If we get the emotional nurture we need in childhood, we move out of the house saying, “Hey, Mom and Dad, it’s been great. I’ll be in touch. Love you!”
If we don’t get the attention, affection, and respect we need as children, we leave our childhood home with two choices. We either look for parents everywhere or we grieve our losses and find God to be our real Father. It’s not that black and white, of course, but those are the three extremes.
At twenty years old, most of us don’t realize the losses. But perhaps we pull up the covers every night exhausted from working beyond our limits. Or we drift into drinking too much every weekend. Maybe we hang out with our college teachers because they give us attention. In the midst of those pursuits, we probably don’t realize that we are looking to fill a hole.
The healthier choice means we open our hearts to ourselves. Because we stop and think, we notice the voids. We start journaling. We pay attention to our sadness. We ask ourselves questions: “Why am I feeling so sad?” “Where did that anger come from? It seemed like an overreaction.” “Gee, I’m awfully anxious today. What’s that about?”
Grieving starts with noticing the losses and telling ourselves the truth about inattention, emotional violence, and disrespect. It continues with identifying and feeling our feelings. Then we can decide whether or not we are willing to cancel the debt our parents owe us. We can decide if we’re willing to see our parents as weak, sinful people rather than powerful gods.
We can release our hope that we will someday get what we need from our parents. That’s key. Because the truth is, if they were willing and able to give us the attention, affection, and respect we deserved, they would have done it already. We can try to confront them and ask for what we need. A rare parent can respond and make the changes. Most won’t.
But Papa-God, the most excellent Father, gives us what we need. He suffers with us. He never leaves us alone. He holds our hand, every minute. He attends to us with gentleness and respect for our limitations and abilities. He disciplines, molds, and fills us with his life that lasts forever. Papa-God’s smile fills the holes in our hearts. In an increasingly fatherless world, that is the best news ever.
Good Papa, thank you.