- SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL FATHERING
- SOMETIMES WE GOT STUCK IN THE PRISONS OUR FATHERS BUILT
- THE HEALING PROCESS
- THE FATHER YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED
The emotional, physical and spiritual challenges of situations where children without fathers have to grow up, are in general described in literature as enormous.
The demands that it brings are high and without the necessary support systems the results are usually very negative.
Chiles (2013:126) explains something of the effect in the following words:
And the results of a child being raised without his father’s involvement can be just as devastating as a plane with one wing.
Bradshaw (1996:144) draws attention to clinical studies indicating that where a father is absent, children often find it difficult “…learning to delay gratification.”
With the result that there is often in various situations then poverty and shortage and that the children then try to find anything they can lay their hands on while they can.
Such children are also, according to Bradshaw (1996:144), vulnerable for feelings of inferiority and shame.
It has also been shown that the absence of a father often causes his children to feel a deep sense of shame.
He says that the latter was especially also true about himself:
I was constantly reassured by my mother that my father loved me – a reassurance that never felt right, as there was no behaviour to prove it. My father’s abandonment will always be a deep wound I have to live with (Bradshaw, 1996:144).
Since the writings of Sigmund Freud (1933) the father-son relationship has often been characterised as one which is intertwined with tension and discomfort.
Contemporary academic literature about the nature of the father-son relationship is inclined to accentuate mainly the critical role which the father fulfils with reference to the way in which the son sees himself as a developing adult (e.g. Mormon & Floyd, 2006).
According to Eldredge (2003:197) most men have experienced something of a ‘father wound’ in their process of growing up.
Diamond (2007:161) describes the ‘father wound’ as “…an internalized, unresolved conflict between father and son.”
Levant (1996:263) went so far as to suggest that ‘father wounds’ can be so severe of nature that it can be described as ‘normative developmental trauma’.
Miller (2012:197) contends that the phrase ‘father hunger’ can also be seen as supplementary to the phrase ‘father wounds’:
Though the father wound may include a sense of absence of one’s father, it may also indicate a deeper psychic injury: Frankly, it can be likened to a physical wound that is in need of healing… the father hunger construct provides additional evidence regarding the potentially detrimental effects of having a physically or emotionally unavailable father.
Buske (2007) accentuates basically the same point of view with his use of the phrase ‘father need’:
Fathers are indeed needed and necessary. Fathers aren’t optional. Only fathers can father and only he can bring his uniqueness into the child’s life and well-being.
Eldredge (2001:62) argues that a boy learns from his father and also other men whom he really is and what his masculinity really implies:
A boy learns who he is and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women.
For numerous mothers it is thus a critical phase when the father starts to replace her as the focus point in this boy’s life.
Sometimes a father walks out on his family and then such a mother places pressure on a son to fill the vacuum his father has left behind.
Such a situation can actually develop into ’emotional incest‘ with intense emotional damage for the son.
The son thus battles internally with a question for which he is looking for an answer and this answer his mother is not able to give.
Femininity can never bestow masculinity. My mother would often call me ‘sweetheart’, but my father called me ‘tiger’. Which direction do you think a boy would want to head? (Eldredge, 2001:64).
A. SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL FATHERING
Dr Ken Canfield is involved with the Theological Faculty of the Fuller University in Pasadena, California
Together with a team he is also involved on part time basis in a project which is trying to bring street children into contact with their fathers who are in prison.
In September 2013 he delivered a paper at the International Conference of the AACC in Nashville with the theme: Spiritual and emotional fathering: Gateways for growth.
This was a very powerful and inspiring lecture and regarding this theme I would like to share with you some of the material that he shared with us
There is no perfect father – neither I nor you can be one, but the goal is to move one step forward from where we have received the package from our fathers.
Further I must always keep in mind that my father was also someone else’s son and that I do not know all that happened in that home – every person has a story and we must never forget that.
With all of this in mind it is sometimes necessary to say to your child:
“If there is anything in the past that I have done up to the present to keep you from fulfilling your Godly calling and to fully live out your talents /gifts, then I want to ask you today: forgive me!”
The fact that you as father will be willing to be humble and admissive in this way, will also be a conclusive component of your own healing process.
If you can also break through the barriers that possibly were between you and your own father, then this will to a bigger extent also make way for God’s stream of blessings on the relationship between you and your children.
