Healing the Father Wound
Cry out to your Heavenly Father, and one day every day will become a Father's Day full of great joy and peace
It is an epidemic that fuels rebellion, homosexuality, promiscuity, and all manner of sin in the Church and in individual Christians. So many people carry "father wounds" from relationships with fathers, stepfathers, priests, grandfathers, etc. that negatively affect their relationships with God and other men. I am one of those people, and God helped me. Dear One, if you have a father wound, if you are a parent who fears passing one on to your children, I pray that this Father's Day you will seek God's healing.
I confess anticipating Father's Day used to almost make me sick with anxiety. As much as I loved my dad, and still do, every year when June rolled around, I got an awful sinking feeling. I would spend hours in one card aisle after another, trying to find something that might somehow both honor my father, and still be truthful. "You are the best father in the world" was not a sentiment I could sincerely offer my own dad.
If Father's Day makes you feel this way, you are not alone. So many people carry "father wounds" from relationships with fathers, stepfathers, priests, grandfathers, etc. that negatively affect their relationships with God and other men. It is an epidemic that fuels rebellion, homosexuality, promiscuity, and all manner of sin in the Church and in individual Christians.
As Father's Day approaches, there is a Scripture that comes to my mind frequently: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship that enables us to cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (Rom. 8:15). The word abba means daddy in Aramaic. What a precious, intimate thought this verse is to me now.
But there was a time when it made absolutely no sense to me at all. Lifetime military and highway patrol, my dad was authoritative to the extreme, aggressive, controlling, and dominating. He seldom looked at me with love unless my achievements made him look good to his peers. He rarely touched me with anything but anger, and almost never spent one-on-one time with me. I loved him almost as desperately as I was terrified of him.
As St. Paul warns us parents, I was provoked to wrath and discouragement by his parenting style (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). I struggled with rage, rebellion against authority, and perfectionism for many years. You can hear my story here*.
Yet, this strange verse beckoned me with its promise of a Father's gentleness and warmth. I once had an aunt who told me she imagined herself in God's lap when she prayed; she said she called Him Daddy, and that one day I would too. I thought she was crazy.
Yet in Romans 8:15 (in bold print, above), St. Paul speaks of our cherished status as God's children, and he does so in several other places in the Scriptures, too. I discovered that John 1:18 speaks of Jesus as being in the bosom of the Father. Over and over in the Bible, Jesus applies the term Abba to the Heavenly Father. I wondered, what did Jesus know about God that enabled Him to call God Daddy, and rest in His lap so affectionately? Together, all of these verses seemed to whisper to me that I was somehow a slave to my fear of God.
Although I longed to, how could I ever call God Abba? I obeyed out of fear and a desire to make Him love me. I thought every bad thing that happened to me was God's punishment, and that I must surely deserve it. I felt in the deepest recesses of my being that He was perpetually displeased with me. When He was quiet in prayer, I assumed I had done something that deserved the silent treatment. If I was criticized by a man in authority over me - husband, employer, pastor - I struggled with volcanic eruptions of agonizing emotion. Because my relationship with my earthly father was so painful and difficult, I simply could not relate to God with such an intimate term as Abba.
Dear One, if this is you, if you have a father wound, if you are a parent who fears passing one on to your children, I pray that this Father's Day you will seek God's healing. Trust in the truth of these Bible verses. Watch as Jesus shows us very deliberately, in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, what it means to have a safe place to acknowledge weakness and receive strength in the midst of great pain and suffering. Listen carefully to His great prayer, the Our Father, as He teaches us how to reach beyond our deficits to God, and how to climb into the bosom of a loving Heavenly Father.
I am living proof that God longs to heal our father wounds. The greatest joy and the deepest pain, in my life, have been the excavation of this father wound. I tell everyone who will listen how my Abba did it for me, a writhing, pitiful mess of a little girl searching for a daddy's love in places and people who could never touch her abyss of need.
The truth is that this wound provokes grave sin patterns that we repeat throughout our lives until we can forgive our fathers, so human and wounded themselves, and forgive ourselves for what we have done out of this pain. Our relationships suffer because we vomit this awful, festering poison all over everyone we love. But when God heals us, He heals them all, some, too.
We fear we will never get victory over it, that we will never be in control of ourselves, that we can never forgive. But we can, and we must. It is our calling as God's children. It is also our freedom and our salvation. You only have to trust God's promise, and obey Him at every step, every single day. He is waiting for you with unconditionally open arms.
Here are some of the resources that God used to help me:
- Sacraments of the Church, particularly frequent Confession and Communion;
- Daily, prayerful Scripture reading (lectio divina) and frequent Bible study;
- Priest, spiritual director, or counselor (you may have to talk to several to find one who can really help you);
- Books - The Road Less Traveled, by Dr. Scott Peck; The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez; Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade; Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Francois Jamart;
- CD's - try any of the last seven offered here. *The Healing the Father Wound CD is the same talk offered for free, above.
Dear One, the time is now. My fervent, faithful prayers are with you. Cry out to your Heavenly Father, and one day every day will become a Father's Day full of great joy and peace. It is your promise from God Himself: "[You] did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship that enables us to cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic speaker on Healing the Father Wound and other topics, a Scripture study author, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit pursuingthesummit.com to book Sonja for your next great event, or to order her Bible studies.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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