- On September 13, 2022
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By Scott La Point, PsyD:
Just a week before Father’s Day, while I was scanning a bookshelf at home, I came across a book by Gordon Dalbey, “Father and Son: The Wound, the Healing, the Call to Manhood.” I realized that I had never read this book, and as I began to flip through its pages, a particular passage stood out because it reminded me of my work as a therapist with incarcerated men who were in prison for substance-related offenses.
In the passage from Dalbey’s book, which discusses the inner wound caused by a man’s alienation from his father and examines its crippling effect on men emotionally, he recounts the story of a nun working in a prison. One day, she was asked by an inmate if she could buy him a Mother’s Day card so he could mail it home. She agreed; before long, word of this request reached the other inmates who also wanted cards. The demand was so great that the nun contacted a greeting-card manufacturer, who sent crates of cards, all of which were passed out. Believing that demand would be equally high for Father’s Day, the nun secured crates upon crates of cards. But how many cards did she eventually give away?
Not a single one. Not a single prisoner requested a card for his father.
So, it turns out that the people I have had the honor and privilege of sitting across from in therapy are not alone in shouldering a “father-wound.” It is a common scene in therapy: people struggling with the emotional and physical absence of their fathers who were too busy to offer words of praise to their children, believing that being a good provider was enough. These children grow up feeling abandoned and unvalued, experiencing a sense of shame and anger. The wound is real and is reflected in a lifetime spent being over-achievers, from being young children afraid to displease their fathers to feeling inadequate as spouses – working from sunrise to sunset in order to earn their spouses’ approval. “Am I enough?” they cry. “Do I have what it takes to lead, to persevere, to triumph over my insecurities?” They remain prisoners of the past. Inside them festers a disease so cruel and ruthless,
a loss so painful that it feels like a part of them has died.
Surprisingly, it is a death that is needed to actually begin the healing. It takes the Son’s death, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, to pay for their sins, our sins, and for the sins of our fathers. As if a light has suddenly been turned on, the truth that “I was enough, I am enough!” pierces the darkness that has shrouded our lives. Through tearful acknowledgement, we realize that our wound, passed on unknowingly by our fathers can heal – that it doesn’t have to contaminate or stain their connections with others and that their sense of inadequacy and failure was misplaced and in error.
Although Father’s Day won’t come around again until we’ve flipped our calendars to 2023, in order to heal this deadly wound, Dalbey says we must first forgive our fathers by recognizing that they themselves were wounded. Then we must surround ourselves with a supportive community, one that allows us to reclaim our value and purpose. We are not condemned to be broken and disabled and infirm. We are, though, all in need of the inner healing made possible through The Father God.
As it turns out, God defends the cause of the fatherless (Deut. 10:18) and He’s promised to set us free. That’s what Truth does, it sets us free by reminding us that we are His beloved, that we are accepted and received by Him, that we are loved beyond measure – and He has made us enough.
Jesus promises that he will not leave us as orphans, he will come to us (John 14:18). His mercy is a constant, unwavering invitation to be with Him, a part of his family.
We are not alone. He defends us. He frees us. He heals us.
He Fathers us with his perfect love.