For children to be able to experience positive emotional fatherhood, it is essential that the following aspects in their relationship with their fathers will be in place:
- A sense of closeness
- Warmth – this realises for example by touching your child – the coldness and numbness of fatherhood can take over if you do not attend to this.
- Attachment – on a very deep level there is a bond that could already have been established during pregnancy and enhanced thereafter [cf. in this regard Ken Canfield’s book: Forming a lifelong bond, 1998. Published by National Centre of Fathering. Also freely available in e-book at http://www.amazon.com/Forming-lifelong-bond-Adventures-fathering/dp/B0006R2YNI
Fathers who are exceptionally attached to their children:
- Demonstrate patience and tolerance and little irritability
- Expresspleasure through interaction with their children and show feelings of satisfaction and competence
- Have feelings of love and pride with reference to their children
- Joy – a fresh emotion that needs to be expressed regularly.
Opposite of the above, it is a fact that adult men, who have experienced an emotional vacuum as children of uninvolved or absent fathers, or have been spiritually and emotionally abandoned or abused, might suffer from certain typical results like the following:
- Emotional turmoil
- Loss of security
- Sexually acting out behaviour
- Destructive behaviour
- Memory loss and ‘higher measures of shame’
- More vulnerable for fear, lack of security and anxiety
- Bigger probability of leaving school early
- Big inclination to crime
- More inclined to substance abuse
- Battling with gender identity
- More susceptible for group pressure
On the contrary, fathers who have experienced lots of inner security in their relationship with their own fathers usually are more:
- Experience more positive marriages
- More positive in their interaction between work and family
Dr Wilder, a brain specialist and friend of Dr Ken Canfield, accentuates the power of joy very much. He is quoted by Dr Canfield regarding the following aspects:
- The joy factor enlarges the front right hand side of the brain with reference to capacity and functioning – therefore is it so important that joy will be a permanent component of your interaction with your children.
- It feeds and endows the emotional system – in this way investments are deposited into the child’s emotional system from which can be drawn especially in times of crisis in the future.
The child’s emotional tanks are filled and if he/she is with the back against the wall in 10 years’ time, then they can draw from these ‘deposits’ in order to fulfil their personal calling.
- It strengthens the child’s faith.
The Luke Evangelist makes a great deal about joy – with reference for instance to the birth of John, the angels said to John’s father, Zachariah, in Luke 1:14: “He will be a source of happiness and joy for you, and many will be happy about his birth…”
Further the joy factor in Luke is emphasized for instance when a lost sheep has been found (Luke 15:7) – lost coins (15:10) and a lost son (15:23).
Therefore, as far as our children are concerned we must not let opportunities pass to
speak joy, for example with the birth of a child, the first day of school, first day in high school, matric farewell, first national certificate, etc.
We must also never neglect giving full recognition when they perhaps had made mistakes and then could rectify it again.
Dr Canfield also quotes research affirming that children who have found joy and closeness in their fathers:
- Are twice as much inclined to go to college/university/technikon after school or find a stable job
- Have 75% less chance of having a teenage pregnancy
- Have 80% less chance to spend time in prison
- Have 50% less chance as the average person to experience depression.
An important question that everyone should ask him-/herself is the following:
What influence does the closeness that you had with your father, have on you as adult?
How would you, for example, respond to the following statements:
- I knew how my father felt about me
- My father supported my interests
- It was easy to become close to my father
- I enjoy thinking back about how my father treated me
- I sustain regular contact with my father
- I know how my father still feels about me
- I experience peace with reference to my father
If your answers are positive regarding most of these statements, then it indicates a near and close relationship with your father.
Men who, for example, have had a close relationship with their fathers are inclined to:
- Less unhealthy extra-marital sexual behaviour
- Less involvement with pornography, sexual fantasising, masturbation, etc.
That close bond, warmth and joy related to a fatherly relationship thus helps to develop sexual self-control (sexual addiction is such a problem today among men!)
A further positive result: men’s marital satisfaction factor is significantly higher.
From this we would be able to come to the following important conclusion:
You and I are thus already busy creating the atmosphere of the homes of your children and grandchildren!
Ken Canfield tells about a friend of his, Bop’s, gripping story.
Bop grew up with an alcoholic father who regularly assaulted his mother.
One specific evening when Bop was about 10-years-old, there was again, like usual, chaos at home.
Father was totally intoxicated and went berserk and assaulted Mother, and in his drunkenness turned the whole place upside down.
