My announcement triggered women to speak words they’d been waiting to say. “I’m going to write a blog for fatherless daughters,” I said. Instantly, their body language responded before their mouths ever did.
Whether I was in the salon, on a play-date with my kids, or at work, women had something to say about their father-daughter relationships (or lack thereof). Without hesitation they recounted memories and words (often painful) of their biological fathers.
“I just met my dad two weeks ago.”
“I don’t know who my father is.”
“My daddy was an alcoholic.”
“I heard my father call my mother a heifer.”
“My dad introduced me as his son.”
Their words indicated that a blog about father wounds was warranted, so I began to write. Excitedly, I shared my new venture with everyone: friends, strangers, and a few members of my family. I posted articles on social media, shared my website link at conferences, and talked about my blog at gatherings among friends. I told everyone who would listen – everyone except my father.
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Keeping My Blog From My Dad
For 4 years, I intentionally kept him in the dark. Telling him about my blog would force me to have a conversation about us. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, I would have to reveal the motivation behind my writing.
Consequently, when it came to having this difficult conversation, fear cloaked itself around me like a winter coat. I couldn’t do it. With ease, I could be brutally honest with the world about topics ranging from relationships to emotional healing, but with my dad, I said nothing.
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"Fear was not my only obstacle; shame was also present."
Pinpointing why is difficult. Part of me was content having what I call “weather conversations” – discussing the rain so you could say you talked. Surface conversations were safe and easy. There was no speculation on what the outcome would be. Simply chat on the phone for a few minutes and repeat in a week or so.
Fear was not my only obstacle; shame was also present. Shame reminded me of the various ways I coped with my father’s absence, often bringing up my over a decade long struggle with self-esteem and worth, emotions, and males. These were not things I wished to discuss. If I’m honest, part of me wanted to protect my father from knowing how his absence impacted me.
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"I reasoned that our relationship wasn’t strong enough to handle the truth."
Keep things light. Avoid confrontation. Don’t rock the boat. As a self-proclaimed people pleaser, these words became my mantra when it came to my father. I reasoned that our relationship wasn’t strong enough to handle the truth.
After all, I had spent all of my adult life trying to build a relationship with my dad. Despite these efforts, the chasm, although smaller, still existed. In some ways we remained like strangers meeting for the first time over and over again. He a Haitian born man several years my senior and I, his American born daughter, now middle-aged and still grappling with his absence in my life.
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Deciding to Have the Difficult Conversation
Inwardly, I had every intention of telling my dad about my blog, but I could never seem to muster up the courage, until God began to nudge me to do so. One day, without warning a thought popped into my mind, “You should tell your father about your blog.” Initially, I dismissed this notion, believing it was a farfetched and random idea, but it returned with even greater persistence.
Often, this is how God communicates with me. An insistent thought that won’t leave eventually becomes the next act of faith God wants me to take. It wasn’t an immediate move of obedience, but eventually I decided to have the difficult conversation with my father.
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"The reality of what I was about to do gnawed at me."
From the day I purchased my plane ticket, I thought about what I would say. How would I begin the conversation? How would he respond? When my departure date arrived, almost every second was filled with thoughts of the approaching meeting between my father and I.
The reality of what I was about to do gnawed at me. All I could think about were my words and his response. When I felt like backing out, I remembered the apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV), ”For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I repeated these words to myself, allowing them to propel me forward.
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"I questioned whether I was doing the right thing."
As I got into the rental car and drove to his house, silence magnified the moment. I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. Determined, I stepped out of the car, placed my feet on the gravel, and walked down the broken sidewalk towards my father’s house. I knocked on the screen door secretly hoping he wouldn’t answer; he did. With a welcoming smile, he opened the door and my heart sank as I thought about the conversation I intended to have.
Upon entering the house, temptation enticed me into settling for another “weather conversation.” I succumbed, but it was over almost as soon as it began. Unsuccessfully, I searched for other things to talk about: sports, current events, anything to pass the time. Nothing was sufficient, and we eventually returned to a loud and deafening silence.
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Stumbling through it with Courage
My unspoken words continued to remind me why I traveled more than 800 miles to see my father. I wanted to run. I contemplated not going through with it, but I knew now was the time. Then courage decided to show up.
Nervously, and with the awkwardness of a new kid on the first day of school, I opened my mouth to speak. “Uhm. Well. Dad. I uhm actually wanted to talk about what it was like growing up (pause) without you...,” I began. “It was hard,” I continued. “I needed you,” I added. “I struggled.”
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"As much as I love to talk, I stumbled through this conversation."
As much as I love to talk, I stumbled through this conversation. After talking for a few minutes, I reached the pinnacle of my mini soliloquy and said what I couldn’t say 4 years ago, “I started a blog for women with father wounds,” I said culminating my confession.
“Whew, I got it out,” I thought to myself, but I knew that was not enough to help him understand. So I took out my cell phone, clicked on the internet app and typed in the url address for my blog. As my homepage showed up on the screen, I timidly passed the device over to my father. Silence ensued as he scrolled the surface of my cell phone. After several moments of holding my breath he eventually responded. Most of his words are a blur but the ones that stand out are, “I understand, and I’m sorry.”
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Experiencing Peace From My Heavenly Father
Immediately, I thought of all the times I had longed to hear my father say those words. I remembered the difficult years of not knowing where he was and why he didn’t stay to raise me. I thought about all of my challenges with self-esteem, the opposite sex, and my emotions. I thought about the many years of struggle and yet, in that moment, I knew peace that peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7 (NIV).
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"Although I cherished and appreciated his words, I was not dependent on them."
God had already healed my broken heart and I had forgiven my father. Although I cherished and appreciated his words, I was not dependent on them. I thanked him, but knew my peace was not rooted in him but in God, just as it says in Colossians 3: 15 (NIV), “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace...” When it was time to go, I stood up and hugged my father with a clear conscience. I felt myself breathing again. I did it. God had given me the courage to have a difficult conversation with my father, and I was better for it.
Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mama of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to be a source of encouragement, healing, and practical wisdom for women dealing with the effects of a physically or emotionally absent father. Each week through practical and biblically sound teaching she encourages women to exchange father wounds for the love of God the Father. For more encouragement download Kia's free ebooks, Hope for the Woman With Father Wounds and Forgiveness Hacks: 5 Strategies to Help You Forgive. Additionally, you can connect with Kia on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.
Check back here throughout August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.
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Originally published Friday, 03 August 2018.