When it was discovered my dad was having an affair, the family unit I’d known for twenty-seven years died.
Now what I once knew as my family no longer looks the same, feels the same, or is the same. It’s felt like what I’d imagine losing a limb might feel like; first searing pain, then numbness, now an ever-persistent ache.
You’d think it would be easier to deal with my parents’ separation as an adult. There’s no childish confusion about why mommy or daddy are leaving. I’m old enough to not have to worry about going back and forth between parents on weekends. I can understand the situation. And maybe that’s the problem. I understand the issues that brought on the devastation too well, be they adultery, abuse or deceit.
I myself have had to daily battle bitterness. However, despite the faithlessness of my earthly father, God has been a faithful spiritual Father.
One of the most common battles I’ve faced is bitterness. I constantly struggle with bitterness towards my father over the pain he’s caused my mom, my siblings, and me.
I was recently confronted with Ephesians 4, which tells me to put on a “new self” by getting “rid of all bitterness” (Ephesians 4:31). I was convicted and with the Holy Spirit’s help sought repentance and a heart change. Whether towards God or man, it’s no easy task to defeat bitterness, I know. But I’ve learned that if I let bitterness grow in my heart, I’ll only make those around me and myself miserable.
God doesn’t intend that we go through our losses and spiritual battles alone. He wants to use the Church to show His faithfulness and extend His arms of comfort. I’ve realized I need to see my family as being bigger than just the physical one I was born into. I want to invest myself into the lives of my spiritual family members so that we can “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). However, to allow people to carry my burdens, I’ve discovered I have to be humble enough be real about what’s going on in my life. When I’ve done this, I’ve experienced the blessing of having people encourage me by praying for my family and me on many occasions.
No matter what happens to my physical family, God will always be a faithful Father to me. He is a Father who extends grace and mercy into my life, not just for salvation, but also for each day as long as I live. He uses the events in my life to shape me into a person that resemble Him more and more—if I am willing to let Him.
Some of us have lost a parent to death. Some of us had a parent abandon us. Some of us have experienced the split of our families by separation or divorce. No matter what the story, we can heal and be changed more into the image of Christ.
I’m glad the Bible gives us stories of people who have dysfunctional families too: Noah’s episode of drunkenness, Abraham and Sarah and their warped relationship with Hagar, Joseph and his jealous brothers, David’s adultery, Hosea and Gomer. The list could really be endless. Bible stories are not given to us as moralistic lessons: perfect people to model our life after. Instead they’re full of mess and ruin but for God’s relentless grace. And so it is with me.
No matter what family I may lose along life’s journey, I can always find my Father. He is always near and will never forsake.