I wanted to write a nice piece for Father’s Day to honor my dad. After all, I am a Christ follower and it’s what I’m supposed to do. Except I couldn’t pull it off. I’ve always written from an honest place, so I have to stay true to how God has called me to write.
The truth is, my relationship with dad is not how I want it to be. We don’t talk much, even though he lives with our family. He hasn’t been what my four siblings and I needed in a father. But I’ve come a long way to the place of forgiving him. I’ve learned to love him in spite of his faults.
Over the years my dad’s harsh words and conditional love has not been discriminatory. He has treated all his kids the same. In his mind, we are big disappointments because we have not made him proud in our work and we have not taken care of him the way he thinks we should. Compared to other people’s kids, we have not been loyal and grateful for all he has done for us. To sum it up, we have failed him.
Even with all this said, I have learned to love my dad. I don’t like and agree with how he treats us, but I choose to love him anyway. I do it because my Heavenly Father commands me to love. As a child of God, I am to imitate him and live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1-2) in following the example of Christ. In loving my dad, I am doing what God would do. I love my dad in spite of his faults because God loves me in spite of my faults. And I can only love in this manner by the resurrection power of Christ living in me!
Now, is it easy to love a dad or anyone who treats you poorly and doesn’t realize they need to change for the better? You bet it is! Loving my dad is an impossible thing to do on my own. When I recall his hurtful words and how he insists on his own way, the last thing I want to do is show him love. The weak human part of me wants to return the hurts he’s dished out. Yet, the Spirit of God living in me fights against my flesh, reminding me to act differently. He reminds me to treat my dad how I want to be treated, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12. When I wrong others I want forgiveness, grace, and do-overs. So, I should do the same for my dad when he wrongs me.
I can love my dad because God first loved me. When I don’t feel like loving him or feel I don’t have what it takes to love him, I can borrow God’s love with which to love my dad. If God can love me with all my faults and failures, how can I not love my dad?
My dad is an imperfect human like me. He has weaknesses and failures like me. God loves him as much as he loves me. The more I get to know God and love him, the more and better I love my dad. I can love him not because he has changed his ways, but because God has changed me. God has soften my heart and given me wisdom, understanding, and compassion to see my dad the way He sees him.
You see, my dad is a by-product of his family environment and culture. He parents how he was parented. He loves how he was loved. Since he doesn’t see the error and harm of his parents’ way of parenting, he never changed the practices he learned from them. And more importantly, he is a man who is living without the guidance of the Heavenly Father. He is the master of himself and the leader of his own life. He does not know how to love unconditionally because he does not know God, who is love (1 John 4:8).
I’m not excusing my dad’s actions, but knowing about his family upbringing has helped me to understand his methods and to have compassion for him. I no longer resent him for wounding me because I understand how he fathered from a place of brokenness himself, and he didn’t know it.
As for him changing his ways, I pray he will one day soon. But I won’t allow his stubbornness and oblivion to the need for change interfere with my love for him. Doing so would mean I have the same conditional love for my dad as he does for me and my siblings. And it would make me a hypocrite in regards to Jesus’ teachings of love. If I treat my dad the way he treats me, I’d be repeating the sins of the generations in his family. My kids would learn the same from me and their kids from them and the unhealthy patterns of parenting would spread to even more generations. This, I will not accept.
So, with the help of my Heavenly Father, I will love my dad unconditionally regardless of how he loves me. It’s what I’ve learned from my Father, God. And I shall love no other way. I want to break the generational sin of dysfunctional parenting in our family and begin the practice of parenting with God’s love for all future generations in our family and beyond.