In the movie, The Father Effect, John Finch shares his story about his dad’s suicide and how he wasn’t aware for many years of the impact this would have on his life. The searching, the emptiness, the hurt and anger he felt because his father was absent, having chosen suicide over facing his fear and brokenness. The effect on John and his family’s life was monumental. It was John’s defining moment.
Most of us have a defining moment in our past. That day our world changes forever. Whether a triumph or tragedy, we, God willing, get to write the ending to our life story. Will we allow it to make us bitter or better? Will we choose to open the door to God’s grace or live our lives in the darkness of unforgiveness? We can’t control what happens to us – the circumstances, but we have a choice in how we respond. Our attitude can be the difference between victory or defeat.
Looking back over my life, I had more than one defining moment. As it relates to family, I had a period in my late teens and early twenties where I had to separate myself from family. It was a painful time. My parents and I had reached an impasse. I truly knew what was best for myself, we couldn’t disagree and be peaceful. It was a heartbreaking decision, but I knew for my own well-being I had to walk away. I had to love them from a distance.
These were tough years for me. I hurt. I cried. I asked God why? I struggled and there are times even today I still struggle with forgiveness as it relates to family relationships. What I’m learning is that forgiveness isn’t done once and all is forever better. Forgiveness is a daily walk. It’s a journey toward wholeness that frees ourselves and those we love to be human.
As a believer, I know it is the Holy Spirit in me that allows me to put aside my woundedness and let God’s grace and mercy enter in. This is essential to life change, to healing and restoration.
We’re facing a crisis in our culture. The American family is under assault. Drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, the entertainment industry, political structures and societal pressure to have material things are creating an environment that makes it difficult for families, for marriages to survive. We are living in a fatherless generation where leadership and positive role models are scarce, leaving young people searching. The world is more than happy to provide a solution.
In The Father Effect, the movie brings to light the sobering statistics on children with absent fathers:
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide
- 7 times more likely to drop out of school
- 15 times more likely to commit rape
- 24 times more likely to run away
This explains why we have so many young people struggling for identity, turning to substance abuse, sex, gangs or criminal activity. The evening news is a constant reminder of the breakdown of the family. It leaves one wondering, where are their families? Where are their fathers?
John Finch points out in The Father Effect that nine out of 10 people suffer from a father wound, creating a void that will greatly change lives for years to come.
So, what is the solution? The simplest solution is for fathers to realize the importance of being a father. In an ideal world, we need fathers making a priority of loving God first and their families second, giving them their time and attention, as well as becoming a role model by living out right actions. Young people learn best by seeing dads being good husbands and good fathers.
Let me emphasize there is no substitute for love and speaking love into the lives of your kids. Stop worrying about being the perfect father. If you’ve made mistakes, admit it, make the adjustments necessary and move forward.
A word of advice for those well into adulthood still struggling with a father wound, you are never beyond God’s reach. Be open, be honest, be humble. Humble yourselves before God and he will lift you up. (James 4:10) Extend forgiveness to your father for loving you imperfectly and to yourself for being vulnerable. Ask for God’s help, ask for his healing. God promises restoration and new life to those who seek it.
Arise, shine, for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon me. (Isaiah 60:1)