Monday, September 22, 2008
A Letter To My Father
In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge notes:
"Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because the wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father."
Eldredge, John. Wild at Heart. (2001). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., p. 60.
Over the past several weeks, my True Father, God, has invited me to join Him on a journey to discover the new -- and masculine -- heart He created for me. I believe what Scripture tells me: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)
It feels as if I've pulled fifty arrows from my heart of flesh recently. I'm no stranger to men's work or the sojourn of examining my own wounded masculinity. At the age of 46, I was given the courage to pull those arrows out of my center and tell my birth father what damage they've done. Even though he died in 1996, the following letter -- written to him just days ago -- is the first time I've articulated such a deep wound in me.
In sharing this with you, I encourage you as men -- whether believers in God or not -- that perhaps the truest map to discovering what our hearts were designed for can only come from the One who created it. My life's verse holds true: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
The journey continues...and He will lead me -- and love me -- through territory and uncharted lands created by Him, for I was created in His image, as are men, to be wild, dangerous, unfettered, and free.
I'm writing this letter to you because I'm hurting REALLY bad over my memories of childhood and beyond. There's a lot of sadness and fear and anger over how you fathered me -- AND HOW YOU DIDN'T!
Our last words to each other the night before you died were "I love you." I can't remember you telling me that -- or showing me -- a lot over my life. WHY? Did you love me or appreciate me? Did I matter to you? Where you EVER proud of me? Did you ever care about what made me happy? Why didn't you ever try to rescue me when I first got into trouble with drugs? Why didn't you teach me things I needed to know? Would it have hurt you to encourage me? Why did you hate me so much?
If someone asked me to describe you, I'd say "Well, he did work hard, provided -- but he seemed really unhappy, angry, emotionally distant, unloving, bitter." I can never recall being proud of you. I hated it when you fought with Mom -- always, it seemed, over money, or how one of us kids (all of us?) were useless. Yet you always seemed to pay them all more attention (love?) than me.
I really think a healthy portion of the blame for who I turned out to be rests at your feet. Why didn't you raise me better? You always seemed to have more joy for Mickey, Jeff, and Tim as your sons. What about me? When I was in rehab in 1985, I feel as if you only showed up so that you could get back together with Mom. You didn't care I was hurting so much, how I had gotten so deep into trouble with drugs, had been kicked out of college. You just wanted to make a show of it so that Mom would come home and take care of you.
I know you did things for me, "paid my way" so many times, provided shelter, food, clothes, medical help, education. But I needed you to father me, raise me, love me, show me I was important. I don't have these memories. I hate you for that. No wonder my life has been so screwed up, so much fear, anger, shame, sadness, drugs, sex, selfishness, running away, quitting -- YOU NEVER SHOWED ME A BETTER WAY! You never showed me a father. You never taught me how to be a boy, a man, a son.
I'm also writing to you to tell you I'm no longer an orphan. I've been adopted by a real Father, my True Father -- God. He loves me, needs me, delights in me, disciplines me out of love, teaches me, guides me, is my friend. I'm not even sure if you ever knew Him -- I know you went to church. But you never talked about God with me, either. One more important thing I had to come to on my own. I LOVE MY NEW DADDY!!
What made you the way you were? Why didn't you love us? Why did you have so many children if you didn't have joy for us? I'm like you a lot, without joy -- but sometimes I think I learned all the ways I never wanted to be like you by watching you in hopes that you would become all the things I wanted you to become -- loving, caring, happy, strong. You never did. Why not? What went so wrong?
My new Father wants me to forgive you for all the missed opportunities, the loss of love, and for all the pain you NOT fathering me has caused my life. He wants to heal me in all these broken places in my heart that you did damage to. You let me down so much. You failed me -- when I didn't know you did, when I thought you did, and when I needed you not to. My boyhood suffered because of it. My teenage years were lonely because of it. My young adulthood was a disaster because of it. And my maturity has been deficient because of it. I needed you so much -- and it makes me sad to know you can't father me.
I have given my broken heart to God, my new Father, my True Father. He will heal me. He will love me. I will ask Him to help me forgive you. I will ask Him to heal those painful memories that have hurt me for so long. I know He will because I am His Beloved Son -- He tells me so in His Word. I am sad that you lived so long in pain instead of joy -- I've done the same, but I will no longer live like this. Maybe you learned how not to love me from your father. You were his only son -- I don't know how he hurt you. I will be healed by my True Father for all the hurtful and abusive ways you talked to and treated me. I will be loved to wholeness by my True Father despite all the times you threatened or assaulted me. My True Father is ALWAYS there for me -- He will fill in every gap and empty space you created in my heart and life.
Dad, I let go of you now. You're dead and buried in Pennsylvania -- NOT IN MY NEW HEART IN CHRIST!! I will choose to honor you with forgiveness instead of anger. I will heal instead of hate. And I will be fathered by God in all the ways you failed -- HE WILL RAISE ME AS HIS BELOVED SON! I will be the son you never believed I could be, the son my True Father is proud of, loves deeply, and will never hurt.
Please subscribe to my blog to stay in touch with me on my journey of renewed masculine initiation with God. For more information on John Eldredge, please visit his Website at www.ransomedheart.com. For more information on men's work across the globe, visit The ManKind Project at http://www.mkp.org/. Please feel free to send a link to my blog to men you know -- http://www.hisgraceamazing.blogspot.com/