As I write this, I am listening to a gathering of men pray in my kitchen before having breakfast. The men of my church (aka “Men of Courage” as they have dubbed themselves) wanted to honor and pray for their pastors in the midst of a particularly trying season in which a number of elderly congregants have passed away, and funerals have become all too common. These are the kind of men who put their life in harm’s way to help others, who immediately pick up and go when they get a phone call that someone needs their help, who have driven to another state to find a wayward child, who have wives who are truly grateful to have them in their lives, who protect and provide for their wives and children while helping and volunteering in their communities, who put the needs of others before them (I just overheard one of them say, when asked to go first, “No. Ya’ll go first.”), who mentor young men in at-risk communities to show them what godly men do, who seek to do what is right even when it is not financially beneficial or popular, who get on their knees and pray on a daily basis because they know the crushing responsibilities on their shoulders need the help of an almighty God. They are firemen and police, engineers and doctors, pastors and chaplains, musicians and carpenters, businessmen and combat veterans. These are the good men. The men we look up to. The kind of man that, when children ask their mom a question, she can respond, “What would your father do?” Men of Courage, indeed. These are the kind of men we celebrate and are thankful for on Father’s Day.
But not every woman can celebrate a good man in her life. Those of us who have been in an abusive marriage or relationship are filled with guilt and sadness for our children on Father’s Day. We have beat ourselves up for the partner that we chose to be the father of our children, and have come to realize that he lacks a moral compass. He is not one of the “good guys.” When our children ask us a question, we cannot say, “What would your father do?”
How do we find hope and joy on Father’s Day?
Here’s a few thoughts.
Perhaps your ex has made a “miraculous” change of parenting style from being uninvolved while you were married to trying to win Father of the Year after you split. He buys them expensive toys or cars, takes them on fancy trips, and actually spends some time with them now. I call this the “Divorce-Activated Dad.” Also known as the “Disneyland Dad.” You know that he is trying to buy your children’s affections and has turned everything into a competition with you to get even. However, you can still be thankful. If it took a divorce to make him step up to the plate of being a dad, at least he stepped up. People of all ages have a father longing. Children long for a relationship with their father like they crave food and water. According to famous psychologist Abraham Maslow, our need to feel loved and accepted by those around us, especially our parents, is one of our basic human needs. It is painful for a mom who has gone above and beyond to be a good mom to see her kids spend time with an abusive ex, who never lifted a finger for them until a divorce. The children of a good friend of mine, who spent a great deal of time with their dad after her divorce, explained it to her this way, “We knew we always had you, and we know we will always have you. But now, we have dad too, and we never had him before.” The father longing, as explained by teenagers. As the responsible, emotionally mature parent, moms need to put aside our own ego and cynicism of the underlying motive of the Divorce-Activated Dad and be thankful that our children have a relationship with their father.
Maybe your ex is still mostly uninvolved in the lives of your children, but sees them on occasion. You would like for him to be more involved in their lives and take some of the child-raising burden off of you. But he just doesn’t have the emotional capacity to be a full-time dad or form an intimate relationship with them (or with you, for that matter, which is probably one reason why you left.) In this case, it’s probably best to accept that he has a limited capacity to parent, that you will be the primary parent, and that he will play the role of a benevolent uncle who shows up from time to time. However, you can still be thankful that there is some relationship between your children and their father – having an uncle figure is better than having no one at all. And perhaps over time, as they both grow older, that relationship will grow with more shared activities.
Your ex may be out of the picture and totally uninvolved in the lives of your children. Even in this situation, you can be thankful. A man who has no interest in raising or supporting his own children is completely morally bankrupt. There is nothing good to be gained by your children having a relationship with him. His influence would be negative, not positive. I came to this realization when one of the good men who is now having breakfast in my kitchen discovered at around age 50 that his biological father, who had abandoned his then-wife and children while my friend was just an infant, shot and killed his current wife and then himself. My friend had longed for and tried to have a relationship with his father his whole life, but his father had wanted no communication. After his father’s death, the family discovered tactics that we know about all abusers – he had lied to and abused his elderly, sickly wife, and he had lied to and pitted all the relatives against each other to make sure no one communicated or shared notes about him (a tactic called triangulation). He committed a murder-suicide when he could no longer keep up the façade of financial secrets and lies. If this monster had had any influence in the life of my friend (who became a pastor), it would have been entirely negative, and it is very likely my friend would never have become a pastor. God in his goodness spared my friend from this evil in his life.
If this is your situation, you may wish to seek out a kind, godly man who can be a mentor for your children and show them by example how a godly man lives and treats others in his life. Perhaps you will be blessed with a godly new husband and stepfather to your children. Perhaps this is your own father or brother. Or perhaps it is someone else in the family of God, who can be given the title of an adopted uncle, grandparent, or godfather.
I am grateful that one of the good men having breakfast in my kitchen is my new husband. He demonstrates every day how a godly man treats his wife and those around him. No stranger to abuse himself, he has partnered with me in my ministry to help women and children overcome domestic abuse. One of the blessings of this ministry is sharing our home with women and children needing emergency housing. As only God can do, as we try to bless others, he blesses us even more by bringing wonderful people into our lives. Some of our greatest blessings are the children who have lived with us and have asked my husband to be their godfather and adopted uncle, while asking me to be their godmother and adopted aunt. God is working in all our lives to heal us through His amazing love as He works in us and through us.