He stormed out of the front door, jumped into his Buick motor car that had been parked in front of the door and raced off.
In all this chaos little Bop ran out through the front door in confusion and fear and climbed into the tree in the front garden.
When Father had raced off with screeching tyres, little Bop shouted in raw anger after him: “I wish you were dead!”
Later that same evening his father died in a motor car accident and little Bop had to say farewell to his father’s dead body – naturally with overwhelming guilt feelings which kept haunting him in the years after: “My words were the cause of my father’s death!”
Bop eventually grew up as a rebellious and furious teenager who was regularly
involved in many fist fights and was deep inside aware of a deeply rooted anger against his late father.
Eventually he also became an alcoholic which led to all his relationships degenerating into chaos.
But then, somewhere in his thirties he one night experienced a very vivid and clear dream: he dreams he is again 10- years-old and he again sits in the tree in the front garden of the home where he has grown up, full of anxiety and fear, and his father’s Buick comes driving in through the front gate.
He says it was so clear that he has asked himself: what is busy happening here, because he was at this stage not totally certain any more if he was still dreaming or awake.
He says that he quickly climbed down from the tree and ran to the car and he then saw Jesus sitting behind the steering wheel, and Jesus invited him and said to him: “It’s OK, Bop, get in – you can ride with Me.”
While Bop was telling this part, he started crying uncontrollably. Ken than asked him: “And what did you do then?
And Bop then said:
“I climbed in… and that trip gave me the opportunity to receive healing of that piece of my broken life in which I have just been busy all the time beating other guys up with my fists and my words and my deeds.”
In the process Bop eventually experienced total forgiveness towards his father, and he could also make peace with God and the world around him, and eventually also allow God to introduce him to a totally new spiritual season in his life
Research shows that 80% of all young people in the USA’s prisons come from homes without a father
According to Canfield (2013) in Los Angeles 40% of prisoners or their family have already been in prison before.
On the question: “What breaks this cycle?” Canfield’s answer is from practical experience: “Only another father who arrives to do that which all fathers ought to do!” (2013)
He says that they are experiencing revival in prisons all over the USA due to an organisation that is focusing on children, who have never seen their fathers (or have not seen them in years) especially in urban areas, and loading them into busesto transport them to prisons to meet with their fathers for the first time, or again after years.
Sister Susan, a Roman Catholic nun, is the driving force behind this bus project and her motto is: “We must accumulate more buses so that children can get to their fathers.”
The prison authorities were not in favour of this project initially because it implied paperwork for them.
However, this group of team members’ attitude was: “So what!”
Canfield tells about a case of a big, tall, well-built black man, full of tattoos, who had started attending classes in prison around the theme of fathering.
This man converted dramatically at a stage and gradually became more panic stricken as the date approached on which he would see his little daughter on a prison visit.
The question with which he battled the most, was: “How will I get this thing done? I myself did not have a father!”
He had a beautiful little daughter who came to the prison on one of these occasions with one of the buses of the organisation – she had not seen her father in a year.
The prisoners and children were separated initially by a glass window, but at a stage she spotted her father and started yelling and screaming through the glass window amidst of everyone: “Daddy, daddy!”
And when this rough, big, tough man, whom everyone in prison feared, heard his daughter’s voice, then everything became too overwhelming for him and emotionally he totally collapsed.
He literally fell to the prison floor and lay there weeping uncontrollably for a long time.
Dr Canfield said that this little girl just called him whom he really was: “Daddy!” – and that made his heart melt totally, to such an extent that he could not control or repress his emotions.
Some of the other guys, who were watching stunned, said afterwards:
“If we just had known how easy it actually is to make this hard guy as meek as a lamb, then we would have called him ‘Daddy’ a long time ago!”
Then these fathers have three hours with their children, and they have been thoroughly prepared beforehand because they had received lessons.
They play games together and each also received a Bible before the time to give to his child, and to lead his child to the Lord.
And then it is as if in some wonderful way something of the prophecy of Malachi 4:6 is repeatedly being fulfilled:
“Elijah will reconcile fathers and children so that I do not need to come and destroy the land totally.”
Ken Canfield then emphasizes the following five elements as very important with reference to the process of fathering:
Ken says that he himself has grown up in a broken home – his father was in full time military service.
During his late twenties Ken radically converted and after that he was of strong opinion that that was actually also what his father needed in his life.
