I started out my Fathering blog with this quote from “Transformation of the Inner Man” – “ If the father has truly lived the Way in Christ; it is easy for a son to do the same; if the father has not, our Lord will first have to overcome and bring to death in the son what the father was.” This is a necessary work of Christ to release the negative effects that our fathers had on us. One of the things Anne and I were contending for in that blog was that in our quest for holiness and cleansing and sanctification, the Holy Spirit will at times have us revisit the way we were fathered, and especially the negative effects from the way we were fathered.
With a great desire to see others released from repeating the same patterns of our fathers, a dear friend and reader sent me a letter responding to my blog. Her letter encouraged me to continue on this road, and to emphasize the concepts of thankfulness, forgiveness and releasing our fathers from judgments and vows.
First, we should find every possible thing we can thank our parents and specifically our fathers for. I made it a practice every year for my father’s birthday and for Father’s Day to write Dad a lengthy letter in which I thanked him for things he did for me. If your earthly father is deceased, maybe you could share your thankfulness with your mother or siblings.
We also should thank God for our earthly fathers. If they were truly horrible from beginning to end, perhaps we can at least thank God that they allowed us to be born instead of being aborted. And for most of us, we can find more than that to thank God for. “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18
Second, we must practice ongoing forgiveness of our fathers for anything negative that comes to our minds regarding their parenting of us (or lack of parenting us). Jesus was very clear in His teachings that experiencing His forgiveness is to some degree dependent upon our forgiving others. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12. “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35.
Jesus endured great suffering and pain to provide a judicial basis for our forgiveness in His death on a criminal’s cross. Even if our fathers were criminals, Jesus died for their sins. To whatever depths their offenses have been toward us, there will be grace to forgive, and the Holy Spirit will cleanse us from the hurts as we forgive.
Forgiveness sometimes is an ongoing battle especially when we end up having to lay our lives down (in elder care) for those who sinned so greatly against us. Satan will do everything in his power to keep us bound in unforgiveness. Remembering Jesus’s answer to Peter’s question as to how many times we have to forgive someone might be helpful, “Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22. In other words, there is no cut off. We must continue to forgive until our souls are free from bitterness and resentment. He wouldn’t require it if He didn’t intend to enable it.
The third encouragement is to heed the apostle Paul’s warning in Romans 2:1 “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”. We have heard people vow with great emotion that they will never be like their fathers in a certain way, only years later to be found walking in the same general pattern.
It is good and fine to hate the sinful ways of our fathers. But we are often more like them than we like to admit. Best not to open a wide door to that reality by judging them.
Thankfulness, forgiveness and releasing or renouncing any judgments or vows is a great means to receive further cleansing from the pain and shame of less than perfect fathering.
Always appreciative of your thoughtful responses to the things we post on this website.
Grace and peace!