Innocence can be gone before you know it was ever there.
I would be years discovering the likeness I shared with my father. He wasn’t there the day I parted the atmosphere of this world but, his DNA was. He showed up when I was five, after I had already noticed the life other kids were having with their dads. And, feeling the absence and emptiness of something I couldn’t understand.
Where would I get the vocabulary to define the jubilation of his embrace, warm smile, and sense of belonging his presence invoked? The promises he made of our future together sent new flesh competing to cover my barren bones. Gone was the hole inside I had fallen into many times. Those choking and gurgling sounds, emanating from the empty chair at the table of my broken heart, vanished.
I had arms to run to, a man to play ball with, and a father who would teach me to fish. I would snuggle up close as he read me a bedtime story and tucked me safely in for the night. My imagination freshly supplied with thoughts and feelings of completeness. The two hours of ecstasy shattered into so many pieces I doubted ever being able to collect them all when he walked out the door, never to be seen or heard from again.
The search became a life sentence of exploring the bitter taste of unanswered questions. My virtue, significance, and contribution remained locked in the haze of not knowing who I am. The lack of affirmation, clarity, and sense of worthiness had stolen my identity. Titles and achievements introduced a synthetic and manufactured life. Hyper masculinity chased authenticity away. Intimacy resided in Neverland.
Nameless drivers dictated shallow comprehension of deep maladies. Brokenness was my brand! I didn’t even know what was wrong. I only knew something was askew. The innate whisper clamoring for satisfaction. I feared the feelings of abandonment, rejection, and not being enough. These are the marks of the fatherless. A man will battle to be praised and a woman will struggle to be valued.
Fatherlessness is pandemic. Where’s the healing? The remedy? The anecdote? I believe there’s a great restoration ahead among the sons and daughters rejected, abandoned, and violated by their fathers. Those which have recreated the pain in their own lives by the stories they wrote about their life events. Maybe even passing the devastation on to their children.
When my daughter announced that I would have a grandson, with the plight of the fatherless threatening his well-being, pure desperation set in. For months, I contemplated his arrival. Aware that his father’s decision to not be in his life would brand him in many ways. While I had gained much ground in resolving my own inner conflicts I still had work to do. I determined to change the legacy brand of our family.
Hopeless to rearrange the past; helpless to alter my failures; working with perceptions that had consistently left me short, I stepped into the unknown – the safest place I had ever been. I had been in ministry for some thirty years. I Pastored churches, travelled as an Evangelist, both here and abroad. And, I was broken. Holding the fragments of a life undone, I wanted what I knew was there.
When I held my grandson in the delivery room for the first time, I heard the unthinkable. As I showered him with affection pouring out my love, and reaching for his soul, I knew exactly how my Heavenly Father felt about me. I was not without a father. Nor, had I ever been. My mind wanted to argue for my tradition. I was too messy for the purity of divine intention. But, I was wrong. I had been wearing an illegitimate brand.
The repetitive phrases that pounded against my soul were only lies, borrowed from human defect, and plagiarized as my own. How I thought about myself is not the way God thinks of me at all. I rewrote the stories of my life events to reflect a more accurate accounting of the things that had happened. Living out of hurt and despair had not allowed love to reset the perimeters of my life.
A missing father easily translates into a missing God. My father was out there, somewhere. I met him. He was real. He was there. Just not there for me. Likewise, I knew God is real. I experienced Him. And yet my inability to believe He was there for me, at the deepest levels, always left me wanting. I discovered unlimited grace, unconditional love, and it changed my brand. I became the father I never had and the father I never was.
I’m living the legacy I want to leave.
Rick Amitin is the author of “IF ONLY I HAD A DAD: Finding Freedom From Fatherlessness and the Companion Workbook of the same title.
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