When Earthly Fathers Falter – Michelle’s Story
Dad took a hammer to the walls late one night. The next morning, the kitchen was covered in dents left by the hammer’s blows. Before I headed off to school, my mother and I ate breakfast in our newly “decorated” kitchen. No one said a word.
My father was an alcoholic. His disease consumed our lives.
I was told that there was a time, prior to my adoption, when my dad was a happy man. He was involved in my brothers’ sports teams and was kind to my mother. I didn’t know that man. I knew a man, a father, who yelled and screamed at me.
A father who called me names, most of them about my darker coloring. I knew a dad who told me that if I turned out to be anything good at all in this life that it would be solely because of my mother. Day after day, I longed for my father’s show of love and approval. When it didn’t arrive, I began dreaming about another father.
In my dream, the air was always cold. It was a wet and damp kind of cold, the type that chills your bones. I was eight years old and scared to death of going to bed. I never told my mother about this fear because it was too risky. She had enough on her mind already worrying about my dad. I also believed that my mom thought I was her perfect little girl.
I was far from being a perfect little girl, however. I was an internationally adopted child living with my adoptive parents on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and dreaming of my homeland.
Every night for six months, shortly after falling asleep, the same dream arrived. As much as I tried I was not strong enough to stay awake. There, in the Deep South I would fall into a heavy sleep and awaken in England. I was never wearing my pajamas when I arrived. Rather, like a proper English girl, I am dressed in a white skirt, navy and red shirt, red knee-highs, and black patent-leather shoes.
As I explore the cobblestoned village streets and narrow alleyways, faceless people pass me by, looking down at me. I do not recognize them.
In every dream, at some point, I see him. His shadow rounds the corner in front of me, beckoning me to a game of hide-and-seek. “Father?” I call out. The chase has begun; my shoes click faster and faster. “Wait for me, please!” I call out to the shadow, begging it to stop but it doesn’t.
Eventually in this dream I stop on one particular street corner. A photo of me waits there on the ground. It is a picture of me holding the American flag, a souvenir from my naturalization as US citizen. My young smile hides just how lost I feel inside. Looking up from the photo, I call out, “Where are you Father? Where in the world are you?” But shadows don’t speak, do they? Instead they follow and taunt like a bully on the playground. Holding the photo in my hand, I lean against a light post. I stand there until I cannot stand any longer. Then, I sit, resting my head against the post. “I am too tired to play anymore. I will stay here, Father. I won’t move until you find me.” I am craving my Father. I need him to step away from the shadows and find me. I believe that he is the only one who can save me. My eyes, once again, grow heavy. I am exhausted by the search. The photo is slipping from my hand. I feel panicked and powerless.
As a young girl, I remember praying that my birthfather would come and save me from the pain caused by alcoholism. So I chased him in my dreams. I was looking for a hero. Only, my birthfather was an unlikely one. He had abandoned me as a baby and said that he wanted nothing to do with me. Still, I dreamed that he would come.
I just wanted to feel adored by a father, protected and loved by a dad.
I grew into a woman well acquainted with rejection. It took a long time for me to realize that part of me had been hollowed out by the emotional and physical abandonments of both of my fathers. No matter what level of success I achieved, deep down inside I felt unworthy. What was so wrong with me that two fathers should leave me?
Have you ever asked yourself a similar question? Have you been let down by a father? Do you feel fatherless, today? It hurts, doesn’t it? I understand. The pain is like a hammer directed at the walls of your heart. The dents and the scrapes of those hard-hitting blows can last for years. I have learned along my own walk of healing that, as daughters, we must help each other to rise, as we remind each other that our earthly fathers are imperfect and broken people, too. We should remind each other that our Heavenly Father is ever present and ever constant.
I was once told that my birthfather said before I was born, that he didn’t want to know when I was born. He turned away and refused to even pay the cost of my foster care. This led to my early belief that fathers leave daughters, emotionally and/or physically, they abandon us. It was an unhealthy belief, but one I had accepted.
As I grew older, my desire to face my birthfather also grew. I wanted to face him and to make him apologize for the pain that he had caused me. When I finally did find who he was, it was too late, my father had already passed away. The chance to stand, face-to-face, with the man who had abandoned me so long ago would never become reality. He was gone.
“God,” I cried out, “This abandonment is too final. Why would you take away the only chance I had to heal? Why would you take my birthfather from me before I could stand before him?”
God spoke to me and said, “I am your first father and I am your last father. I have never abandoned you and I never will.” The truth that came to me in that moment allowed for a healing that far surpassed anything that my earthly fathers could ever have offered me. You see, I had given both of my fathers far too much power over my life, my joy, my happiness. They were broken people too: men who were once boys who had lost their fathers at young ages. My fathers were in need, just like me, of accepting the love of the one and only Father God.
The very moment that I was able to see my earthly fathers in this very real and honest way, was the moment when I grew a heart of pure compassion for them, and I was able to forgive them. God had given me new eyes to see my earthly fathers with. I was beholding them, for the very first time, with eyes of God. I was seeing them as God had always seen them: as His innocent children who had been broken and abandoned, too. My heart forever changed on that day when God spoke to me.
We should take heart in Deuteronomy 31:6, which reads, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you or abandon you.” Is there a Father who never fails and never leaves? The answer is, yes. God waits for us. He knows every corner of our pain and He waits to heal us.
God the Father is asking that we — as His daughters — allow him to go personally ahead of us, in order to lead us to an understanding and a forgiving. He asks of us to trust His promise that He will never fail us or abandon us.
Yes, earthly fathers will fail and falter because they are flawed human beings, just like you and me. Giving them power to heal what has been broken within their daughters is like asking a butterfly to soar without its wings. It won’t happen.
Only our Heavenly Father can heal the scars dealt by our earthly fathers.
Today, I love and have forgiven my earthly fathers and dream only of my Heavenly one. God always meets me in my dreams and in my prayers. Without fail, He is there.