My Struggle to Forgive My Dad
by Chrystlyn Edwards
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When most Christian girls and women look at their fathers, they see their hero, first love, and protector. They see a representation of strength and a human reflection of the 1st Person in the Trinity-God the Father. They see a man who is imperfect, but has had an opportunity to see him work them, while knowing he is a work in progress. They see a representation of selfless love, strength, courage, knowledge, wisdom, knowledge, guidance, patience, and sacrifice. They have an emotional bond that is unshakable due to the father’s conscious choice to be emotionally available to their daughter. As a result, he gets the privilege to have their daughter’s heart. In return, the daughter sees a man with whom they can trust and be vulnerable with. They see a man who they respect and adore. Father and daughters share an intimacy unlike any other on this Earth.
Unfortunately, I have no emotional bond with my Dad. I feel more anger towards him than anything. I have no great childhood memories with him. It is bittersweet sight to see fathers creating memories with their daughters. I am happy for the girls having the privilege of knowing they will always have those memories with their Dad. However, at the same time, I know I don’t have any and never will. Instead, I have to work past my pain to create memories as an adult with him.
I did not get the privilege to have this opportunity growing up. My past regarding my Dad & my relationship with him has been a secret, but God has told me to release this secret in my heart to the light. It has been hidden in the darkness of my heart for too long and God has seen fit to allow me to expose it to the light (Luke 8:17). This is hard for me to do when I have grown up in secrecy my whole life. It is very uncomfortable to disclose what is on my heart regarding how I feel about him and our relationship, but I must be obedient to God and share my heart.
See, I grew up in secrecy. I was raised by my grandma. She wanted people to believe we were happy and life was perfect. She was a firm believer in settling matters behind closed doors. Instead of settling matters, she preferred to bury them, and pray they would not be resurrected at a later date.
Do not get me wrong, I love her very much. More than anyone will ever know. However, there were two sides to her, there was the nice side, and then there was the dark side. It has taken me years to admit this as the truth, but I know I will be set free by it. Looking back, I realize I was raised by a controlling, overbearing, strict, and religious grandma, who was emotionally unavailable and at times mentally and verbally abusive. She was at times a very mean spirited woman. I know people who know her would disagree, I could care less. It has taken me years to finally realize I do not live to please people, but I live to please an audience of 1-GOD.
With that being said, even though I know in her heart, she believed she was doing what was in my best interest s. She did more harm than good by discouraging my Dad to not be in my life. She discouraged and put fear in his heart. Instead of putting her issues with him aside and allowing him to be a part of my life and taking responsibility for his actions, she chose to push him away.
I am very conflicted in my heart regarding him. I do not see any of the characteristics I listed above in my Dad. My perspective of him is completely the opposite. I am still tempted to call him by his 1st name. However, out of respect, I call him Dad. To be honest, he is a coward to me. I struggle to respect and trust a man who chose not to make me his first priority; by choosing not to push past his fears and fight harder for me. In my world, he is a complete stranger to me. But God has commanded me to honor him (Exodus 20:12). I must admit, this is hard. However, I know I must learn how to open my heart to trust him.
However, he has made this difficult for me throughout the years. As a teenager, I prayed for my Dad to rescue me from the dysfunction in my household. Looking back, I realize what I was really praying was to be affirmed, worth fighting for, and being protected; because I realized I was in a losing battle in a difficult situation.
However, I did not realize as I was praying that my Dad could not rescue me. My Dad was incarcerated when I was 16. When I was 22 & in college, I was convicted to reconnect with my Dad in prison by a Scripture (Mt. 25:36). Obviously, I had opposition from my grandma, but I chose to do it anyway. I was determined to live my life-with or without her approval. After my visit with him, I chose to stay connected with him.
When he was still incarcerated, I was seeking affirmation from him. I naively thought he would know what to say to make feel special. I made the decision to cut my hair, and I told him. Instead of complimenting me and telling me I would look beautiful with or without a haircut, he asks, “Why are you cutting your hair again?” That hurt me so bad. I wanted him to make me feel confident & beautiful, but he was so insensitive. Not only did he make me 2nd guess my decision to cut my hair, but he made me think twice about letting him back in my life. Since then, there have been a series of events to the point where I now still question that decision.
I am sad to say it was easier to stay connected with him when he was in prison; because it was easier to live my life and keep my distance. Like the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
When he was released from prison, I was at a different place in my life, but it was still a hard place. I expected God to answer my prayers for certain areas of my life to come together or at least be in the process of coming together. Upon his release, God moved in those same areas in his life in a 6 month time span. Needless to say, I was very upset, jealous, and resentful. In my heart, I felt entitled for Him to bless me first. Especially since I had a difficult childhood, and going through hard season. In essence, I felt as if God was blessing him for being irresponsible, while I was doing the right thing. Looking back, I realize I should have been happy for him. He overcame so much to receive the blessings God had for him despite the circumstance he was in.