As a result, he confronted his father with this option and this led to his father hitting him to the ground with his fist.
Later years Ken had prayed a lot about how he could rectify his relationship with his father again.
The Holy Spirit then reminded him of a certain incident when he was 16-years-old where he had said a humiliating thing to his father.
He says that he has only seen his father cry twice in his life, once when his grandmother passed away (his father’s mother) and the second time was that day when he has humiliated his father by what he has said to him.
At that occasion his father asked him: “Do you think that I am just a stupid factory worker?”
Ken says that with his own confusion and rebellion with which he had battled during his puberty at that stage, he answered obnoxiously: “Yes, you are a stupid, foolish factory worker!”
The only reaction from his father to this was that he only started crying and walked away, and Ken then thought to himself that his father was gradually just losing his mind.
Later years Ken had just forgotten about this totally, but as he had prayed for the recovery of the relationship with his father, the Holy Spirit had brought it back again very clearly, and he picked up the telephone immediately and made an appointment with his father to get together on a specific weekend.
That specific weekend they got together and at a stage they decided to drive off somewhere on their own.
At a certain point Ken pulled the car off the road and asked his father:
“Dad, do you still remember when I was 16 and at the dining table called you a stupid, foolish factory worker – do you still remember, Dad?”
His father was quiet for a while and stared out of the motor car window and then said after a while: “Yes, I think I can remember that.”
Ken had written a few books and articles already at that stage and his mother was informed about what he had already reached in his career and what he was busy with – has father, on the other hand, never asked about what he was doing.
His father has been a Christian and sometimes watched Billy Graham’s broadcasts.
Ken then asked his father there in the car if he would be able to forgive him:
“Dad, I did not respect you and behaved badly towards you – will you be able to please forgive me? I realise I was wrong that day and you were very tired, and I am so extremely sorry about my behaviour.”
After quite a while his father answered: “Let bygones be bygones – let’s forget about that.”
Ken still insisted: “But will you forgive me, Dad?”
After 15 minutes that felt like eternity to Ken, his father said: “I forgive you!”
Directly after that his father changed the subject with the question: “By the way, what do you do?”
In other words, when healing came, and his son showed him respect as a person as well as his job, then there came a mutual respect and interest.
Here it is about aspects like support, showing empathy, recognition and then promotion of the work of others.
How often do you say encouraging words to your children?
The recommended ratio is 7/1, in other words, for every fatherly word of criticism, you have to speak 7 other positive words to maintain a healthy balance.
Col 3:21: “Fathers, do not always find fault with your children so that they become despondent.”
Thus, rather focus on speaking blessings and be careful with behaviour that leads to depression and irritation (Gen 48:10; Eph 6:1-4: Col 3:21)
This, amongst others, includes physical touching and the affirmation of the inner bond that already exist (or not).
Self-control is also very important in this case, in the sense that fathers will model how to control emotions.
The focus is here on disciplining and directing (Hebr 12:5,6)
Where children had grown up without such models there usually is chaos.
Teaching could take place through an e-mail or by your example or testimony – in the long term it will bear fruit.
- SOMETIMES WE GOT STUCK IN THE PRISONS OUR FATHERS BUILT
In his book with the title, Released from the prison my father built (2010:14), James Ryle says that his father had spent a big part of his life in prison – James, together with his three brothers and sister, was sent to an orphanage.
During his puberty James became more and more rebellious and resistant and became involved with drugs and the wrong friends.
Under the influence of alcohol, he was involved in a motor car accident at some stage
in which someone had died and that lead to several years in prison.
In prison he experienced a period of intense spiritual growth which eventually ended in full time ministry after his release.
Later James developed a strong need to make contact with his father whom he had seen 20 years before.
In their first conversation he asked his father where he had been in prison, because he knew that they had both served time in Texas.
It seemed that his father had been in a different prison from James – his father also wanted to know in which prison James had been.
“I was in the Ferguson unit, close to Midway, just outside Huntsville,” James answered.
With this, James said, his father’s facial expression had frozen immediately – where he was curious at first, he was now totally surprised – his mouth fell open and he stared at James in disbelief.
After gaining control of his emotions again, he had spoken the words, James reported, that will stay with him for life: “My goodness, my son, I have built that prison!”
“What? What do you mean, Dad, that you have ‘built’ that prison?” James asked.
“They made use of prisoner labour when they built the Ferguson unit,” his father answered. “I was the welder in the team – I welded the bars when that prison was built.”
James Ryle then tells how he heard the voice of God in the front garden of his father’s house that night:
James, I have set you free from the prison your father built. Now I will use you to set others free from prison’s their fathers have built. Go home to your friends and tell them what great things I have done (Ryle, 2010:18)
He said that after that experience he was able to look at his prison experience in a symbolic way for the first time – something that had such a huge impact on his life and something that could have an even bigger impact on other people’s lives.
Eventually James’s own story and testimony had become a very powerful message with a phenomenal impact on the lives of thousands of other men.
This message was focused on men and sons (indeed also on women and daughters) who are still trapped in emotional prisons (some even in physical prisons) due to wounds caused by their fathers’ behaviour
As James puts it:
It is a staggering truth that the way we love our kids, will either build bars on their future prison cell or set them free into the adventure that God has designed for them (Ryle, 2010:126).
James Ryle eventually became a well-known international speaker with an extra-ordinary passion for men
He is also one of the founding members of the movement, Promise Keepers, who eventually also started branches in numerous countries.
It is a Christian organisation especially aimed at a spiritual ministry for men and boys and to lead them to Jesus Christ as Redeemer and afterwards help them to grow as Christians.
One of the historic events they have organised, for example, took place on the 4th of October 1997
Their aim was to gather 1 million men and boys and initially Billy Graham had been invited to be the main speaker
When it seemed that he already had other obligations, James Ryle was invited in his place as the main speaker
James then delivered his personal testimony at this event in front of 1,4 million men which eventually became the biggest gathering ever of men during peace time
God blessed this occasion in a very special way and an enormous spiritual chain reaction developed from it
A question that gradually became more critical for James Ryle during most of his per-formances:
“Which prison are you in? What is your cell-block called?”
Or according to him an even better way of formulating it:
“What name would you give to that particular thing that keeps you locked up?”
And then James usually explains that aspects like anger, covetousness, fear, sexual perversion and loneliness can all be examples contributing to the fact that people cannot truly be emotionally and spiritually free.
In numerous cases it seemed from people’s life stories, that such negative emotions and behaviour have its origin in broken and painful relationships with a father figure.
- THE HEALING PROCES
Why should I think of my father at all anyway?
He had abandoned me years ago and emotionally broken me down and most of the years since then I have tried to forget about him – why now dig up the past again?
The psychiatrist David Hart (as quoted by Stoop, 2014:189) puts it as follows:
Many people fear that if they face the unacceptable, they will become it. The exact reverse is true. If you’d not face it, you become it. It will always be lived out in one way or another…
In his book, Making peace with your father, (2014:190) the Christian psychologist, Dr David Stoop, tells that he himself had been one of that group who refused “… to face the unacceptable”.
His father died when David was 22-years-old and one of the results was that David had put him on a pedestal, idealised him
Thus it was easier for him to ignore the fact that he was actually for the biggest part of his life, up till his father’s death, experiencing him as an absent figure
As his own family has grown with time, his frustrations increased more and more around the fact that he was unable to be the father that he would have liked to be.
The image of his idealised father eventually had fallen flat and then he was forced to deal with reality
The problem with trying to keep our fathers in the past, is that the unresolved past is never really in the past (Stoop, 2014:190).
David says that, as a result, he found himself where he would act as well as say things exactly the way his father had done it
It was exactly things that he had promised himself he would never do the way his father had done it
Eleven guidelines by Dr David Stoop
With reference to this, Stoop (2014:193) says that he had learnt in the upbringing process of his sons to focus firstly on the age of the relevant child when he as father had possibly experienced a serious struggle
After that, he starts focusing on the relationship with his own father when he (David) had been in that same phase of development as a child
A further aid in our search for understanding our own symptoms, is to focus on the men in our lives to whom we looked up as ‘father figures’
Who were they and what was there around them that had spoken so much to us?
The best approach here is to talk to other family and extended family members
Ask questions about different phases of your own childhood
Look again at photographs you may have of yourself as a child and also ask to look at photographs your family members may have
If your father is still alive and you are able to have contact with him, then try to spend time with him too
If you are able to have a conversation with him, ask him about those early stages of your life as well as with reference to his own childhood and experiences with his father
Make notes about how you experienced your father and the symptoms in your life that could refer to him
Myths are in general not the truth
One of the easiest ways to identify family myths is to observe what happens when a member of a dysfunctional family succeeds in breaking away
Family secrets are usually more difficult to identify than myths because nobody ever talks about them and they are thus hidden
Talk to the person who is always pointed out as the black sheep by the family
Very often this person had received this stigma exactly because he/she was not willing to play with according to the rules of family secrets and myths.
