I am a broken man: damaged by neglect and abuse, afflicted with drug and alcohol abuse, acquainted with depression and mental illness. I come from a long line of broken men. My grandfather fled his native country for the promise of wealth in America at a young age only to be entangled in organized crime. He sent his son (my father) away to boarding school only to be reunited on holidays. My father grew up to be an angry man and took this anger out on his children. Neglect and abuse were the primary memories of my youth.
At forty years of age I looked great on the outside: a professional engineer, a home in suburbia, a leader in my church, a beautiful wife and three above-average children. However, on the inside I was angry and abusive to my wife and children. I was anxious, fearful and alone. My wife wanted to have a fortieth birthday party for me but couldn’t find enough people to come.
Only by the grace of the Father did anything change. He pursued me even in my brokenness. At nineteen years old, in the depths of drug abuse and the death of a friend, I surrendered to Him and cried out: “If you can change me, I am yours.” Little did I know that these words would unleash the Father’s love for me far beyond my capacity to earn His approval. There I was at forty, in the midst of a broken marriage and tearful children. I was angry at myself for failing them and considered taking my own life. I cried out to Him: “I will live this life of misery; only give me the strength to stop abusing my family.” Misery was all I could hope for.
But the Father had so much more. Jesus said to me, “Stop looking at your brokenness and start looking to me. Practice my presence and I will replace the dark with the light.” The next day, under the shade of a birch tree, I experienced the Father’s love for the first time. After twenty-one years of trying to gain His approval, at the darkest point in my life, He gifted me with His love. From that point, everything began to change.
Receiving the Father’s love is a process. He has healed many wounds and uncovered many misconceptions. Even though my mind received the truth about the Father’s love, my heart was certain that all fathers were like my earthly father. This is the ultimate expression of transference; applying the experience with someone from the past onto someone in the present, even God. This is only overcome as the Father pursues us and we learn to welcome His love; then we can differentiate Him from our past experiences. But the heart is slow to learn.
One of the early ways the Holy Spirit identified my father wound was through experiences at work. I remember a season where I would sit in meetings with my peers and find myself feeling like a teenager among men. I was too hungry for my boss or other authority figures to affirm me. The antidote for this insecurity was the fighting Father, but it was also the fighting brotherhood. One man in particular in the church called me into true fellowship. I met with him and a small group of men for many years. As a group we learned to be real and vulnerable with one another. We learned to affirm the good in each other and help each other identify and walk out of old broken ways of relating. These men helped re-father me. I am grateful for them. I would not be the man I am today without their loving friendship.
A few years ago the Father gave me a word as He often does to guide my year. That year the word was “follow the ancient way.” I had no idea what it meant. As I prayed and looked through Scripture I came across Jeremiah 6:16: “Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” In my struggle with anxiety I was always looking for rest for my soul. So this Scripture was very intriguing.
So what was the ancient way? Further prayer and study lead me to Deuteronomy, because it was the only book of the Old Testament available to Jeremiah. In it I read the explanation God gave the Israelites regarding their wanderings in the desert for forty years. Deuteronomy 8:3: “He humbled you and tested you so that you may know in your heart that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (paraphrased).
During that year I was overwhelmed by anxiety brought on by increased responsibilities on all fronts. The Father said, “I am wringing anxiety out of you.” A pleasant thought? I felt I was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. The only way I made it through the day was by waking up early (not a problem because I couldn’t sleep) and reading and claiming Scripture about the Lord’s good purposes for me. I also received the continual love and support of my wife and friends.
It took many months to walk out of that place. But I came through it with a much deeper dependence on the Father. I realized that all my life I had been avoiding the very things God wanted to use to grow me up and make me His man. Now I am starting to believe the words of James 1:2: “Count it pure joy, brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” As a result I am experiencing less anxiety and more peace. I am able to make decisions in my family, ministry and work without the fear of man and for the benefit of others. My influence and authority at work and in the church are expanding seemingly without any effort of my own. I am becoming the man I always wanted to be. It’s so exciting.
I am so grateful to Jesus and the Father for making a way for me. All I have is a result of their grace and truth. Over time He has restored my family. My wife is now my best friend. She says our relationship is the safest place in the world. To my children I sowed anger where I should have sowed love. Yet God is healing my children’s father wound. They have grown to forgive me and receive my love as well. My son says that he knew God was real not because I had it together but because he saw God changing me. Thank you Father for fighting for me!