Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up.”Psalm 27:10
This is a tough post for me to write, but it’s an important one. Being a Christian girl with daddy issues, I know the sensitivity of this topic. The taboo of all that is “daddy issues.” The negative connotations surrounding the phrase. The guilt, shame, and embarrassment that comes along with it. Feeling as though it is somehow your fault; that it’s your burden to carry. Brushing it off like it’s not a huge deal and acting as though it doesn’t affect you anymore. Pretending it’s not the reason why you feel unlovable or even undeserving of love.
It’s heavy baggage to carry, friend. I know this because I am still working to unpack my own baggage.
Allow me to first share my story with you.
My dad was my very best friend growing up. I followed him everywhere and yearned to spend every moment I could with him. I was a classic daddy’s girl — the tomboy who wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty if it meant quality time with dad, but also the innocent child who loved holding daddy’s hand everywhere we went.
I remember him mowing our lawn in the summer evenings. I would rush outside after my bath and crawl up into his lap. It would take at least an hour, maybe even two, to mow our entire backyard. Many times, I would fall asleep while hanging onto him and he would keep me there until he finished mowing. He would carry me inside afterward, put me in my bed, and kiss me goodnight. Sometimes I would even pretend to be asleep just so he would carry me inside and tuck me into bed.
I sat next to him every night at the dinner table. I accompanied him to the hardware store whenever I had the chance. I sat in the garage with him while he worked on the many home projects he completed throughout my childhood. We were the best of pals.
And now, we are strangers.
I don’t know how he spends his days. I don’t know when he last went to the hardware store, or what his latest home project was. I don’t know what he has for dinner each night, or even where he has dinner.
I become sad thinking about these things, especially when I think about how we got here — unacquainted, distant, strangers.
When I was fifteen years old, my entire world changed — no —it crumbled.
My dad’s affair was uncovered. He had been both emotionally and physically involved with the wife of his coworker. My father had worked with this man for many years, and to make matters even worse, our families were close. We spent time together at summer bbqs every year and my siblings and me were friends with their kids.
I remember my father had been acting odd for awhile before the affair surfaced. He wasn’t as interested in family events or vacations, he came home later than usual, and he seemed angry and irritated a lot of the time. I grew suspicious of him as these changes became the new norm for my dad. I knew my dad very well and there was definitely something going on, I just didn’t know what it was at the time. Of course the thought of him having an affair crossed my mind time and time again, but I truly believed my dad would never do such a thing. I refused to think my dad would betray his family. Sadly, I thought wrong.
My mom came to my room one night and asked if we could talk. I immediately sensed her sadness and apprehension. Her eyes were red and her voice wavering as she spoke the words I never thought I would hear:
“Samantha, your father and I are divorcing.”
Once those words were said, I knew I had been wrong about my father. I knew the only way my mother would leave her marriage of eighteen years would be if my father was unfaithful and unwilling to reconcile. She didn’t have to tell me the reason, in fact, she insisted it was better if she didn’t tell me. But in my heart I already knew, so I blurted it out:
“Dad is having an affair.”
My mom seemed disappointed — I could tell she didn’t want me to know about the affair. She asked if I would try my hardest to not let it affect my relationship with him. I was angry and confused, but I loved my father dearly — so I agreed.
Unfortunately, these sorts of things permeate every familial relationship. It is impossible to compartmentalize. Although I repeatedly reminded myself the divorce was “between mom and dad,” I couldn’t help but feel personally betrayed, disavowed, and abandoned by my father.
He refused to take responsibility for the affair. He blamed my mother, our family’s financial situation, his job, and even my siblings and me. He also refused to leave the house — forcing my mom, brother, and I to pack our things and find somewhere to go. The home I spent fifteen years in. The place I had breakfast every morning and dinner every night. The place I felt safe in. He took that away from me.
By this time, my father had become a stranger to me. He was selfish, rude, and unloving. He accused me of overreacting and claimed I was the one abandoning him by choosing to live with my mom. He cited my ungratefulness for his provision as the culprit. Nevertheless, I still visited my dad after school most days and tried to maintain some kind of relationship with him. I truly believed he would come to his senses one day and take responsibility for the damage he’d done.
That day didn’t come. Instead, I continuously endured emotional neglect and verbal abuse from my father. The things he spoke to me and the names he called me are unlike anything I have ever been subjected to. He talked about my mother in a horrendous manner, and belittled all of us for being hurt by his actions. I became frightened by the man I used to admire so deeply.
