By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
If the thought of Father's Day brings a sting to your heart, you are not alone.
As I was interviewing women while writing my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, I discovered that the "Daddy wound" is very prevalent among women. Little girls who experienced abandonment, rejection, abuse or indifference from their fathers can tend to carry that pain with them throughout their lives.
If you are one who has never experienced the love of a father, or has been disappointed through unmet expectations or even hurt deeply by your father, you don't have to remain "stuck" in that place of heartache from year to year. You can free your heart from unmet expectations, pain and regret, as Stephanie, and countless other women have done.
Stephanie's father left her mother and abandoned the family when she was about five years old. Then after he remarried and became a step-parent to his second wife's children, Stephanie’s father started arranging for her and her sister to have weekend visits with him.
“While growing up, it was a rough relationship," Stephanie said. "I was mad at him, and he constantly put both my sister and me second to his new wife and children. From what I can remember, our conversations and visits were always hostile. I was very angry at him. As I became an adult I would get off the phone with him and cry or be really upset. I let myself be hurt by his empty promises to see me more or call more often to stay in touch."
But Stephanie had to free her heart from unmet expectations and resentment that was keeping her from moving forward in life. Today she knows joy and peace when it comes to her dad because she took a journey of forgiveness that you can take, too.
1. Forgive your father for the ways he has hurt you or not measured up.
We all have expectations of what we wanted from our dads. And when we realize they are human, and therefore sinners, just like us, we can extend grace for the ways they've fallen short, just has God has extended it toward us. Stephanie says: "It wasn't until I became a Christian that I realized I needed to forgive my dad. I wrote him a letter and said I was finally putting all this behind me. I forgave him for walking out on our family and told him I would like to have a closer relationship with him. He called and said he was shocked that I had held on to the pain of the divorce for so long. He thought I had let that go a long time ago. I was totally shocked to hear him say that! Apparently he hadn't noticed my anger through the years, or hadn't given it that much thought." It was then that Stephanie realized her Dad might never respond to her the way she had hoped. It was then she had to take the second step of forgiving her dad.
2. Face the fact that he may never become the dad you had hoped for.
Stephanie said her dad continues to hurt her in ways he probably doesn't even realize. "He still makes the same empty promises and says hurtful things, but ever since I've forgiven him, God has given me peace." As Stephanie learned, when you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean your relationship with that person will be fully restored. It just means that you will have peace for having extended forgiveness and you will be able to move forward with life.
"I was hoping for a healed relationship, but that hasn't happened, and it doesn't affect me as much as it used to," she said. "It still hurts, but I'm able to let it go and walk away calm. I'm at as much peace as one can be with the fact that I will always come as an afterthought with my dad."
Stephanie can say that, and still walk tall as a confident woman, because she knows who her real "Daddy" is. She knows she is loved and cherished by her Heavenly Father who wants to more than make up for what she never experienced with her earthly father. That was key to her being able to experience peace, in spite of her father's continued behavior.
3. Focus on God to fill the "Daddy void" in your life.
Scripture says we are all, by nature, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3), but God found a way to adopt us as His own. I used to envy adopted children because they could not say they were “accidents” or unplanned when it came to being in their family. Their adoptive parents wanted them so much they found a way to get them. Our Heavenly Father did the same for us. Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And Romans 8:15 says we have been given the spirit of adoption, through that death and resurrection that Christ endured on our behalf. That means you weren’t an unplanned or unwanted child. Even if you feel no one on earth really wanted you, God did. And He found a way to make you His own.
Scripture doesn’t just say we can call God our Father. The Bible tells us we have been given the right, through our adoption, to call Him “Daddy.”
Again, Romans 8:15 tells us we are given the spirit of adoption and “by him we cry ‘Abba, Father.’” The English word that is most close in meaning to the Aramaic word “Abba” is “Papa” or “Daddy.” Jesus used this affectionate, loving term for His Father when He prayed “Abba” or “Daddy” in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before He was arrested and crucified. In crying out “Abba” Jesus showed His dependence on Daddy while He was facing His impending death. We can call upon our Heavenly Daddy or "Papa" as personally as God’s own loving Son, Jesus, did. That is a privilege. That is affection. And that is love between a Daddy and His daughter.
Won’t you release your heart through forgiveness and then let your Heavenly Father fill that hole in your heart this Father’s Day?
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor's wife, mother, national speaker, and author of a dozen books, including Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, and When God Pursues a Woman's Heart. For more on her books, ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and walk with God, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Original Publication date: June 7, 2013. Photo credit: Unsplash/@kennangrams