My father – and how I learned to honor him
When I think of my father today, I see a man who is very upright. Someone who would always give his best. He would never do something he knows would be wrong. His moral standards are very, very high. For years, he worked in a job he actually hated, in order to feed his family of 7. My father is a very faithful and exact man. He wanted to please God and walk His ways.
I believe that I chose a husband who has the very same traits.
I’m pretty sure having this kind of experience with these traits in my dad, made me recognize them in Benny.
The essence of who my dad truly is shaped my life greatly.
Today I can see this unique DNA, his unique essence of who he is shining through his personality which is generally overwhelmed with life.
Shining through the many hurts, the many disappointments and the pain he experienced in his life, shining through the many destructive ways he chose in order to protect himself and “survive” a life he didn’t choose.
Today I can see that. I honor him for who he ought to be. For the amazing and unique person God made him to be.
Lamentably, to this day, he doesn’t realize how amazing and unique a person God created him to be and how much he’s deeply loved by him.
As long as I remember, my father struggled with depression.
As a father, he was a very controlling, angry, negative and selfish person. He always felt that his five children were too heavy a load to bear.
He gave us the feeling (and told us so) that we were too much, too loud, too needy, too expensive and that we were all losers and guilty of anything that didn’t go right in his own life.
I could tell you many situations in which we were confronted with this reality.
Years ago, when I saw my father, I felt nothing more than this deep hurt of not being enough to be loved.
His messages (verbalized or not) shaped the understanding of my identity, life in general and God.
I left home with the deep hole in my soul a father should have filled.
I left with this deep insecurity about my identity, my worth, my value and my importance.
I knew that I didn’t want to be like him. I didn’t want to end in depression and anger, leaving the same hurtful impact on the lives around me.
But the truth is… by rejecting where I came from, I was rejecting a part of me.
I was rejecting the whole package: The destructive ways he chose to protect himself and his unique DNA.
And well, I don’t blame anyone doing that.
I know the deep pain and the feeling of being fatherless, even if my father is alive, sometimes even present in my own life. I know this longing for a father who would be here to cherish, protect, guide and love you.
I took countless decisions out of my hurts and this deep hole in my soul. I lead myself through turbulent times I certainly could have omitted if I would have had a father who showed me that I was valuable, precious and important to him.
But today, I see that my father, by who he truly was, did transmit something other than those painful realities: He transmitted to me this deep desire to follow God, to do what is right. My moral standards have always been very high. I always wanted to please God and walk in His ways.
And God honored this heart and took me on this journey which I am still on today.
A part of this journey was this concept of honoring father and mother. Because I wanted to do what was right, I couldn’t ignore the scripture in the bible that tells in Exodus 20:12 to
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you”.
But I wasn’t ready to cover up how I felt, just for the sake of “honor”.
My father – as correct as he is and as much as he wants to do what is right – was defenseless when, a few years ago, his own father, who had abandoned him and his mother while he was just a little boy, called him daily (and sometimes even several times a day) from his retirement home in France, for nothing more than to insult him. My grandfather was a war veteran. He had experienced his own trauma – and probably because of that – lost his memory as he got older. That’s why he didn’t even remember the call he had just made and he used to call shortly after again. This went on for several months and even years.
As I got to know about those phone calls, I told my father that I would never accept anyone doing this to me. That this was verbal abuse and there was no way I would tolerate this in my life. I told him that, after a few calls like this, I would block the person out, even if it was my own father.
He didn’t understand what I was talking about. For him, this was honoring his father.
I believe that honoring my father is very different.
As God lead me through that journey, I had to face the reality of my Dad’s attitudes in my life. The reality of what he taught me about myself, life and God (verbal and non-verbal) and how this affected my whole being.
It came in layers. First the big things. The way I felt rejected. The way I felt he cared only for himself. Then, the things I realized we were missing, like family vacations. We didn’t take family vacations even once throughout my whole childhood.
During that process, I knew the feeling of hatred. Of rejecting my dad – and every other person that resembled him. However, ironically, I tried to be loved by a guy who would have never been the person I would have chosen, concerning his interests and values in life. He was not a bad guy – but he just wasn’t the right person for me. Like my father, he wasn’t able to handle me. I was too emotional, too needy, simply too much for him. Today I know that I simply longed to prove to myself that I could be loved by someone like my father.
Today, I am able to face the reality of where I come from.
And instead of pain, there is gratefulness.
Instead of ashes, there is beauty.
Simply because I have come to realize that today, I am not the fruit of what he (and others) did to me. Not even the fruit of my own wrong decisions, mistakes, failures and incapacities.
My life is a display of the faithfulness of God. Of His love, His grace, His capacity and His compassion.
He took me from my painful reality onto this journey. He fathered me, He guided me, He gave me value, importance, and worth. He showed me His love in countless ways. He healed and restored my soul.
Today, there is freedom in my relationship with my father.
Today, I have truly forgiven him. Forgiveness was a journey in itself and not done by a one-time decision. But more on that another time.
Today, I am well capable to set my limits and to stand up for my integrity, as I explained in that article.
I am free because my dad’s attitudes and hurtful behavior are not determining my identity, worth and value anymore. I am free to see that he tried hard to cope with life the way he knew… always feeling like a “nobody”, a “looser” and “forgotten” by God and men.
And I recognize those attributes of him that I see in myself, too. And I love them.
I see those positive traits in Benny, and I celebrate them.
I discover those attributes in my children, and I affirm them.
I know that my father has great respect for me and my family.
I know he thinks that I am doing a wonderful job, and he even told me so.
Lately, I told him:
“You know, I am so grateful that I am your descendant. We both know that there were many things in our relationship father-daughter that were difficult and painful.
However, today, I see those precious attributes of yours. I see this unique person God has made you to be. I believe I saw them in Benny because you displayed them in my life, and I cherish them.
By the grace of God, who you truly are speaks louder in my life then all what went wrong.”