I was 16 years old. It was a hot summer day. Just a month or so before, my dad had been arrested for his perverted crimes. I was sexually abused by my father throughout my childhood. I was totally oblivious to what was happening to me until a month before my 16th birthday.
The man that was supposed to be my hero, my mentor, my protector... betrayed me. He used me to fulfill his selfish, perverse desires.
I was left to deal with life without him. Attempting to learn how to navigate the vast amount of emotions his sins left behind.
"I HATE YOU!" I cried out. My hands raised to the afternoon sky, curled up in fists as if I were about to go twelve rounds in a ring with my worst enemy. I was running around the side of our house into our backyard. Anyone watching or listening probably thought I having a complete meltdown.
"Do you hear me? I hate you. Stay out of my life. Stay away from me."
The tears streamed down my face as my angry rant towards a clear blue sky ended.
So much for the promises of God being a loving father, I thought to myself.
Where was he when my dad began to abuse me? Forcing me to do the things I had to do?
Where was he when things were done to me? WHY DIDN'T HE INTERVENE?
Ha. Good father? What a joke.
Sounds like a pretty deadbeat dad to me.
Where was he now, in the aftermath?
Why does my heart hurt like this?
If you love me, then why?
What did I do to deserve this?
"I hate my earthly father and I hate you, whatever it is you claim to be."
That afternoon took place almost 14 years ago. During that time, my life has drastically changed. But one thing that hasn't changed is the pain.
My heart still aches... it still hurts. Bad.
But before I dive into how my heart can still hurt & yet also have healing, hope and joy at the same time, I want to make a couple points regarding my earthly father.
If you are reading this, I want you to understand that these words are geared towards those who are fatherless or, as in my case, those whose fathers are so evil that you have often wished that you had been fatherless.
I want you to know that I sympathize with your pain. The role of a father is a vital, precious role that is far too often forsaken by men that love themselves more than they love their own families. My heart breaks for you and I hope that you can find the healing that God has graciously allowed me to begin to discover. The healing that God longs to provide for you.
1. Don't feel guilty about being angry.
Listen to me very carefully. Or, more accurately, slow down and read the next sentence for understanding.
IT'S OKAY TO BE MAD.
When I reflect back on what my father did to me, what he did to others, It makes my blood boil. It's a natural reaction to the evil and perverse actions that he took.
If your father hurt you, abused you or betrayed you in some way then it’s okay to be angry.
In fact, it would be unnatural if you didn't feel a sense of anger.
Far too often, I feel that forgiveness is misunderstood.
Forgiveness does not mean, "You cannot feel anger."
Forgiveness does not mean, “Forget what happened to you and never be angry or upset about it ever again.”
Forgiveness means, “I will not seek revenge. I will not direct my hurt or my anger towards the individual that harmed me in a manner that would intentionally bring them pain. I will pray that my enemy finds grace and forgiveness in Christ.”
So if you find yourself reflecting over the pain you have experienced in your life because of your dad this holiday weekend, go pick up some boxing gloves, head over to your local gym and beat the crap out of a heavy bag.
Then leave that anger there, inside that gym, directed towards the crimes that were committed against you. Walk out with your head high, knowing that those wrongs do not define you, your anger does not control you and Christ can heal your heartache.
2. Understand the difference between anger and bitterness.
Anger CAN be healthy. Bitterness, WILL be deadly.
Bitterness is always harmful. It is a poison that will seep into every area of your life and slowly destroy you.
Bitterness allows hate to become the sole motivation behind your actions. Bitterness sets out to destroy the life of the one that wronged you. But along the way, you will hurt those that you love dearly and you will ultimately suffer far greater than the one you are attempting to hurt.
I lived like this for years. I would think, "If I did this, how much would it hurt my dad?"
Meanwhile, he sat in a prison cell hundreds of miles away from me, totally unaware & unaffected by the choices I was making.
I was destroying my own life and causing immense pain to the friends and family that cared about my well-being.
It's okay to be angry over the sinful actions of your father but don't let bitterness get a hold of your heart. No healing comes from seeking revenge. No void can ever be filled by hate.
3. It's okay to grieve.
It’s more than okay. It’s healthy.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were watching a TV show together. A rather sad scene was unfolding before us. One of the main character's dad had cancer and was on his deathbed. It was obvious that this was their last conversation. His father's final breath was near.
Something inside me was triggered by the scene and before the father passed away I began sobbing uncontrollably.
Watching a man be able to treasure the final conversation with his father broke my heart. It hurt to know that I may never grieve the loss of my father. I may never be that close to him. I might not want to be at his bedside when he takes his final breath. Everything in me wishes that things were different.
I wish that he was different. I wish that he had been a godly, selfless father whom I could look up to and long to follow in his footsteps.
But that is not my reality and I can grieve over the absence of a father in my life
I will admit, breaking down like I did while watching a tv show is pretty rare for me. My wife said afterwards that she had never seen me cry like that.
In reality, I wasn't crying due to anything that was happening in the show. I was weeping because my heart still hurts over the loss of my father in my life. The wrongs that he committed against me and my family hurt deeply.
Those wounds will not be fully healed this side of heaven.
