witnesses to Christ has been the church caring for orphaned and disadvantaged children. By caring for the fatherless, the Church is not only following God’s command, but we are showing His heart to those who may or may not Him, as well as making the Gospel message more real to people.
As I’ve reflected on that Sunday, I’ve come to realize even more how precious the gift of God adopting me as His son really is. Instead of being under His wrath I am now under His grace and covered by the blood of Jesus, given new life through the resurrection and indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The story of fatherless is a sad story, but it is not the end of the story. The Gospel is supreme over the fatherless because God tells us that we have a Father in heaven who truly cares for us and sent forth His Son to bring reconciliation between fathers and sons through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel is good news for those who’ve experienced the pain of an absentee father because it tells us that we have a Savior who truly cares for us and who longs to adopt us as His own sons and daughters to love them, hold them, value them, cherish them and use them for His mission of seeking and saving others who’ve experienced the pain of being fatherless.