After 50+ years of struggling with him for not actively participating in my life, I read a book that's a game changer. It totally altered my perspective about my dad. And about myself. Surprisingly, it's changed my mind about parenting. This nonfiction is The Father Effect written by my author friend, John Finch.
Initially, I met John on Twitter. His posts about a father wound caught my attention. I was intrigued that he created a book and film on this phenomena; children being raised without dads. For one reason or another, most children in our world are growing up without their fathers being involved in their lives. Either, the dad is living at home, but not emotionally or spiritually present, or the dad is physically absent.
Any which way we look at it, boys and girls need their daddy. They need the time, attention, and unconditional love of a father. Yet with the skyrocketing statistics of divorce, it's more common nowadays for kids to only be raised by one parent.
When children grow up without a dad being emotionally present, it can leave a hole in their hearts. It sends a mixed message with empty promises. And the truth is that actions speak louder than words. If a dad says he loves his child, yet he never takes time to be together, the words are meaningless.
As for myself, I've always felt rejected and unworthy by my father. It's left a gaping hole in my heart that at times feel as if it's oozing blood, guts, and tears. No matter how well that I've bandaged it, the pain seeps through. It can only be ignored for so long. Eventually, it turns into a full-blown festering wound. Buried underneath it is sadness, anger, and insecurities.
Welcome to the father wound...
A dark place where I'm engulfed with negative reminders that I will never be smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough. No matter how much effort, time, or creativity I put into it, my attempts to win my father's love will all be in vain. After a lifetime of failing to understand why my father wound grows larger and deeper, The Father Effect book sheds some light.
Behind the scenes of each family dynamic is dysfunction. Rarely, is it a one time event. Instead, it's become generational interactions and patterns that are unhealthy. This is how I discovered that my dad had the father effect. And his dad experienced the father effect.
So how can we expect our dads to be attentive, loving, responsible, and present in our lives if they never had a positive role model? What it comes down to is a legacy where fathers are missing in action. It's a learned behavior. Unfortunately, it's like a contagious plague that has infected countless families.
While we don't have control over the past, we do have control over our present moment. We can change our family legacy. The Father Effect placed each missing piece of the puzzle together to make logical sense. That despite our dad's not being there for us or giving us what we needed, we can acknowledge our father wound is real. Once we move forward to acceptance and understanding, we can seek healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
There is hope in healing the father wound...
After I finished reading The Father Effect, I noticed a shift in my attitude towards my dad. I was no longer angry with him for not living up to my expectations. Unbelievably, for the very first time, I placed myself in my dad's shoes. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My dad felt similar to me. He felt like his father rejected him, too. And he probably thought I rejected him, which instantly convicted me right on the spot.
In the midst of overwhelm, God softened my heart. This happened out of the blue. Without my willingness or awareness, the Lord started changing me. I kid you not, He literally melted my hardened heart. Had I not experienced it for myself, I never would have believed it were possible.
It's as if Jesus pulled the switch on me. Instead of my typical resentment, I began to feel empathy, compassion, and love for my dad. And I couldn't keep the tears from falling. It was a beautifully bittersweet moment of embracing God's grace.
A month later, the phone rang and it was my oldest sister, Debbie. She invited me to join her and our three other siblings to visit our dad who lives out of state. It would be an early Christmas celebration. She wanted to know if I would agree to go with them on this trip.
Instantly, I felt stressed out about it. I hadn't seen our father in over 3-4 years. Visiting him has always been a painful roller coaster for me. How do you connect to someone who has always been like a stranger?
A dozen negative thoughts raced through my mind. I had perfectly acceptable reasons to not see my dad. Of course, with Christmas only a few weeks away, a tight budget was my one concern. My other concern was fearing the unknown. My wild imagination had a way of getting ahead of me.
What if my dad doesn't remember me? What if he rejects me? What if this trip turns out to be a disaster? Am I setting myself up for a big disappointment? (My dad has advanced Alzheimer's so there are possibilities that he won't know who I am.)
Contemplating the pros and cons, I told my sister that I couldn't make it. Firmly, I stated, "No thank you, I'm going to pass on this invitation."
Immediately following this phone call, I sensed God was up to something. He was stirring. The Holy Spirit was on the move. Although I find it challenging to articulate this experience, I strongly believe the Lord was actively transforming me from the inside out. It didn't matter if I was willing or unwilling, He was doing what only He can do.
When I ponder what occurred, I have no logical explanation. This dramatic change was an act of God. It's a supernatural healing from Jesus.
Despite my stubbornness about attending this trip, Christ somehow changed my mind about it. During this transformational process, I sat still. In a puddle of tears, I stopped wrestling. I simply let go. It's like everything in me was emptied and refueled with a breath of fresh hope.
Even when I can't wrap my head around these amazing changes taking place, I'm grateful for them. I trust that I am doing the right thing by seeing my dad and making peace with him. Regardless of what the outcome is, I've humbled myself to release my father wound to God. Ultimately, having forgiveness and closure with my dad is my first step towards healing.
Today, if you've gone through life feeling rejected, bitter, or hurt by your dad, I recommend reading The Father Effect. If you are a dad or mom, this book has so many excellent stories and powerful lessons to gain new insight. With many broken and struggling families in our world today, this book can lead to healing, forgiveness, and restoration.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
For information on The Father Effect, here's the link: