Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fathers and Daughters

May 27, 2014

Since the beginning of families, since Adam and Eve, there has been dysfunction.  There has been hurt and jealousy and rivalry and downright ugliness.  This is not a new thing- not to my generation, whose fathers' were strict and not very hands-on;, not to my mother's generation, whose fathers' worked from dawn until dusk; and not in my children's generation, whose fathers' tend to be more hands on but sometimes more in touch with their electronic connections than their human ones.

As women, our fathers shape so much of our identity.  They shape how we see ourselves and how we see the men in our lives and how we filter our relationships with other women. They shape how we expect to be treated and how we expect to be loved.  Don't feel like you could ever do enough to earn your father's love as a child?  Then you probably don't feel like you really deserve to be loved as a grown woman.  Never really felt like you lived up to your father's expectations?  Then you probably won't live up to anyone else's expectations, including your own. Father not present in your life, either physically or emotionally?  Then you probably don't deserve to have someone present in your life now. These are the lies that we have told ourselves over and over until they have become our unconscious truths.

It seems many of the women of my generation ( I am the tail end of the baby boomers), shared the same experiences growing up -our fathers were hard-working, strict disciplinarians, conservative, critical, and emotionally distant.  Or as my teenage self viewed it- the epitome of the "establishment".

Many of us live our lives never realizing that how we processed our father's actions when we were young continue to impact how we process (and react to) the relationships in our lives when we are grown.  Ever wonder why you turn right back into that rebellious teenager when around your father (or other male authority figures)?  Ever wonder why, as a grown woman, you cannot relate to your father on a "grown-up" level?  I have.  And it has made me question myself-"what is wrong with me that I can't just get over this?  Why do other women not seem to struggle with the need for approval and the need to be accepted from their fathers when I still do so many years after it should have ceased to matter? Am I the only person who still struggles with this?"

I don't think so.  All we have to do is look at the divorce statistics in our society today (both in and out of the Church), the number of children being raised either fatherless or with multiple father figures who pass in and out of their lives, and society's attitude toward marriage in general, to see many of us have not "gotten past" this and have not learned to handle our relationships in a healthy, Godly manner.

Some of you reading this may be thinking at this point, "What in the world is she even talking about?"  If that is you, my feelings will not be the least bit hurt if you don't read another word here. If you can relate on any level, please read on. 

If we never realize and acknowledge the hurts we incurred at our fathers' hands, whether intended or not, we will never realize how they continue to impact our view of ourselves and the people around us, including those closest to us- our children, our spouses, our siblings, and even our closest friends. Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Admitting you avoid conflict because chances are someone will be angry with you and if someone is angry with you, they won't love you and you must be loved at all costs-admitting this is the first step.  Admitting you invite and even instigate conflict because you relate to others best when one of you is angry-admitting this is the first step. Admitting you procrastinate tasks because you figure you will blow whatever you attempt because you never manage to get it right anyway-admitting this is the first step. Admitting you take on more than you can handle in order to earn the approval of others- admitting this is the first step.

And the next step? Admitting (and believing-this takes some time and patience with yourself and  lots of continual prayer) that none of this matters!   Regardless of how we were treated by our earthly fathers, regardless of they standards they dangled in front of us that we could never quite meet, regardless of the love that we felt was almost within our grasp if we just tried a little harder, it doesn't matter!  It doesn't matter because we have a Father in Heaven who loves us with an everlasting, unending, incomparable, unexplainable love!  Just as we are - shortcomings and all, at out best and at our worst, in our shining moments and in our failures.  

We no longer have to prove ourselves, we no longer have to fight for the love and approval we so desperately long for, we no longer have to fight at all! When Christ died on the cross, He said, "It is finished." (John 19:30)  Our fights for approval, our strivings to please, our desperation for love? "It is finished."

God told His children, the Israelites , "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life." (Isaiah 43:4)  The nation of Israel were His chosen people, the people He promised all the world would be blessed through.  And they were precious and honored in His sight and He loved them enough to give nations in exchange for them, to make sure they were safe and provided for.  If you are in Christ, you are now one of His chosen people and He loves you, you are precious and honored in His sight.  He will give nations in exchange for you.  He loves you that much!  The God of the Universe is willing to do anything for you! And He did - He gave up what He loved the most - He gave His Son for you.

And all that stuff we didn't get growing up?  We now have it all in abundance, more than we ever could have imagined  - we are precious and honored and loved!