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 battled explosive rage, self-medicating habits, and toxic relationships. My marriage suffered. My children suffered. I suffered.
I had no idea why I was so out of control, until God confronted me in the scriptures with, “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a folly repeats his folly” (Prov 26:11). In His presence, and with His help, I began acknowledging my patterns and my pain.
It’s called a “father wound” because, whether from your mother or father, or someone else entirely, such a wound affects our relationship with our Heavenly Father. “The hearts of fathers must be returned to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal. 4:6).
Many people, perhaps you, carry a mother or “father wound.” Since “human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood” (CCC 238), such wounds negatively affect our relationships with God and other people, sometimes in a life-long way.
“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 is a term of intimacy in Aramaic. What a precious, tender thought that 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, OCD, depression, and perfectionism for many years.
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 St. Paul speaks of our cherished status as God’s children, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” 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. Jesus applies the term Abba to the Heavenly Father. I wondered, what did Jesus know about God that enabled Him to call God Abba, and rest in Him so intimately? 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.
Divine Therapy with The Great Physician
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 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.
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 mothers and 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. He heals the father wound. I am living proof.
The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area “upon him” would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down (CCC 2779).
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, 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. Won’t you join Jesus in His bosom?
Copyright 2017 Sonja Corbitt