Growing up this was always my favorite picture of me and my dad!
Can you see him? This photo was my proof that he really existed.
The picture above is how I always knew my dad.
He was nothing more than a remnant of a picture that had been torn up by a girl, trying to deal with the pain of being left alone with a baby at 18 years old.
He left before I can even remember.
I never heard from him again until I was twelve years old.
He burst into my life with the promise that I would finally be like everyone else, and no longer an illegitimate mistake.
I was excited by the possibility of having the kind of dad who could protect me from all the evil that had already touched my short lived life.
But those dreams quickly faded as I had my hopes crushed when he abruptly chose to leave again, without any kind of explanation, within days of arriving.
I never really understood why he left again, and I assumed it was out of cowardice. My mom said he told her he had to leave because we would be better without him.
I just couldn’t get past my own hurt to understand that he had been broken and hurt too.
To get past that pain that this kind of abandonment leaves on a child, I decided in my own heart that I would abandon him this time instead.
The song “Hit The Road Jack” became the anthem of my childhood and somehow it really did seem to dull the pain.
I couldn’t deal with the rejection I was feeling and so I turned my pain into hatred, and bitterness took hold of me and twisted it roots all around my heart until they became one.
I believed the lies that I didn’t need a dad and I was better off without him.
I grew up and was getting along fine in life with my own little family.
My kids had a dad who was very present – the exact opposite of the one I had.
Then one day out of the blue a few years ago, my mom told me she talked to him and he wanted to talk to all of us.
My immediate reaction was that I didn’t care.
Too bad for him! Finally the day I had waited for all my life was here.
I could reject him and let him see how it felt to be on that side of things.
So I didn’t call the number on the piece of paper.
(Although I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the only connection I had to him after all this time).
But something in my heart that was hiding under the twisted roots began to come alive.
After several months I decided I wanted to know why he left, and I wanted to offer him forgiveness because I knew it was the only way I could heal.
What I really wanted was to know why I wasn’t good enough for his love.
So I called him with trembling fingers. And I braced myself for another blow of rejection.
To say the call was strange is an understatement. I mean here I was listening to a stranger share his heart with me.
He kept wanting to make excuses for being gone, and I let him because as he was talking all I could hear was the same voice of rejection and hurt and abandonment that resonated in my head my whole life.
He shared a few stories of his childhood with me that made me tear up.
He told me stories about my grandma (his mom) that gave me glimpses of the kind of pain and hurt he grew up with.
His life was MUCH worse than mine in many ways.
As I let him talk, I was able to set my own feelings aside and in doing so I realized how sad I felt for this little boy who lived a life of abuse by so many.
Severe neglect was the constant theme of his childhood.
And nowhere in any of his childhood stories did I sense there was anyone who loved him.
I can imagine what if feels like to grow up feeling rejected and abandoned by those who are supposed to love you.
But never could I imagine the damage caused by growing up without love.
Although it was not perfect, I always knew I was loved by my mom. Knowing this made things a little better.
He didn’t get to feel this kind of love.
He was taught to be the man he is.
Today I realize that he wasn’t absent because he didn’t love me, he just didn’t have the ability to love me.
He knew it when he left.
And in some strange way, I think it was the most selfless thing he could have done.
You can’t give away something that you do not have.
I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to talk with him and hear his stories and tell him that I understood and forgave him for leaving.
It doesn’t change the past, but I pray for him now that he will know the love of the Father just as I have and he will one day be able to forgive himself.
Psalm 68:5 (The Message)
Father of orphans,
champion of widows,
is God in his holy house.
God makes homes for the homeless,
leads prisoners to freedom,
but leaves rebels to rot in hell.
If you are still dealing (or not dealing) with the hurt & pain that comes from being abandoned & rejected by your earthly father, I want you to know that your Heavenly Father has always loved you!
You might also be interested in reading To the Dad I Never Knew I Needed.