Over the weekend, I attended a beautiful workshop that took a good hard look at our father’s ancestry, using this history as a springboard to facilitate greater well-being through acceptance and forgiveness of this man in our lives. The attendees included a wide range of practitioners including a Medical Doctor, several Psychologists, a Naturopathic Doctor, Massage Therapists and other practitioners of various types. All gathered together for one reason, to become better practitioners and facilitate greater well-being in those we love.
To begin the workshop the facilitators asked us to reflect on our father as a provider and protector. How did he fulfill these roles? Immediately, the childhood hurts were palpable, evidenced in the sighs and downward glances. It was exceedingly apparent that the attendees all had “daddy” issues to one degree or another. I too, struggled with this question. My own father certainly had his battles while alive, which in turn affected our family profoundly. Ironically, or perhaps by the great design, this experience with my own father led me to seek solace in Catholicism where I met my eternal loving Father. It would be here, inside the church where I would come to experience protection and provision that only God can offer. I now give gratitude for the heart pains and unfulfilled dreams I held as a little girl. This pain, in part, set into motion the journey that led to my acceptance, forgiveness and love for my earthly father.
So who is this first man in our lives, the man who we would measure all other men against? Where did he carry the pain handed down to him from his father and his father before him? Did he succumb to alcoholism, drugs, workaholism, anger, rage, control, indifference, apathy, or perhaps was he not present in the lives of his children? To accept him as he is lends itself to our own self-acceptance. After all, we are half our father. His blood runs through our veins and we carry his DNA. To fight against these facts creates struggle within. Can we be free of the struggle to accept him as he is? Can we be free of the need to expect more from him then he was given from his father?
Accepting our father does not require our agreement with what he may have done and it most certainly does not give him permission to hurt us again. After all, some fathers have done some very horrific things to their children. However, Jesus calls us to love and forgive one another proclaiming that our Father in heaven causes good things to happen to both the righteous and unrighteous. Yes, our Father in heaven loves all of us unconditionally, even the father who has wounded his child deeply. So how do we move beyond the pain experienced at the hands of our father into acceptance and forgiveness?
Perhaps recognizing our father, given his life experiences up to this point in time, is doing the best he can do will prove helpful. We are all affected by the relationships we share with others and these relationships, in part, mold our behavior. Fathers are no exception here. However, for the Christian, knowing our father was created in God’s image further poses the question “How can he hurt his child so?” How could this first man in our life, who is created in the image of an all-loving God, cause his child so much pain? There is only one answer here my friends – sin. Sin causes death, death of the love God intended to live between father and child. Sin is the foundational piece that creates the life experiences in a father’s life that leads him to hurt his child in the manner he does.
As Christians, we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin – tough words to live by under normal circumstances. And now, we are talking about “daddy” issues here… oh my that is a tall order. Perhaps reflecting again on the fact that our father was created in God’s image will help here. This creation proclaims that our father’s heart is good, unfortunately, it has been hardened by sin to one degree or another. It is helpful to recall here that only God has access to the deepest recesses of our hearts. We do not have the insight into our father’s heart to understand why he does what he does, in turn, no one else has this insight into our hearts (whew!). We will never fully understand why our father does the things he does. Maybe it’s time to stop asking why our dad behaves in the manner he does and stop focusing on the pain, after all, where can that road lead? It certainly does not lead to resolution and healing in our heart. Let’s start asking how we can transcend the pain. I believe it’s time to explore new ways of forgiveness and accept what is. I invite you to join me.
Only God offers the true path to forgiveness and acceptance through His son Jesus Christ; however, it is up to us to seek Him. Inside of Christianity, and I believe inside Catholicism in particular, we are presented with a multitude of avenues that lead to the healing our heart cries out for. I have personally received significant transformation in my heart as the result of daily Mass attendance and reflection of the daily readings while in Eucharistic adoration. Healing happens when we are in the mist of the great physician – God himself. Receiving the ultimate medicine for our heart in the body and blood of Christ is beyond our measure or comprehension, yet we are invited to partake. God has a plan for our lives, and that plan is for our joy and happiness. As Jesus said, “I have said these things to you so that I may have joy in you and so that your joy may be complete” In other words, we will only find complete joy in Christ Jesus, the Christ who desires a deep and abounding joyful relationship with us. (John 15:11)
Perhaps our earthly father struggles finding the freedom and joy his heart desires; however, the father love that only a sinless father can offer is available to each and every one of us. He will protect and provide abundantly for His children who seek Him. Seek and we shall indeed find. The key is perseverance my friends, never, never, never stop seeking him. Remember, our Father in heaven is close to the brokenhearted. At those moments when we need Him the greatest He is there. One of my mottos is “when the going gets tough, the tough go to Jesus”. Through continually seeking my Father in heaven, I now experience acceptance, forgiveness and love for the earthly man who gave me life, my dad, Harold Lee Bullard. May his soul rest in peace.