This Father’s Day, there are reasons to be thankful and joyful. Your family did not turn out how you had hoped. You may still be grieving this loss. But God is very good at working with Plan B, or even Plan C or Plan D. He loves your children even more than you do. He is healing your family and equipping you to be stronger and wiser. And, when a godly, earthly father cannot be with them, He promises to be the perfect Father.
Thank you for the very comforting reminder that God promises to be with His children. This Father’s Day, I am having to make the decision to sever all ties with my 88 year old father who’s abuses never end. From the time I was a baby, no more than 3 years old, he began beating me so brutally that I would pass out cold. When I revived he would call me a phony. My mother would stand there screaming, “Stop, stop, you’re going to kill her.” He never stopped and today I am certain that if he knew he could get away with it, he would not hesitate to kill me in cold blood.
Though I have not been able to get him to a medical professional for a diagnosis, every clinician I have consulted about his abuses, pathological lying, violence, lack of sexual discernment, embezzlement, and abuses of every kind, classify his condition as a narcissist, sociopath, psychopath, or dark triad — a combination of the three disorders. His evil is absolutely astonishing. There is no bottom to how low he will stoop.
After my mother died and left behind a sizeable amount of money there was nefarious activity with the way he handled her Will and years later I learned that he embezzled my inheritance with the help of my older sister. People not familiar with the way a psychopath operates will have difficulty believing what has happened to me since then, and how he created a financial dependency that he now uses to control me in ways that are so insidiously evil that it is often exhausting to overcome his Satanic assaults. He holds money that does not belong to him, admits to “administering a trust” to me, and then to appease his guilt smears me to everyone he knows by telling them he “supports” me and that I refuse to work. He issues me a $1200 per month “stipend” that he refuses to account for legally. He refuses to meet with a mediator. Now he is demanding that I give him a monthly account of my expenses before he will issue me my money because he says $1200 is “more than ample” for me to live on. I am in such credit card debt and my credit is so completely shot that I am unemployable. I owe my electric company thousands upon thousands of dollars. I’ve been sued in small claims court by my creditors. My home and car need repairs, I have no money for anything that would advance my interests or education, and I am absolutely burned out. Disability doesn’t cover burnout!!! And now, he claims he has to “borrow” money. He has investment accounts at several banks that yield interest higher than his home equity loan that he operates off of for additional expenses and so he can cry poor mouth when I need extra money for car repairs. It has been hell to pull myself out of this abyss and to realize my financial independence and autonomy. Does God keep us enslaved in this way for a reason? It is a chronic exercise in futility. And now he’s trying to get me to sell my home. Where am I going to go? I love my home. I was left homeless more than once over the years. I’m 61 years old now.
After my mother died he began having an affair with a married woman that began long before; my mother talked about this woman for years, constantly. So after she died and he took up with this woman, everything my mother had said over the years came together like a jigsaw puzzle and I saw the whole picture. I pleaded with him and reminded him constantly of the violation of the Ten Commandments. His exact words were, “I’m going to do what I want to do and I don’t care what anybody thinks.” He denies and lies about everything and now he can’t even remember his own lies any longer so he twists everything to suit his narrative about how “godly” he thinks he is.
Judas Iscariot. That’s my father. I’ve tried very hard to be a friend and a good daughter to him. When I refused to condone his cavorting with a married woman he threw me under the bus. My whole family threw me under the bus. And because of this, he has smeared me to my whole family. Yet as I told him several times, after my mother died it was more important to him to figure out how to be a husband to a married woman than it was how to be a father to his two daughters who’d just lost their mother. Dear God, please deliver me from this evil!
Though it is my Christian duty to pray for his soul, and to cast out demons, it is also my Christian duty to guard my heart and to cut off all evil that clouds my Atonement with God. Yes, Judas Iscariot. That is my father. It would be better for him had he never been born. That’s how hideously evil he is.
O blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.
Dear Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, thank you for healing all wounds and for giving us the strength to carry our cross for You. Dear God, Our Father Who art in Heaven, Thy Kingdom come. I pray, Dear God, that You will make haste to hear and answer my prayer. So many of us are daughters of abusers. The scars are indelible. Dear God, somehow, please have mercy upon us and grant us relief. Dear God, you know I am an orphan. You know exactly what I need before I ask of You. Please, I beg You, answer my prayer to extricate myself from this evil madness.
Happy Father’s Day to the Soldiers of Christ who know how to be fathers.
I am so sorry for the abuse and pain that you have had inflicted by your father. Thankfully, God’s word gives us some guidance on how to deal with these kinds of people. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul gives wise advice to Timothy after describing a Narcissistic abuser: “Have nothing to do with them.” In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul again warns against people claiming to be a Christian who continue in intentional, unrepentant, severe sin: Don’t associate with them…don’t even eat with such people. Many places in the Bible tell us to flee from evil. (Psalm 37:27). Jesus was a great example. He was compassionate to those seeking him, but severe to hypocrites, calling them “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34) and sons of the devil (John 8:44). I don’t believe that God wants us to keep putting ourselves in harm’s way for someone who has outright rejected him. Modern day counselors always recommend “no contact” to victims of abuse for the very reasons Paul did: abusers will always continue to harm you. After 61 years of trying, I encourage you to go “no contact” and make healing from this madness your number one priority, so that you can become all that God designed you to be when he made you as His own beloved daughter of the King of Kings. Charlene Quint