As you become more comfortable to discuss your father issues, it has become time also to share it with someone inside your family of origin
Start with the person you feel safest with – maintain a calm pace and take your time
See if the person will be able to listen to you emphatically, or on the other hand may possibly attack you because you ‘dare say such things about your father
The important point what this is about, is the fact that there is being spoken about that which had never been spoken about before
This aspect is of critical importance during the mourning process – we cannot mourn losses if we do not have clear insight about what we have lost
By rewriting our past, we help ourselves to define our losses – it helps us to find clarity about that we wished we could have had
It even helps us to understand what we could have experienced presently
When we rewrite our history then we can eventually get a grip on the specific results of the absence of a father in our lives
To process anger is an important facet of the grieving process.
To a large extent, making peace with our father is a matter of working our way through the grieving process (Stoop, 2014:208)
Stoop points out the following important aspects of the grieving process:
There are no rigid rules about how long this waiting period must be
One sensible principle is that we must at least wait till our strong impulses and need to act have subsided
A further general rule is the fact that the earlier the emotional wounding occurred, the longer the recovering period will be needed
After all the pain of the past there is often a natural urge for revenge
It is important to allow God to let justice be done on our behalf and not take it into our own hands – our part is just to forgive
How do we know if we are ready to take this step?
“We know we are ready to forgive our father for the hurts of the past
when we are able to be comfortable expecting little or nothing from
him in the present and in the future” (Stoop, 2014:222).
It is only after we have completed the step of forgiveness, that we are ready for the step of confrontation: to go to our father and tell him what we have discovered about our own life and also about his role in it
If we would change around the order, namely to first confront before we have forgiven, we will unavoidably have expectations which will make us vulnerable for disappointment and further pain
The important point is further to invite our father, as well as other family members, to join us in our journey to healing and recovery
Facilitation is usually necessary
After we had acknowledged the pain and anger and dealt with this and removed it out of the way, we will find that we most probably have moved passed other family members, including our father, in our emotional growth
In this case God is mercifully using me to terminate the cycle of intergeneration sin and pain that could have played a big role in our family
We then become the trend setters – the changes that could take place in us, through grace, then become the basis on which our whole family can build
A very interesting thing often takes place interior of persons as soon as they have reached the point where they can sort out their father issues: it is as if they suddenly finally feel like adults.
Thus, by dealing with our father issues, we liberate ourselves to speed up our emotional growth process
We look at all the pain and wonder what purpose did it actually serve?
It all seems to be so useless
In reality nothing can be further from the truth – God can eventually let new sense and meaning flow out of everything that happens to us
Every experience, positive or negative, eventually attains its final meaning from the
way God uses it in our lives
Ask God to show you in which way He wants to recreate the pain of your past and use it to enhance the healing of others.
- There is a heavenly Father who cares about every broken person
It does not matter which type of earthly father you have had or not have had, your Heavenly Father has sent His Son to enable you to eventually have the Father you have always wanted
And on the cross of Golgotha the father of lies, the false father, was at last overcome and the way was paved for each broken son and daughter back to the house of the Heavenly Father
- Everywhere we look around us we see Father wounds
Numerous people became wounded through their relationship with their earthly fathers, or due to the absence of a father
The result hereof is that many of these individuals struggling with a distorted father image, also have a negative godly image
What will actually be the correct and real image of our Heavenly Father?
To find a vivid and clear image of Him, we will first have to get rid of all the broken ‘father filters’ which most of us carried along into adulthood (McGlasson, 2013:50)
These broken ‘father filters’ are the result of all the negative experiences with our own fathers
When all the emotional pain has healed and our father image repaired, then we can look at the Heavenly Father as Jesus came to reveal Him to us
Philip said in John 14:8-9: “Lord, show us the Father …” on which Jesus answered: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”.
