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Why I struggle with Father's Day

Martin and Jacob
Posted August 28, 2018

I’m one of those sons that struggle with Father’s Day. Sadly, I don’t have a relationship with my father that I want to celebrate.

There was a lot of brokenness in my upbringing and in my relationship with my father. He was a bully, both emotionally and physically, and it was horrible growing up in an environment like that. For a long time, I hated him and how he made me feel. At times, I questioned why God would let me experience such hurt in my upbringing.

When my dad left my mum, it was the best thing that could have happened—it sounds bad, but I just felt relief. 

In the years afterwards, I had very little contact with my father. I came to understand that he was a toxic person, and for my safety, I needed to distance myself from him. For a couple of years, I felt that I needed to have no contact with him at all. During this time, God showed me that even though I was an adult, I was still a broken child underneath. God started me on a long journey of emotional healing and forgiveness—God loves us too much to leave our wounds untreated.  

When my son Jacob was born six years ago, it was both the most amazing and overwhelming experience of my life. I wasn’t sure if I was equipped to be a parent. I wondered what kind of dad I would be. I was worried I might make loads of mistakes or, more worryingly, end up like my father. 

Having a son has been incredibly healing for me. When he was born, I sat next to him as he lay in his incubator, so tiny and fragile and new to the world. I had the most overwhelming sense of love for him, that I would do anything for him and love him no matter what. I realised that this is how God loves me. 

Since Jacob was born, my relationship with my father has taken a new direction. He loves his grandson a lot and is really interested in how he is doing. Because of this, I keep him updated with Jacob’s life through emails and pictures. It’s a reconciliation of sorts that has given me a chance to come to peace with my relationship with my father. 

I’m far from perfect as a dad and I get a lot wrong, but Jacob knows I love him—I tell him daily. I love being a dad and spending time with him. I love all the questions he asks me about the world and how things work. I love seeing his personality and humour develop. I love it when he comes up to me at random moments and asks for a cuddle. It’s the best feeling in the world being embraced by your son. 

So, now I’m one of those fathers who loves Father’s Day, because I can truly celebrate my relationship with my son.

by Martin Barratt (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 25 August 2018, p3- You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.