I may have walked myself down the aisle, but I did not walk alone. There was no earthly father there to give me away to Jeremy, but my Heavenly Father was there. He held me the entire way as I walked to meet my husband at the foot of the cross.”
It was during these events that my faith in God waned. I couldn’t understand how He would let this happen to my family. Wasn’t He a good, good, Father? Don’t good fathers keep you safe? Don’t they love you? I felt abandoned and neglected by Him, too.
Over the next few years, I grew insecure. I felt undeserving of love and affection, yet I yearned for it. I craved affirmation from the opposite sex. Throughout college, I jumped into unhealthy relationships just for the temporary satisfaction of feeling wanted. My father had been in and out of my life for years. Conveniently, we mostly spoke only when he needed something or when he decided he wanted to “apologize.” These apologies usually ended with more denial of responsibility and name-calling on his end. Essentially, I was searching for the things my father was no longer providing me in other men. And since I had already written-off God as unable to provide me with these things, my faith fell to the wayside for quite some time.
Looking back now, I know I was projecting my earthly father onto my Heavenly Father. My view of God was a reflection of the way I viewed my dad. When my earthly father was my Superman, God was my strong tower. When my earlthy father abandoned me, God was also unreliable. When my earthly father told me I was ungrateful and undeserving of him, I assumed God felt the same way.
It’s been years now since I cut ties with my dad. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, and my walk with Jesus is more satisfying than any human connection could ever be.
Yet, I still struggle.
Especially during the events that highlight the father-daughter relationship — walking down the aisle, the father-daughter dance at a wedding reception, welcoming a new baby into the world. Initially, I was distraught over the thought of not having a father there to walk me down the aisle and hand me off to my husband-to-be. It hurt even more to think that I physically had an earthly father, but I did not emotionally have one. During the many prayers I prayed throughout wedding preparation, I felt my Heavenly Father comforting me as I lamented to Him.
I may have walked myself down the aisle, but I did not walk alone. There was no earthly father there to give me away to Jeremy, but my Heavenly Father was there. He held me the entire way as I walked to meet my husband at the foot of the cross.
Jeremy and I didn’t have a formal wedding reception. Instead, we agreed to have a small luncheon after the ceremony. Although I would like to say I happily agreed to this solely to avoid extra planning and stress — I can’t. Yes, that was definitely part of the reason, but I mostly wanted to avoid even thinking about the traditional father-daughter dance.
A little over a year later, we welcomed our daughter into the world. It was a crazy, tiresome, and beautiful experience. In the days and weeks following her arrival, we were surrounded by family and friends doting over our sweet child. There were moments I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if my father were there. Not the father I know him to be today, but the Superman dad who used to sing to me while tucking me into bed at night. The dad who hoisted me up on his shoulders as we walked through the grocery store. The dad I adored and admired for fifteen years of my life.
These moments can be the hardest.
Friend, these moments can steal our joy and bring back all the heartache. Satan sneaks his way into these moments whenever he has an opportunity. He plants thoughts of guilt and shame in our heads and makes us feel underserving of any and all love.
But if we let God in, these moments can also be the most comforting.
We can allow our Heavenly Father to to fill the earthly father role that is missing. And we can be absolutely certain that He will come through. In fact, He will fulfill this role better than any earthly father can, because He is perfect. Our relationship with Him is far greater than any human relationship can ever be.
I recently read Louie Giglio’s book, Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons & Daughter of a Perfect Father. In fact, this book was my inspiration for this post. The basic premise of his book can be summed up in one quote from chapter one:
No matter what has happened on this side of eternity between you and your dad; you are not forsaken by God.”
To be honest, I could share with you a quote from every single page of his book. It is packed with so much truth surrounding this subject. If you are a Christian with daddy issues, I highly recommend picking up a copy. Although I am still unpacking my baggage, I have found freedom through fervent prayer, God’s Word, and now this book.
Friend, I want you to know there is healing. I want you to know having daddy issues is not part of your identity and it certainly does not define you. I want you to know it is okay to not be okay. I want you to know there is no guilt, shame, or sorrow our Heavenly Father cannot take away. He is here to Father the orphans: those of us who are forsaken by our fleshly begetters. He is here to love us, care for us, and make us whole again.
When we know that God is our perfect Father, and we live out the revolutionizing identity this new awareness gives us, we can come alive in this truth. Old things pass away — disappointments, guilt, sorrows, and struggles.”Louie Giglio, NOT FORSAKEN