God the Father is himself the source of understanding with reference to what fatherhood is really about, and in Jesus Christ we found an embodiment of it
- Elder of 90-years experiences a spiritual breakthrough
In his book, The father you’ve always wanted, Ed McGlasson (2013:27) tells about a seminar he had presented at a certain church, and after one of the lectures one of the elders of the congregation also stood in the queue to see Ed
… he was last in the queue and someone who was already 90-years-old
With eyes full of tears, he told Ed that his own father had never told him that he loved him
The result of this was that this man, in the educational process of his own children, had never told them that he loved them
… he said that he had felt he did not have the ability to say those words because he himself had never heard them
… as a result he had also accepted that he in this case had nothing to offer of what his children had a need
Ed said that he had then prayed with this man and he could just experience how the love and blessings of a Heavenly Father descended onto this elderly man
His tears turned into sobs as God’s love filled his heart
At last he looked up and said:
“I am going home and for the first time I am going to tell my daughter, who is 68 years old, that I love her!”
And he also did that – he told her all the things that he had so desired his own father would have told him
And it eventually led to his relationship with this daughter being transformed for ever
And then Ed accentuates it when he says: It is never too late for God!
If I as a father do not have a meeting with God the Father on a regular basis, then I eventually transfer all my painful baggage to my children and grandchildren
Sometimes excuses are used like: “Well, his generation of men did not share their emotions openly.”
It may be true, but that does not help at all to bring healing for the wounds of a son who is still waiting for the blessing of his father
- Ed McGlasson (2013) tells how he as a young boy has humiliated his stepfather at a stage when he has stumbled over his words and Ed has said to him: “That’s stupid!”
Before Ed could say a word further, his stepfather hit him in his stomach and
told him angrily: “Son, never again dare to show me disrespect or otherwise the
results will perhaps be much worse!”
This was a humiliating and traumatic experience for Ed that stayed with him
Years later Ed’s son had made a similar remark about something Ed had done: “Dad that was a stupid thing to do!”
Without thinking, Ed said, he grabbed this boy and threw him onto his bed and
shouted at him; “Don’t ever talk to me that way again!”
He said that while he was walking out of that boy’s room that day, he shivered because of the violence that suddenly exploded in his hands and in his words.
This was the son he loved with his whole being, and still his tone of voice at that moment was cruel and murderous.
Numerous fathers can testify of similar incidents – in the heat of a moment you sometimes see how the worst of your father streams through you involuntary in words or deeds towards those whom you actually love so dearly
If we ourselves are thus deeply wounded, it is very difficult to be healthy enough to give direction in a loving way without wounding the hearts of our children, or to push them away
Ed says that we then become dream killers in the process, in the same way that our
own dreams had sometimes been destroyed in past in relationships
… and those losses and pain and humiliations have never been handled
Is there perhaps a wonderful dream or hope that had died inside you in the same way somewhere in the past due to painful performances by your father?
Are there possibly similar dreams that are dying inside our own children at present?
Ed says that he was only able to really bless his family when he was willing to allow the revelation of the Father’s love to pierce through every part of his broken soul
I was only able to bless my family when the Father I always wanted changed my story – He increased my capacity to love others the way He loved me (McGlasson, 2013:156).
- A cry for help from a 41-year-old woman
Ed tells about an email he received sometime from a 41-year-old woman who told him that a friend had given her his book, The difference a father makes, as a gift
She says in the email that she could only read two or three sentences at a time and then was so emotionally overwhelmed every time that she could not read further
She also tells about one relationship after the other that has fallen apart in her life and through which the initial abandonment by her father just increased every time
She says the previous evening she had sat in her car for four hours crying and writing farewell letters to her family and friends
In the end she could not think of a suicide method that would be the least painful
“A gigantic unfulfilled longing to know a true father’s love has caught me… My inside exhaustion of trying to keep going without being anyone’s daughter, is my time bomb.”
She tells further that she had seen Ed’s daily devotion on her cell phone the next morning while still in her car, and that had prevented her in the end to take her own life.
She asked herself: “How does he know the Father so well??”
And then she added:
“Ed, this may sound dramatic, but I WANT TO KNOW HIM MORE THAN I WANT TO BREATHE!!”
God the Father knows our pain, our losses and our disappointments and He desires to heal our brokenness
The next step is to bring your pain and wounding to Him and to admit that we are still carrying wounds and scars with us related to our own father or other father figures in our lives
This can lead to one of the most redeeming moments of your life when you open yourself up totally for the experience of God the Father’s love
The father of lies will in the meantime do anything to still keep you imprisoned in the prison your earthly father had built for you
God however, made a way for each wounded child to start over again
This all begins with a life-changing encounter with a new Father who says:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11).
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