In my part 1 of this message I felt led to share the biblical experience of the father and son relationship. The intent wasn’t to suggest that all dads and sons fight or fail to have loving relationships. But the reality is, many men do indeed have embedded pain resulting from a failed or strained fatherly relationship.
It’s a hard realization to accept or even discover. Men usually brush off anything resembling emotion or hurt. The reality of it is, nothing gets swept away without leaving residue.
A physically or emotionally absent father leaves scars that may never heal. Those injuries don’t lay dormant. They fester over time, and expose themselves in various ways once the child has grown into a man himself.
My dad passed away in September 2016. I sat by his bed around the clock during his last days. He’d suffered from the effects of diabetes and dementia for years. Based on the doctor’s assessment, we knew he wouldn’t recover from a series of heart attacks and strokes.
During my vigil, I never prayed for God to heal him because I knew his time had come. I prayed my dad had accepted Jesus Christ into his heart, that God would give him peace in passing and that maybe, just maybe before he left this life, that he would utter the three words I’d never heard come from his mouth.
Regrettably, my dad would pass away without gracing me with a simple, “I love you.”
Did he love me? I’m sure he did. Just as he loved his other six children. But no one, not even the grandchildren or great-grandchildren had ever heard him express his love in words.
I always gave him a pass on it by claiming he showed his love by providing for his family with dedicated work. He disciplined us when we misbehaved, and got us to school and practices on time. That’s love, right?
Yeah, I’m sure he did.
It wasn’t until after his passing that issues from my life had begun to manifest themselves. Unfortunately, they also affected the relationship with my wife. I couldn’t grasp why I acted the way I did. I told my wife and kids that I loved them. I’d never deny them or withhold those words to cause them to wonder.
Yet, I recognized things in my behavior, my attitudes and my actions that still ran contrary to the error of my dad’s refusal to say “I love you.”
I was very protective of my father in life, yet in his death I was forced to accept the burden he’d placed on me from the beginning of my life and until the end of his. It was doubt.
Anyone who knows me, would say that there’s no lacking of self-confidence. But I must confess that in everything I’ve ever done, and yes, even in marriage, I’ve always waited for the other shoe to fall. Doubt had been my curse.
God has blessed me with the gift of a second chance at a loving marriage and a blended family. But, I could not and would not allow myself to open up to Leah. There were things that were best kept secret because she’d never understand. I didn’t trust her because of doubt. I just knew that if I ever showed vulnerability, the other shoe would surely fall.
I mean, how could I expect another person to truly accept me for who I was? After all, I’d only known a relationship of wondering whether my dad really did love me. I’d grown up in a home of silence. We didn’t talk about problems. We just got angry and silent. Nothing was ever resolved. We knew the problem was no longer an issue when we started talking again.
I’ve learned that this form of quiet rioting doesn’t work well in our marriage. But, I had doubt working against me. I was always reluctant to participate in conversations to resolve issues. What if the other shoe dropped? No, it was best to just remain silent.
While I’d learned to suck it up and be quiet, Leah was now being filled with the same curse I’d carried for most of my life – doubt. She was worrying herself sick wanting to know why I wouldn’t talk about things, or worse yet, what was it that I was actually thinking or scheming.
The irony was that although I’d pledged to tell my family that i loved them, saying “I love you,” had become a way to placate them on the surface. By withholding my feelings because I doubted Leah’s ability to understand, I was doing what my dad had done to me.
I needed healing from that pain of always doubting. I also needed healing from the rejection of wanting those simple words, but being rejected even until my dad’s death.
The only way to heal is to bring it into the light. I began to pray about it. Leah and I had both tried to pray together for a few months but were never able to do so. I tried but always felt like my lips were stapled shut. Openly verbalizing prayer with my wife before our Lord and Savior had consumed me with doubt. I tried for months, but just could not do it.
It was the day my dad passed away that I finally broke the stubborn silence and laid across her chest in open prayer.
I don’t resent my dad for denying me that blessing of hearing “I love you.” I grieve for his failure to overcome what had to have been his own doubt in openly expressing his emotions.
Men still think it’s a sign of weakness. What weakness is comes from a man’s inability or unwillingness to make himself vulnerable to those he truly loves. The most powerful way for a man to make himself vulnerable before his wife is through praying together.
Praying together has led me to a new ability to openly communicate with Leah without the curse of doubt threatening me that the other shoe will fall. It’s also helped me to bring light unto the pain carried from childhood. There was no physical abuse, but absence by those present can be equally inflicting.
I would’ve never imagined that the me as a little boy would affect me as the grown man today. The relationship with our dads is critical. It’s rooted in biblical significance and our God doesn’t take it lightly.
Men, it’s important for you to restore the relationship with your dad. If you’re blessed that he’s still alive, please pray about how to forgive and heal from injuries. Ask God to lead you into a restorative relationship with your father.
If your father has passed away before you were able to make peace, it is still equally as important that you forgive him. The curses and generational sins don’t end at the grave. But I assure you they will continue to affect you.
Men, I know it hurts. It hurts as much to admit as it does to endure. The only way you’ll move past this is to face it, forgive it and forget it. You and you family deserve your best – all of you at your best.
Break the cycle.