When I was born, I’d like to think my dad was the first man I saw, and maybe that would explain why I didn’t expect much from men from a very young age.
My dad has had his problems ever since we came to New Zealand – gambling, smoking, drinking, anger problems, and verbal and physical abuse toward our family. Sometimes I don’t see him for days, and if I do, I choose not to talk to him. To say the least, my relationship with my dad is non-existent. He had lost my trust and my respect early on. We are, quite simply, strangers living together.
My relationship with my dad has affected me greatly, in many ways. Because my one with him was one of verbal and physical abuse, I didn’t have the security and trust that I needed. And so, I ran to every guy that I could find from a young age to fill that missing void in my heart. If they showed me the slightest amount of affection, I would give myself over to them. I had the lowest standards you could imagine. I was a desperate and lost girl who didn’t know what a true man’s love felt like.
“If her father has not been there for her, she is starving for love, and she’ll give herself to boys in the hope of finding it.”
Stasi Eldredge, Captivating
What was left for me was anger and bitterness. Anger that my own dad who was supposed to love and protect me, didn’t. Anger that one of the reasons I lost the innocence of my childhood was because of my him. Bitterness that I couldn’t have someone I could proudly call my dad, particularly when I see other people who can.
I realized that the truth is, if your dad has treated you badly, you will allow other men to treat you badly. If your dad didn’t show you a father’s love, you will try finding it somewhere else, in other equally flawed men. Your dad is likely to be the first example of a man you will ever know – if he set the standard low, you’re going to go through life with low expectations of every other man. It’s a sad and vicious cycle, one I am all too familiar with. When I tried looking for some kind of love from a man, what I came away with was more disappointment and a deeper void.
If you have been in an abusive relationship with your father, or see him being abusive to the people you love, know that there is absolutely no justification for the evil actions he did. But sometimes, in order to come into a place of forgiveness (and not justification) for what he did, there needs to be a revelation of why he did it. It has been a very, very long and hard journey for me, but I have come into a place of forgiveness for my father after years and years of imprisonment in anger toward him. One of the things that really helped me understand where the abuse came from is realizing that my dad lost himself along the way and never found himself again. Maybe he was abused by his dad. Maybe generation after generation practiced this abuse because it was the only way they knew how to show love. One night, before my dad hit me me, he yelled at me, ‘Why don’t you love me?’ I reflect back on that moment now with revelation instead of pain. My dad was trying to win my love back by being abusive because he saw that as a form of love. As twisted though it may be, it was what he was raised to understand. It’s devastating to see that what happens is just another generation of hurting families.
I believe that when it comes to letting go of what happened to you, there does need to be a time for you to be angry and to grieve the dad you never had. You have been robbed of a childhood, you have been robbed of a loving home and you have been violated and scarred. But when you hold onto that anger and let it boil into resentment and bitterness, then it can become dangerous. This is where I believe that nothing can heal that hurt and anger more than God, your real Father, can.
Someone once said that your father isn’t your birth dad, but the one who raised you. God is that father for me. And even though my dad broke me, my real father picked up the shattered pieces and put me together again.
It’s easy for me to hate men, to become bitter, and to become filled with anger. But when I reflect back on my father-daughter relationship with God, I find redemption and peace. Trust me when I say, and will always continue to say, that the longing in your heart for a true man’s love can only be filled by God. He understands and sees the pain you have been through and His heart is filled with pain because of it too. My friend once profoundly said to me, “I think God would have loved to give you a happy family.” It broke me, and it still breaks me, because I know that each one of us are not meant to experience such hurt inflicted by our birth fathers. I think it makes God angry and sad that this imagery of a father in our world is a broken one. But, only He and He alone can redeem that imagery if you acknowledge Him as your real dad, immerse yourself in His love and know that He will never disappoint you as one.
I remember after a night of violent abuse from my dad, I felt so alone and scared. I couldn’t stop crying. For some reason, I started to pray in the midst of my darkness. All of a sudden, I immediately stopped crying. I felt a peace coming down on me and I knew without a doubt that God was in this place with me, comforting me with the real Father’s love. He is in your hurting place with you, too. And I feel that if there is anything you can take away from this, is that God has been present in every moment of abuse you have had to face and in all the moments you felt lonely and afraid. God was there. God was present.
For the first time in my life, I feel a compassion for my dad. An understanding that I have never felt before that maybe he was only trying to love me the only way he knew how. Since forgiving him a couple of years ago, there has been a restoration that has been poured by the Holy Spirit into my household. I believe that when you come into a place where you truly have a revelation of the Father’s heart, God will give you the strength to forgive and pray for the people that hurt you. Of course, it’s a journey – and one that I am still on.
The first man you saw may have been your birth father, but the first person who saw you before you came into this world was your real father. Your God, your papa, has loved you since the beginning of time and into eternity – and as you are honored to be called His daughter, He is honored to be called your dad.