However, in His Patience & Grace, God worked in my heart. He allowed me to see from His Perspective. He allowed me to realize things are not always what they seem. He also taught me to be grateful for what I have and because I had everything I needed at that time. God was me merciful and gracious as He corrected me gently. Even though it was a hard lesson to learn, I know I am not entitled to anything that God has given and will give me. All of His gifts are an extension of His Unconditional Love and Grace.
Since my Dad has been released from prison, he has been inquisitive about my personal life, almost to the point of being intrusive. He wants to know who I am dating, when I plan on getting married and having children. He does not realize; he is a part of the reason I have issues in my personal life.
If I had my way, I would not let him in my life at all. The information he has asked me for is a privilege, not a right for him to know. It also puts me in a place of vulnerability again. Therefore, I do not trust him with the intimate details of my life.
He does not realize my struggle to be obedient to God to let him life when he was nowhere to be found when I needed him the most, nor does he realize my struggle with this mindset is carried over into my personal life.
Since he chose to let fear stop him from pursuing to fight harder for me, I do not know what it feels like to be pursued by a Christ-like man. Therefore, I felt I had to pursue the man to get his attention; because I felt like I was not good enough to be pursued by my own Dad. However, I have always received the wrong attention only to have hard, one-sided relationships with emotionally unavailable men because I gave too much, too soon, and get hurt in the end. Or, the opposite has happened to me where I push away someone I really like; because I fail to realize that all men are not the same and actually like to pursue the woman.
I did not learn balance, self-control, and restraint, growing up in a fatherless household. Instead, due to the lack of male influence in life, I learned how to be aggressive and pushy because that was I have known; I wanted to be heard; and I wanted to be loved. I wanted so badly the love from a man that I did not receive in a fatherless household.
As a woman, my biggest struggles now are having balance in my life, practicing self-control and restraint. I am a work in progress and I know God is not through with me yet (Phil. 1:6).
Even though I love my grandma; I am no longer close to her as I once was. Instead of stepping back and choosing to be humble and meek, and allowing my parents to co-parent me, she pushed them away. She became controlling, pushy, and overbearing. Even though she raised me, I struggle to respect her. She was not and still is not the reflection of what a Christ like woman is. Her heart and character does not exhibit who He is. Due to my pursuit to become more like Christ, we have grown apart. As I choose to continue the journey in the forgiveness & reconciliation process with my Dad, I do not believe she is conducive to it. I am choosing to hold her accountable for her actions. Therefore, I am also in the forgiveness process with her and choose to love her from a distance.
I know in my heart, he is the hardest person to forgive because should have been the 1st man I loved, respected, and trusted not only with my heart, but with my life. He should’ve set the standard for the type of man to be vulnerable with to open my heart to & spend the rest of my life with. A part of me believes, a lot of heart ache in my previous failed relationships would’ve been prevented had he would have chosen to fight to remain in my life.
Obviously, I am currently a work in progress when it comes to forgiving him. For me, forgiveness is not easy. In my heart, he is the hardest person to forgive. I have to forgive him for making false promises, choosing not to put me first, and to let fear override his judgment to fight for me and to be a part of my life. The hardest part is forgiving him for allowing fear drive him away from the privilege of being a father and having the honor of allowing me to proclaim I am a Daddy’s Girl. Now, my relationship with him is estranged now more than ever. It is definitely on my part. My Dad wants to be in my life fully. He tells me he loves me always wanted to be a part of my life. I know personally there is evidence to back this up. To be honest, I really do not like him because I do not trust him. I really do not know if I love him. I do not hate my Dad because I know he loves me, but it is hard to reciprocate that love he has for me. It is hard to learn how to trust a man who left me twice in a vulnerable place in my life. Trust is about taking risks and being vulnerable. I do not want to set myself up in that vulnerable place again only to get hurt.
Even though I know this, I am consistently debating on letting him back in my life fully. At the same time, I don’t want to have any regrets and disobey God in the process.
I have a confidante who told me once, “No matter how old you get, you will always need your Dad.” She is usually always right, but I believe it is safe to say, I disagree with her. I know in my heart, she is more than likely right, I am choosing to wait on God to vindicate her. Knowing Him, He will vindicate her, in His Time and His Way.
Through this journey, I have had to learn to know God as my Father and Mother. I have had to let Him in my heart and fill the void in my heart for unconditional love and guidance. So I am blessed to say that as I struggle with my mixed emotions regarding my Dad, I am privileged and honored to know God as my Heavenly Father. Even though, I had I difficult childhood, and to this point in my life, He has received me (Psalm 27:10). He has kept his promise to me that He will never leave me, nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). I am confident that no matter what happens in my life He is my Rock and I know He will never change (Heb.13:8).
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