Healing the Fatherless Wound
I was the type of girl that loved to be free at all costs. I was stubborn, wild and a little bit rebellious. I didn’t want to be tied down by attachments to anyone or anything. Too much baggage, too many expectations, too much pressure. My father broke my heart when I was young and I never wanted any other man to come close enough to do it again. So I built walls, and grew thorns around my heart. I suffered loss and was let down when I relied on my dad before and I never wanted to do that again. So I decided when I was 15 that I would never let a man hurt me again. This pact was all going very smoothly until I met a boy when I was 16. Let’s call him Ben. He had kind eyes, a loving heart and a warm smile. We met in the summer and we were inseparable. I used to sneak out of the house to see him, we would hold hands and tell each other secrets and just be together. It was a beautiful time. On my birthday, he got me flowers and wrote me a song and I could feel the walls crumbling as he broke into my heart.
I started to let him know me. My thoughts, my fears, my dreams and finally my past. My past was full of murky waters, full of tension, fear, sorrow, loneliness, and wounds that my father inflicted on my poor mother and I. So I shared my bruised past with him. I didn’t hold back. I gave him all the memories I held within me — of the sleepless nights, tear-soaked pillowcases, unused tickets of award ceremonies my father missed. And the worst memory of all, the dreaded day my father left my family with suitcase in hand. I laid it all on Ben and he could feel the weight. Ben thought he had to fix all my problems and felt overwhelmed that I had such a heavy past and stressful life. He did not know how he could help. We were both teens, we didn’t know what was coming, and this whole thing was supposed to be a fleeting summer romance and this crush turned into something too serious. I was too intense and my life was too heavy for Ben; so he said goodbye. I understood. I think I wanted him to leave to reassure myself that this is what all guys did. They left when things got tough. I told him everything because I wanted to test him. I wanted to see how far he would go, how much he could handle. I wanted to know if he would stay.
I used to listen to that song, “Daughters” by John Mayer, and this line in the song always struck a bitter sweet chord in me: “Fathers be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do”. I think this line summarized how the void of my father’s love left me broken and conditioned to believe that all love had strings attached. I thought that love was a game and whoever got hurt least won the game. I thought Ben’s feelings for me had strings, I thought he wanted something for me. I now realize he didn’t, he just wanted to be with me because we liked each other. He didn’t want to control me or take anything away from me. I never knew the beauty of masculinity and the love of a man, so I didn’t think it existed. I also believed that I didn’t deserve it. My father was my first love. He was the first man to hug me, to kiss me, to wipe my tears, and to carry me. He knew me before anyone else but he decided I wasn’t enough. He didn’t want me. He was supposed to lead me to safety, and protect me against all the dragons and be my knight in shining armour. But he left me to fight the dragons by myself. I had to find shelter. I had to learn to fight. I had to make my own armour. I had to fight to protect my mother. I came home with battle scars inflicted from narrow-minded gossip and condescension. “Poor thing, from a single-parent home, how sad”. The hurtful words helped me to cope and heal quicker. I grew strong. Too strong. Too hard and too worn. And it tore me up inside.
I was trying to make our little family work. I was trying to put the pieces of our family together. But I couldn’t lessen the sting that came with that moment at parties when couples danced and my mother felt lonely because there was no one to dance with. I couldn’t fix the pain that came every June on Father’s Day when all the kids made cards and gifts, except for me. I couldn’t fix all of our problems and I was learning to accept that slowly.
The years rolled on and my heart was letting down its walls slowly. I started to talk to more guys but I was strategic about sharing my heart. I had to “guard my heart” and protect myself from sharing too much or being too much of a burden because guys don’t like that, they just wanted to be with girls who laughed at their jokes and smiled all the time, or so I thought. It was only in university that I started to believe that there was such a concept as a “nice guy”. I was blessed to meet honorable, kind and good men who showed me a different perspective. I was welcomed to a world of chivalry where door opening, heavy-object holding, and walking along the side of traffic was a special part of my week. This concept confused me, inspired me and terrified me all at once. It still does sometimes! Noble and heroic masculinity was a thing of fiction to me, I only saw it in literature and movies…until now.
I started to share parts of my story with certain men and they did not run the away in fear! They were compassionate, patient and kind. They let me pause, they let me cry and they listened. I never let a man love me with his ability to just be present and listen and it is a beautiful gift that I only recently received. I realized I am worthy of love and chivalry. I am worthy of sacrifice. I needed to be reminded of my inherent beauty and vocation as a woman. I don’t have to be exactly like a man to have value. I don’t have to keep striving to be the child I thought my father wanted so he would love me one day. I realized I was enough. Men need affirmation from women, and my anger and pain from my father did not make things any easier or better if I didn’t compliment other men or allow them to be chivalrous towards me. I used to be that radical feminist who was all “I can open my OWN doors!” But then I started thinking about it; men are treating me like a woman because I AM a woman. By allowing men to treat me as a woman, I was loving myself as a woman. I was made to be a female for a reason and the fact that I am one is a beautiful thing.
I realized that I didn’t constantly need to protect my heart and keep my armour on. I didn’t need to conscientiously prepare for battles and conquer dragons. If I spent all my time sharpening my sword and putting on my armour, I would miss the beautiful vulnerability that comes with shedding my armour and bearing my scars to someone special. You don’t have to tell a man everything at once, give him time to know you and understand you. Remain a mystery and only unveil certain memories and experiences so that your friendship can blossom naturally. All Christian girls use the phrase “guard your heart” but it is important to protect your heart and to practice prudence when you share parts about yourself. Your story is beautifully intimate. Sharing your life with someone is like giving someone a peek into your soul. It is highly personal and special. There are beautiful, noble men who are pursuing you and are worthy of this knowledge but there are also guys who are just boys in disguise and don’t deserve those special stories and memories because they haven’t earned them. Allow yourself to be pursued and in the meantime, practice prudence and sincerity in your friendships with men. Be selective! You deserve to be. You are precious, scars and all. Pray for wisdom and discernment when choosing to let a man into your life.
A man’s love is a delicate and precious gift. When we, as women, accept it, we need to remember that we hold great power over his heart. While we are told to guard our hearts and be careful, we also need to be mindful that we are also called to guard our brothers’ hearts. When a man goes out of his way to do a kind act for you, it is a beautiful gesture that says “I respect who you are, I want to help you and I think you are amazing”. God is reclaiming my heart and is slowly helping me realize that my father’s neglect does not need to reflect on all men. Men are capable of amazing deeds and great love and nice guys do exist, ladies! My wounds have been restored into beauty and I can be at peace with my past so that my tomorrow can be brighter than my yesterday.
If there are any sisters who can relate to this story, please believe that true love exists. You are worthy of perfect love. The wound of fatherlessness is a deep, painful one that only God can heal. You are not alone. We, at Made 4 More, are praying for you. Feel free to share your story with us, we would love to help in any way we can. Make this upcoming new year a chance to choose love and forgive.
If there are any fathers out there reading this, love your daughters. They desire to know you so much, so let them.