I don't know your situation. I don't know the wrongs that have been committed against you. But I do know that sometimes the healthiest thing in the world is to put your head against your pillow, or on the shoulder of your spouse or closest friend and just weep.
Let the tears roll. Let your shoulders shake.
Let the hurt out.
Only then can the healing start to begin.
4. It's okay to miss him.
Long before my father was arrested, his selfishness created a massive void in my life.
God wired us to long to have a relationship with our father. This is why people will spend years searching the earth to find their biological parents. They want closure. They want to fill the void that exists within them.
The reality is, that even after all the evil that I experienced at the hand of my father, no amount of anger can fill that void. The hate I was filled with for so long did nothing to erase the hole in my heart.
The absence of a father in one’s life creates a longing that can often result in extremely confusing emotions.
How can I miss someone who did such terrible things to me?
Why do I find myself longing for his presence in my life?
Why do I still care about him?
At the same time, I wish that he had never been a part of my life.
I wish that I had never known him.
I wish that he had never hurt me or anyone else.
These are questions that don't always have answers. But it is okay to feel those things.
My dad may never be an active participant in my life.
He may never have access to who I am or what I'm doing.
But that doesn't mean that every now and then some part of me might wish that things could be normal between him and I. Sadly, he blew that opportunity, not me.
While it is okay to miss your father, no matter how evil of a man he is or was, it is vital to remember that you must set boundaries in order to protect your wellbeing. Stand up for yourself.
5. The sins of your father do not define you.
Sometimes, the most frustrating part about my dad being my dad is the fact that I’m his son.
I can’t escape that fact. I’m even named after him. My middle name is his first name.
Obviously, I have his last name. There were times where I considered changing both of them to escape the reminder of who he is… of who I am.
Ezekiel 18 has been a great comfort to me. Verse 20 says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
No matter how much that I hate that I am his son. No matter how much I wish I could change the reality that he is my father. I can take refuge in the fact that I am my own person.
I will be judged for my own actions. There is no free pass and I believe that generational sins are a very real thing.
I must be diligent and live a life that is completely above reproach.
My father’s crimes do not define who I am.
My legacy is my own.
There is another Father that will never fail you.
Be mad, but don't get bitter.
I'm not crazy if I miss him.
So what, Travis? None of that makes this holiday any easier.
None of this heals my heart.
Where is this hope you talked about?
Several months ago, I came across a passage in Isaiah that changed my life.
"I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3
The reality is that in the darkest moment of your life, God was present.
The reality is that darkness does not exist in God’s presence.
Your darkness was light to Him.
He could see the big picture. He allowed those evil things to occur for a reason.
Treasures of Darkness.
I've grown to love that phrase. What an incredible promise.
My God loves me so much that he can turn the most perverse actions committed on the darkest of nights by the very man who was supposed to raise and protect me and turn them into a treasure more valuable than any earthly possession.
"...it is I, the LORD, the GOD of Israel, who call you by name."
He knows my name.
He calls me out by name.
He longs to heal my broken heart.
He can handle listening to me rant and rave about the wrongs committed against me.
He longs to help me move forward to a place where I can I forgive my father.
He catches my tears in a bottle.
He values justice.
He longs to be the father that I find myself longing for.
How have I found hope?
By running into the arms of the very one who I cried out against so many years ago.
That's the beauty of this Father. He can take those rants.
He saw my anger and in his grace and mercy did not strike me dead. He listened. He heard the cry of my angry, broken heart.
He had something far greater planned than I could ever have created for myself.
He let me run for a while.
He stood watching, waiting to save me from complete destruction.
There were plenty of other hateful rants against him along the way.
I cursed his name in word and deed. I betrayed him in every way possible.
I took everything He had ever done for me and I threw it in His face in disgust.
Then, in the moment when my heart was at its lowest point, when I was about to succumb to the darkness that had been enveloping me for all those years, He showed up.
Along with all my angry rants, there were plenty of times where I had begged Him to show up.
I had pleaded for Him to take away my pain. To heal my heart. To remove my addiction. To fix me.
I was always met with silence.
Until it was His time.
In His moment, He showed up.
He revealed himself to me as the loving, gracious, forgiving and perfect Father that He is.
Virtually overnight, He transformed my life.
The healing process is still ongoing. The hurt, oh, the hurt, is still so very real.
It may never go away.
But I have hope.
I have hope in knowing that the darkest moments of my life were light to God.
I have hope in knowing that in every one of those moments, He was there with me. His Light was present. He was weeping as I suffered, holding back His righteous wrath while I was wronged all because He knew what I did not. He knew what was best for me.
He knew that I could survive even when survival seemed impossible.
He knew that one day I would stand and share my story of hope, healing and restoration.
He knew that one day my life would change and that I would raise my hands to the sky again.
They are no longer curled up in fists, they are wide open in worship declaring Him as a good, good Father.
Shift your focus from your earthly, pile of crap dad, to your heavenly Father.
Run to him with all your hurt, hate and baggage.
He can take the darkness and turn into treasures of light.
I've celebrated 4 anniversaries of my 25th birthday. I have an amazing wife & an incredible son. God is transforming my life and I love to write. Here you will find my ramblings about what God has done, is doing and my dreams of what I hope He will do in the future. Thanks for coming along for the ride!