For all of us who have lived any part of our lives absent an earthly father, admitting the effects of abandonment and dealing with those emotions is difficult. So, sharing my Healing Journey story with you is not easy. But, it’s important. I hope that by telling my story, it may trigger someone else’s journey. You see, that’s what happened to me. Years ago my friend, John Smithbaker, shared with me how he had finally, at the age of 40, forgiven the father who had abandoned him as a baby. It transformed his life and he began a quest to help fatherless boys across the U.S. find hope in their heavenly Father and healing through forgiveness of their earthly dads. It turns out that I was one of the “boys” John set out to reach. John’s story inspired me to begin my own journey at the age of 35. It’s a journey that continues today.
I really don’t know when my parents divorced. I have no memories of them together. My earliest memories are of life with my mom and my stepfather, an abusive man who I grew to hate. As a boy I had two men to call “dad” but neither loved me or treated me like a son. As if it were yesterday, I can still recall the embarrassment and hurt I felt at sporting events when we took the field with our dads. My stepfather who I hated would be there by my side while my real dad was a “no show.” In fact, I don’t think he ever showed for any of those important times in my childhood. All I remember are the broken promises and the shame I felt when I had to call him and ask for child support. I’m still asking “Why?” Why didn’t he want to see me as much as I wanted to see him?
Those deep feelings of rejection and loss don’t just disappear. To survive, you just find a way to channel them. Some boys become self-destructive, turning to alcohol, drugs, and crime to numb their pain. I turned to sports and became fiercely competitive and independent. Fortunately for me, God blessed me with an aptitude for sports which helped me stay out of trouble. God also blessed me with a great mother and the best grandfather a boy could ever want. He was my hero, my best friend and the only example of a man in my life. Through athletics and the love of my mom and grandfather, I found a sense of significance and self-worth that carried me into adulthood. For that I am grateful. Still, it wasn’t enough to fill the hole in my heart—a hole the size of my dad.
As I became a young man, the way I dealt with that wound—a wound I now know as the abandonment wound—was to shut everyone out. I closed myself off from people and trusted only myself. That led to the failure of my first marriage and threatened my ability to be a good father to my daughter, Ashley. I didn’t know at the time that my father’s abandonment was at the root of my relationship struggles. Fortunately, I had a friend who understood. John Smithbaker cared enough to tell me his story and encourage me to begin the process of healing that heart wound.
I am five years into the journey now and life is the best it has ever been. For the first time in my life, I am happy with who I am—as a man, as a husband, as a father. And I’m satisfied with all that God has given me including my family. I have a beautiful wife and baby girl. And my daughter Ashley, now 13, lives nearby and is part of my daily life. Honestly, I still wish that I had the dad that everyone else had growing up. But, I’ve learned how to be the husband and father that he failed to be.
I have also learned a lot about forgiveness. On this journey, I have come to really understand the love of my Father in heaven and the power of His forgiveness through Jesus Christ for me. I also recognize the power of forgiveness in my relationships with others. Two years ago, I forgave my dad and it was the most liberating day of my life. Since then, our relationship has grown much stronger and healthier. I know he loves me and is proud of the man I have become. There’s still work to be done with him. I have yet to tell him about the pain that he caused me or the forgiveness that I have for him. I know that’s something I need to do… and I pray that one day I will have the strength to talk to him about it. But the reality about journeys is that most don’t happen overnight. I am still in route.
“Faith, fatherhood and forgiveness” are powerful words that I have just begun to understand. They don’t just define the ministry of Fathers in the Field and my friend and mentor, John Smithbaker. They are at the heart of life-change for boys of all ages… even “boys” who begin their healing journey at age 35 like me. Thanks to John’s encouragement, I started that journey and am now more excited than ever about my life, my friendships, my family, my job as a father, and most of all my relationship with the Lord. I pray that my story might inspire others begin their own journey or come alongside an abandoned boy who, right now, is traveling the path alone.