I was writing over at Defying Shadows this week. As it’s June, which is Men’s Health Month and the month of Father’s Day, the theme has been, you guessed it: MEN!
With as taboo a topic as mental illness still is in many circles, it’s worse for men than women. I mean, men aren’t supposed to be depressed or anxious, right? they’re MEN.
So, to all the men accepting help for depression, anxiety, and other mental illness, I’m proud of you! If you’re doing your best to be a good dad in the midst of your struggle, you’re my hero.
A Son’s Identity
My topic was How Men’s Identities are Tied to Their Fathers.
Dads are important. Sons learn how to be men from their fathers. Daughters learn how they should expect to be treated by men. Children who, for one reason or another, don’t have a father, need male role models. In the church, men are responsible for the example they set for those younger than them, in age or faith.
This is true of all Christians. We pass on to the next generation the knowledge and grace we received from those who preceded us. If in each generation there were not those who shared the Gospel with the next, we would be lost.
We must stand as witnesses to what God has done in our lives. We’re strengthened by accounts of the faith of those who came before us, and their testimony of God’s faithfulness through the centuries. Each of us is responsible for the knowledge imparted to us, and the grace received.
We learn from the generations that preceded us, and build on what they built. Their influence shapes us.
But we are more than their legacy.
The Hole Left by a Missing Father
Several years ago I knew a woman who was on a quest to find out all she could about her father. He had died when she was young, so young that she had very little memory of him. So young that she doubted what she remembered was real or true. Decades after his death she had a deep longing for her father, to know him and be known by him. She felt incomplete without a relationship with him. She believed she couldn’t fully understand herself if she didn’t understand him.
I’m an adoptee. I get it.
Identity is tricky. As is longing to fill our empty places.
But here’s the thing. No matter how much she learned about her father, it would never give her a complete understanding of herself.
Did meeting my birth mother and other members of her family give me insight into the woman I am and the child I was? Yes. I know where I got my cheekbones and large hands. I’ve learned about what was going on in the family when they made the choice to put me up for adoption.
But did meeting them make me feel complete? Did it fill the part of the void that, as a teen, I blamed for not being raised in a biological family?
No, of course not.
Because I still don’t know anything about my biological father. Or at least I blamed that for some of my continuing feeling of lack and confusion about who I am after meeting Sherry. At least for awhile.
But do you know what a biological father is? A guy who had sex. There are plenty of those around.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many good dads, and we should all be grateful for them. There are dutiful fathers, who maybe weren’t planning on parenthood when it came along, but manned up and took responsibility. There are men who step in to be Dad to kids who need one. There are men who have no idea they are fathers; some may have been good dads to the child they don’t know they have.
It’s possible Sherry couldn’t tell me who my father is even if she wanted to. Maybe one of these days I’ll bring up the question again. We’re not in touch much.
Here’s the truth: If I feel incomplete without him, I’ll still be incomplete with him.
People can’t make us whole or fulfill us completely. They’re just other flawed people like us.
Good Dad? Bad Dad? Missing Dad? You’re more than your past.
Having a Godly father is a wonderful blessing. But you’re not doomed if you had no father, or if your father was dismissive or abusive.
God is the ultimate Father, and He made it possible for all of us to shed our broken identities and be reborn as His child, made whole in the image of the Son. We are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.
What do you choose to do with the best news that’s ever been told?
Never believe you’re not good enough because you never met your father’s expectations.
If you never had a father, it’s all the more reason to put your trust in our Heavenly Father.
Were you abused by your father? Never, ever, ever accept the lie that you are unworthy. You are loved beyond measure. You were not ignored when all you wanted was for the pain to stop; God suffered and cried with you. Free will is double-edged sword. We all want it, but it means we can be hurt by the way others exercise theirs.
In an ideal world, we’d all have a Dad. And he’d be a good one.
This isn’t an ideal world.
Good dads know they’re imperfect.
Acknowledging imperfection is where men (and women!) start to let God’s strength be made perfect in weakness.
How about you?
Do you have a story about an imperfect father and how his parenting, or lack thereof, made you who you are? Have you overcome lies he made you believe about yourself? Are you a dad doing his best with his imperfection? I’d love for you to comment below to share your story to encourage a son, daughter, or father!