It is Father's Day, and at church, on Facebook, and out and about I've been hearing about all the heroic, wonderful men who are our fathers, to whom we owe our gratitude, love and respect.
And that's good. If your father is or was your hero, I'm truly glad for you.
I love my father, who passed away 12 years ago. Love finds things to respect, and forgives those things which are not so respectable.
But I was surprised, really, when the readings at Mass today were all about forgiveness, to hear not one word spoken about one of the biggest needs screaming out from so many hearts that are known to me, at least, and that is to learn to forgive our fathers. Maybe getting gut-wrenching honesty about the men who raised us feels uncomfortable to some, but to me it seems dreadfully uncomfortable, to the point of living in complete denial, to avoid admitting that many people suffer dreadfully because of either unforgiveness toward a father, or from painful brokenness of relationship.
It doesn't really matter how the wounds happened. For me, it was a divorce, alcoholism, and mental illness trio wrapped up in grossly awful family communication dynamic. The truth is that God's love is bigger than any sin I commit, and bigger than any sin committed against me. When you open the door of your heart to Jesus Christ by asking Him to help you get rid of hatred, anger and unforgiveness, and fill your heart and your life instead with love and healing, He will do it. Test it if you don't believe me. Ask Him to show Himself present to you and walk you into healing.
I walked into healing for many years as a teen (read this story...), and at intervals in my life, God has brought me more. Just a couple years ago God helped me to understand from the inside out, through my own struggles to express love, the fact of my father's love. Being able to accept that, even after he had been in the grave 10 years, changed my heart again.
Letting go of bitterness is one very important step. But it is vitally important, even if you've never known bitterness towards a father, to ask God for that perfect love to fill you. I'm just guessing that it is possible to idolize and love a father so much, and to have received so much from him, that one doesn't think there is any need for healing love. I have a hard time imagining that. But test God out on that one, too. Ask Him to fill every place He can in you. It is not an insult to anyone, and it is not selfish to ask to be filled with God. If you see no need, then ask God to show you where it might be.
One of my favorite Scriptural descriptions of God is "father of the fatherless." God wants to be your defender, your identity, the source of all your good, and the one who gives you life. If you want that too, ask Him to be your father.