Fatherlessness… it’s an epidemic these days, or so it seems. There are so many children who grow up and live their entire lives with fathers who either never know them or pop in and out when it’s “convenient.”
I’m the child who never knew her father.My mother moved my sister, Janishi, and I back from California when I was almost two, and she says my father told her he would close up his convenience store(cue the cliched jokes about Indians with convenience stores) and come down. He never did. When I was really small, we had the phone number of his brother, and I remember calling them until they got tired of us and changed their phone number. We didn’t hear from him again until elementary school when my mother finally filed for divorce. He called once, I think, to make sure she didn’t want money from him. Janishi spoke with him. I didn’t. I was too afraid.
I remember crying a lot for him as a two year old. Having my own children now, I don’t understand the cruelty that could compel someone to put their children through that feeling of being abandoned and unwanted. I remember praying every night from a young age through elementary school that he would come back into our lives. That feeling of loss is certainly not one that I would wish on anyone.
When you grow up in an environment like we did, you kind of think that everyone lives like you, and it’s strange when you get older and finally realize that there are people and families like the ones on TV. Growing up, it was always just the way things were for us. It was strange to even think of a family with two parents in it.
I’m over it now, as much as one can be. It’s just something that happened. I’m writing this as someone who is no longer hurt by it and who feels better off for it. Going through trials you didn’t create for yourself does one of two things: matures you and makes you stronger or destroys you. It’s your choice. I chose to be stronger.
I chose not to be another statistic.Choosing to be strong and overcome the cards your life has dealt you doesn’t mean you don’t feel the full sting of the wound. Father’s Day was always particularly awful for me. I held back tears for years during those sermons. On top of that, it was always hard for me to see God as a father because my concept of a father was someone who was absent or unpleasant. I was stubborn and in pain, and I spent many nights simply crying out to God, telling Him that despite His protest that He could not be a real father to me, because for all He could do, He could not give me a hug when I needed it.
It was a constant struggle between feelings of abandonment and the resolve that I was doing just fine without a father. Over and over again, my prayers alone in my room would come down to whether or not God could fill the void for me, if he could make me feel alone no longer. It would become the age old conversation, until one day I was praying in the altar after a service. Our new youth pastor(who I had barely met and knew nothing about me at this point) had just arrived, and he was praying for his new youth group of 20 in the altar. When he got to me, he immediately asked this: “Do you have a dad? God told me you need a hug.”
God proved me wrong.He did care. He was there. He was listening. He still cares. He is there. He’s still listening.
I’m not saying I never struggled with any of those feelings again, but I could no longer question God’s legitimacy as a father. I could no longer question if He heard and would be there for me when I called.
Being free from anything is a process. It’s layers and layers of pain and acceptance and understanding, so even after all that God had done to show me who He was, I felt felt like half of myself, my identity, was missing. Over time and through prayer, God revealed to me that my perspective of identity needed to change. It wasn’t missing. It still isn’t. My identity is more than what has happened to me. I am more than the things that have occurred in my life. I also moved past a large portion of the pain as I chose to make prayer my “vice,” because while it may sound cliche, God really is better at distracting and removing the pain we feel than any vice could be, because once you’ve really been in His presence, you cannot leave without your perspective changing, and a change of perspective make all the difference.
My identity is what I choose for it to be. For me, I choose to be who the Bible says I am. I choose to live as best I can in love, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, joy, and self-control. I fail, but luckily, complete success also doesn’t determine my identity.
You see, who you are isn’t tied up in who your parents were, and who you are going to be is only determined by you. Whether you’ve been given the perfect role models or left with none whatsoever, the choice is still yours concerning how you will react to what life has given you. I’ve found that the more we struggle against our past, instead of accepting it, the more we become a product of its abuse. We have to acknowledge what has happened to us, decide it will not define us and go from there.
I am who I choose to be.The more we dwell on our pain, the more we allow it to control us. The thoughts that bind us, that make us feel worthless, have to be released and combatted with what we know ourselves really to be. We are not worthless. We are not forgotten. We are not alone. There are people like us everywhere, who have felt and been through the same things, and we are better for it. We choose to be better parents than the ones who have left us. We choose to be better spouses. We choose to be better.
We cannot allow our wounds to become an excuse to destroy our lives through self-hatred and the actions those feelings cause us to make. Instead, we must see them as a chance to prove that we are better and stronger than the cards we’ve been dealt. We must realize that through the acceptance of what has happened to us and through the telling of our stories, we set ourselves free. Through our declaration of strength and worth, we destroy the bonds of our pasts.
We all have a story to tell. Tell yours, and be free.