When fathers aren’t as good as we’d like them to be

This is a post I wrote on Father’s Day in 2017.

Wishing all fathers a Happy Father’s Day as we celebrate Dads again today.

My own Dad died 29 years ago, just four months after my husband and I became parents. One of my most poignant photos is one of my Dad holding my son. Dad’s eyes are closed as if he is praying or quietly giving thanks for his seventh grandchild. I’d post the photo here except that it’s not the best picture of my little lad, who is looking just a teeny bit anxious at being somewhere other than in his mum’s or dad’s arms. It is sad that Dad died before my little boy could have come to feel more at ease in his grandfather’s loving arms … as I always did in my Dad’s.

How blessed I was to have a Dad in whose arms I felt safe and cherished and loved! My heart goes out to all the girls and women whose experience of ‘father’ has been something quite different. I’ve just read on-line about a fellow poet’s abuse by her father. It made me cry. The legacy such an experience leaves can cast a long shadow over a person’s life, as I know from an abusive relationship I found myself in in my teens. On the one hand, I don’t want to rake that up here in a post to celebrate the wholesome, even holy, legacy that having a good father gives those who are blessed to experience one. But neither will I fail to ‘weep with those who weep’ among my friends and acquaintances who have suffered abuse.

Several high profile cases in the news of late have stirred up many hurtful memories for me because of an unwise relationship I submitted to as a teenager. The flashbacks are filmic, and each mental ‘scene’ is felt as a shame-filled stab to my guts. Yes, the experience is that graphic and that  painful. But those episodes occupied just two teenage years of unwise choices that I myself made. How much more painful must such memories be for girls and women whose childhoods and formative years were marred by cruelty or invasion by their own parent, whom they should have been able to have trusted and looked to for protection, comfort and care … for pure and wholesome love. I genuinely do shed tears of compassion for my sisters who have suffered this way.

Sisters, may we all find healing and wholeness through the selfless love of a Good Man. I thank God that I had a Good Dad, and that my husband is a Good Dad. And I trust that the healing of damaged emotions and painful memories can be experienced, even after what is for me half a century of lugging the burden of abuse at the hands of another around with me. I know that such healing must come through forgiving the perpetrator. Forgiving is so hard to do, but so often abusers are themselves victims of defective parenting, or have suffered wickedness at the hands of others. And accepting that fact can help us to forgive … as we catch a glimpse of fellow-suffering in the face of our recalled abuser. So often they were as much ‘sinned against’ as ‘sinning’. Yes, forgiving difficult, but I guess it begins with a willingness to forgive.

Thank you, Father, for this revelation.

I choose to forgive.

I choose to forgive myself.

I choose to be healed.