Sigh. I left last week’s blog conflicted. I’m usually the person who looks at things from multiple angles, wanting to be sensitive to everyone’s perspective. But last week, I simply longed to encourage the dads in our lives.
Being a dad is hard. It’s often a thankless job. I desperately wanted all the fathers in our circles to be remembered for their strengths and celebrated for their efforts, and not have to balance that message with acknowledging that not every father has been a good dad. No one gets better with criticism and most parents don’t get encouraged nearly enough.
Yet even as I clicked Send, I thought about the young woman who doesn’t have a father in her life. I imagined the boy who sees the dads of his friends cheering them at the game and wonders why he couldn’t have one. I thought of the adults who still had fathers present, but the wounds from their relationship run so deep that you wonder if it would’ve been better to have a hole than a wound.
What if your story isn’t of a dad who made you feel like you could do anything?
As that question reverberated in my mind, I couldn’t help but think about my husband’s own journey with his father. I met Chris when he was 19 and I realized pretty quickly that his relationship with his father was a source of pressure and pain. If you’d asked me in the first 20 years of our relationship what would happen when Chris’s dad passed, I would’ve told you that it would be another very painful part of Chris’s journey because of a father wound that ran deep. But God intervened and wrote a new ending.
If your journey with your dad (or any close friend or family member) is one of deep pain, I want you to know that God still does miracles… and that isn’t dependent on the family member getting their act together. So, if you’re tired of waiting on that person to change, I want to encourage you to consider how to navigate a painful relationship.
1. Evaluate whether the pain is from the past or the present.
There’s a wide spectrum of unhealthiness, so please understand that healthy boundaries are of the utmost importance in these situations. It’s one thing to forgive someone of something in the past. It’s entirely different if they’re continuing that unhealthy behavior in the present. Discern which applies to your situation so you can proceed wisely.
2. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.
Hurting people hurt people. Sometimes the people who hurt us are incapable of making things better. Yet you can still change your future. Love yourself enough to invest in finding the help you need. Personally, we’ve found that a multiple-day intensive is much more productive than a one-hour-a-week type of counseling. The investment is more than worth it.
I remember the day Chris went to breakfast with his dad after having worked through much of his pain. His intention was not to rehash the past, but to offer his dad the opportunity to build a new legacy with our children. Looking back, it was a defining moment that began a journey of immense healing.
3. Look higher than your earthly father.
This is a fallen, broken world. People will disappoint you. The words of Psalm 121 are words I cling to when pain runs deep. The first two verses read:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Our Heavenly Father, the One who made heaven and earth, is who we have to help us through this world. Our worth and our value are not determined by the approval of man, but by our Heavenly Father who has already established that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.