When Your Heart is Yearning For a Better Father

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I don’t talk to my father very often. On Father’s Day I consider the choices. To send a card? Or not? Should I lean into the wound? Or get myself out clean? Is it time to press into the brokenness of relationship? Or it is time to gather myself and walk away?   

There isn’t a wrong answer. But there isn’t a right answer, either. I still grieve. The wounds of loss and imperfection persist.

I have both these camps in my life: the ones who say that fatherhood is under attack, and the problem is we don’t have enough respect, and the ones who say that fathers had too much credit in the first place, the last thing we need is to give them more power to mess everything up.

I used to think these positions were opposites. And maybe they are. But the people who hold them are not opposites. They are fires lit and fed by the same heart’s need.

I don’t know what it is that plants this yearning for validation in my soul. I don’t know what it is that opens this yawning hole that can’t ever be filled, no matter how many pats on the back I get, how many times I receive the blessing, how many times I am told, “You are enough.” I hear ten times louder the criticism, distance, lack of engagement . . . failure.

Fathers sit over a landmine.

In the kingdom, or the heavenly realm, fathers will raise up and hand on the lineage of perfection. In this realm of brokenness, fathers pass on the lineage of sin.

A part of me is made for nothing but returning.

Is that the whole story? Of course not. Is there any hope for better? You know there is.

But I can’t celebrate the beauty and power and miracle of fatherhood—or what it could be—until I see what weight it is, to carry on from generations before this dotted line.

I don’t know what plants in me the yearning to get back to where I came from. I don’t know where I got this yearning/revulsion that makes me want to run away and run home in the same breath. But a part of me is made for nothing but returning. Returning to the homeland, returning to the seed . . . returning to the father.

If there isn’t something there, that part of me wanders, lost. And wonders whether or not to send a card on Father’s Day.

It’s like a heartstring cut, an umbilical cord hanging loose. It’s painful, but more than that, it reaches out for wrong things and gets caught up in brambles.

I don’t know why we are built for lineage in this way, but I think we are.

Who gives me the faith and strength to stretch the cord instead of breaking it? Who gives me the courage to walk with my father making room for better ways and better dreams? What gives him the courage to not clip my wings?

There is a magic. The love of God comes through in all manner of places. One string may be broken but there are a thousand other ways to root and be fed, and healing can run up the lineage as well as down.

Reversal has always been God’s most thrilling parlor trick.

I can’t love my father for who he is, unless I am witness to the world that shaped him. And I can’t love myself, as a child of God, unless I am witness to the strings that have both bound and held me. Wounds are not things to be ignored and wounded people are not things to be thrown away. But this is the miracle of faith, that it opens eyes in our hearts to see stardust obscured by ugly things. 

This is a magic. That there is love enough in the whole world to flood even a wound as vital as this. There is a redemption call so strong it raises hearts and feeds wholeness even into the lineage of shame. There is compassion enough to tend and bind and nurture all our broken places,and march us toward a kingdom world in which our inheritance will be always love and never harm. 

Esther Emery

Esther Emery

Esther lives with her husband and three children on three acres of Idaho mountainside, in a yurt her husband designed and built himself. She's out there in pursuit of self-sufficiency, integrity living and solidarity economy.
Esther Emery
  • Sharing this with my elder daughter, Esther. I’m not good at finding the right words to soothe her grieving either, but I’ll pray peace for both of you.

  • Pingback: When Your Heart Is Yearning For a Better Father (at the Mudroom) | Esther Emery()

  • Esther, this is beautifully written. Daddy wounds are difficult, I know because I too have had my share of them. It has taken me my entire adult life to process and I’m pushin’ 40. Let me encourage you by saying it is okay to take time and process your emotions. It takes time and time again. I also want to say that God is able to heal deeply rooted hurts. I write about my journey at http://www.fatherswap.com . It may be an encouragement to you. This month I’m touching on many of the areas you mentioned in your post. I wrote about card selections at Father’s Day here http://www.fatherswap.com/2015/06/dear-hallmark-3-card-categories-to-add-for-fathers-day/ and Father’s Day for the fatherless here http://www.fatherswap.com/blog-2/ . I hope it is helpful for you. Be blessed! – Kia

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Esther, this post resonates a lot…. my father left my mom with myself and two siblings when I was five. Although she remarried, I looked for my dad most of my life… figuratively and spiritually. I agree it’s a God thing–that yearning in our hearts to be loved, cared for and accepted by our dads.
    I’d say go back when you can, if you can. My father had passed away 1 year to the day when I found out where he was; it’s been a piece of unfinished work that sort of hangs in the background of my soul. Jesus is helping me heal from the missing pieces a little at a time.

  • pastordt

    I am sorry for the father wounds in you, Esther, but I love the tone of this piece and pray that you will find peace and rest whether you send him a card or not.