Father-Wound (Father-Hunger): An ongoing emotional, social, or spiritual deficit that is ordinarily met in a healthy relationship with your dad. ~Darrin PatrickWe were sitting at the food court eating Chick-Fil-A in the mall when that conversation took place. We hadn't know each other more than a few months and headed down two rather different paths: She was engaged and I was (still am) very single. But the topic that came up was like a punch to my face, because I just wasn't expecting it… in a smelly, greasy food court none-the-less… with a person I hadn't actually know for very long.
Our dads. That quickly became the focus of this dialogue. She told me her story, and I told her mine, really quite shocked at how similar they were… and that she was really the first person I had told about those bits of my life. I guess my gut thought was I had nothing to loose in sharing with her. After all, she basically poured out her heart to me, including the ugly part, and to not do the same seemed dishonoring of the trust we were building rapidly. This was one of those moments where you come away knowing that it was orchestrated by God. And since then the subject of fatherhood and dad's has been gnawing away at me, like an itch that won't go away.
Father hunger plagues seemingly all (some more than others), both the young and old, who fill our church's pews and community groups. The most extreme cases are those who grew up in homes where dad is linked to cruel abuse. Some of us though had dads who provided for us but were not emotional, mentally, or spiritual invested or present in our lives. Others had parents who divorced or dad's who didn't love our mothers well, and so now we're really confused and (honestly) fearful about marriage ourselves. Some of our dads handed us a standard of perfection to meet, which has lead to spending our lives and energy to satisfy and please... only to find that it doesn't matter how hard we may try, because it never seems good enough. Others carry the burden of having an unbelieving father, or your dad has passed away leaving a massive gap in your life and heart. Father's who cheated on our mother's... or were porn addicts. Father's who abdicated their role, and left. Or a conglomeration of several of these. The list is extensive. But, many of us carry the scars and have the battle stories.
I cannot begin to understand some of these situations; I only really know my own. But whatever your relationship to your earthly dad is (or was) I do know this for all of us: Those are some of the most tender places in our hearts. They shouldn't be handled lightly or haphazardly. So all I want to do here is share what I've learned personally through some of my skirmishes and wounds...
There's a very legitimate and real link between how I approached my earthly dad, and then my heavenly father. See, men cannot and should not take parenting their children lightly. They hand down the primary viewpoint of God to their sons and daughters. They're called and created to uniquely shadow a significant reality: To mirror the heart and affections of God. Can you just feel how weighty of a calling that is? A whole lot is at stake, and God holds dads accountable to how they shepherd their daughter's heart.
Psychology studies in turn show that little girls grow up then seeking to fulfill their father hunger in boyfriends and spouses, men who are often much like their fathers because that's what these woman have grown up knowing... because dad's give their daughters a blueprint for what their future husband should be.
Maybe dad was a really cracked and fuzzy mirror. Maybe dad handed down a blueprint with a lot of mis-measurments and faulty directions. But, there's very good news.
I always think of the fall (sin entering into the world as we read in Genesis) as fracturing. The breaking of everything, fatherhood included (which is why even the best of dads who love God can pass on a fuzzy mirror image). Earthly dads are human and they are sinful (as am I and as are you), but they too are in need of *forgiveness. Christ came to redeem everything, fatherhood included. And our God in heaven is indeed THE perfect, loving, steadfast Father for you and I. He's the Father some of us never had, encompassing all the traits, affections, and love for His daughters perfectly.
Let us not be tempted to think our earthly dad's agenda, actions, words, or attitude towards us are the same as our Heavenly Father. God isn't abusive by any means. He isn't nonchalant, apathetic, or passive towards you. He doesn't think you're boring or plain or ugly. He is totally trustworthy no matter what, and He won't ever leave you come what may. He's not out to manipulate you. He sent His Son to be perfection for you at the cross, because He knew that you couldn't be perfect, and it would be incredibly exhausting to live under anything but grace alone. He knows you better than you know yourself. His love for you is so utterly deep, so great, so unbelievably vast! Christ mirrored it perfectly at Calvary, with no cracks or fuzziness. And there's more good news...
God isn't like your crappy ex-boyfriend in any way. At the fall God promised to send a Bridegroom for the church, His wayward bride. Scripture gives us an amazing blueprint for a Christ-honoring, loving, joyful marriage. You don't have to settle to use a crappy blueprint if your earthly dad left you with it; You can upgrade to God's because He wants His daughters to marry men who follow Him and love as He does.
My hope and prayer in sharing any of these words today is simply this: That you and I would seek after and strive to know God as a good Dad. Because He is. That we'd give our hearts, follow, trust, and receive healing, redemption, and freedom from Abba. Rather than looking at earthly men to see what God is like as a Father, that instead we'd look at our heavenly Father to see how men should be fathers.
Because this is a huge topic that I could never cover more than at the surface level in one blog post, I've linked to some other things worth taking a look at...
- Is God Like the Men Who Hurt Me and Daddy Issues by Ruthie Dean
- The Father Wound preached by Shea Sumlin
- Forgiving Your Imperfect Parents preached by Darrin Patrick
- Father and Daughters
- Beth Moore touches on this topic a bit in her books So Long Insecurity and Breaking Free
- *On forgiveness: 10 Things Forgiveness is Not