I am the child of a Latin single mother who loved me so much that she gave me life. Yet I had a couple of strikes against me. Not only did I have the stigma of being born out of wedlock but from an early age (three to four years) I knew I was different from the other kids because I did not have a father.
I did have wonderful uncles who loved me and were present in my early years, but they were not my father. This realization hit me especially hard one day when my cousin confronted me because I used to call his father “papi” (which is “daddy” in Spanish). This event was like a sword that pierced my heart. My cousin told me that his father was not my father and I better stop calling him “papi.”
When I was twelve years old, my biological father came looking for me. Within three months he and my mother were married! You can imagine what a change that was, adjusting to this man who had been absent during all the formative years of my childhood.
Until that point I had a good view of the men in my world. When my father showed up things changed. There he was, a strange man in the house who insisted on respect without earning it. He was a strong and demanding figure of authority.
After twelve years of absence, I wanted to seize the moment and know my dad. But he was unable to give me the attention I longed for. He wanted respect but did not otherwise engage with me. Though physically present, he remained emotionally absent.
He was unable to affirm the woman that I was becoming. I began to distrust this man who made promises and did not deliver, a man for whom I could not do things well enough. An alcoholic with erratic behavior, my father was unpredictable. I never knew what to expect.
Such drastic experiences altered my view of God. Does a distant Father-in-Heaven treat me in the same arbitrary way as my biological father?
Years later, I pursued healing for this distortion of “father.” One of the first things I had to surrender was the profound anger towards my father and God. I felt cheated by them both: by my father for not helping me grow as his daughter and by God for letting things happen as they did.
Because of my feelings toward my dad, I always felt on the defensive toward him. This prevented me from receiving any good he was able to extend to me. Renouncing the anger and laying it down at the foot of the cross was an act I had to do more than once. I asked the Lord to show me all the resentments rooted in unforgiveness toward my father. Only then did I begin to be set free. I forgave my dad over and over again, and decided not to hold him captive to my resentment. That was hard because I thought that by releasing him he was off the hook.
Early on I learned that we “act out” our wounding. Knowing a little of my father’s past opened a window of mercy toward him. As God was kind to me in my wounds, I chose to be kind to my father who also carried many wounds from his early life.
I also learned that the only one who could fulfill my deepest longings for affirmation and love was my Heavenly Father. This took the load of expectations off my dad and put them in the cross where my Heavenly Father gave His only Son for me.
As I have progressed in my healing, I have grown closer to God the Father. It has been a process of gaining confidence in Him and learning of His character through the Word. Now I wait on Him to reveal how He sees me, and experience His love in the silence of His presence. At first this was not easy, and I would go back to my old ways of thinking. But as I persevered and spent time in His presence, a transformation of mind and heart occurred. I could experience His love and care for me; I could see His hand upon my life as He provided all that I needed, including my emotional needs.
I see the effects of my healing process in simple but compelling ways. One day when I was walking to class, a man offered to carry my bag; I was able to receive his help. I am now able to ask for men to help when I have to move something heavy. I am able to request feedback or counsel from men related to my car or other decisions. Also, I am able to receive the kind words or compliments of a friend. I do not dismiss them anymore but receive them.
These may sound like simple examples. Yet I have found that it is in the small, everyday things that I most see God’s healing power and presence.
Most of my life I was reluctant to depend on men. I thought I was self-sufficient, and determined that I could do whatever a man could do, maybe better! I have learned God wants us to be part of a community. I traded my “lone ranger” approach to life for integration in community. That has been important in healing my lack of fathering. “Father figures” who invested in me have been fundamental. I am a member in full of the body of Christ! It is where I experience the Father’s love.
As I continue to walk my healing out in community, I know I am still a work in progress. My continued involvement in the Living Waters community provides a place where I can submit to God’s promptings when He shows me areas where I still need healing. I feel confident that my Heavenly Father has my best in His mind and heart. I receive His love daily through the Word, the church and the community of believers who seek His face.