“Luke, I am your father.” Remember Darth Vader saying those now famous words?
Father’s Day for me is an interesting mix of emotions. My girls always tell me how much they love me and what I have meant in their lives, even though I feel hopelessly inadequate as a dad. In addition, Father’s Day also hurts because I was very close to my dad. But he has been dead for 18 months now, so for me it is a mixture of emotions.
Sometimes Father’s Day does that to you. Imagine what it would be like for Luke Skywalker…
This iconic quote from the Star Wars series of movies is actually a misquote. The true quote actually reads like this…
Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Imagine Father’s Day for Luke, when he discovers that the man he’s been fighting against, the man who stands for everything he hates, the man who has killed his friends and is trying to kill him, is actually his father!
You don’t choose your father, good or bad, you just get him when he begets you. You had no influence over what he did for a living, how he treated people, the hang ups he had, the things he did to you, the influences he tried to bring into your life.
Maybe your dad wasn’t ideal, maybe he abused you, disappointed you or never said kind words to you. Perhaps the only fatherly advice he gave you was…
“You cannot escape the dark side, Luke!”
Well I’m here to tell you that is not true! You can escape the dark side, you can be set free of anything your father did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, wanted or didn’t want for you. Just because he said I am your father, doesn’t make his words binding forever!
Today, Father’s Day, I am going to show you how to forgive and love your father, even if he is imperfect, and how you can break the power of his words and influence over your life.
DADS- THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE UGLY
CC BY-NC-ND by Bisgràfic
When it comes to father’s, there’s a whole variety out there, good, bad and ugly.
I think I fall into the latter bracket!
Now I don’t know what type of father you had, but mine was awesome. He was strong, dependable, kind, loving and godly. He was an example and an inspiration, and when he died 18 months ago I felt like I had lost not only a father but a friend, and a mentor.
But not every person is as blessed as I am. The man you said I am your father to me was a fantastic guy! For many the word father conjures up horror, anger and shame.
So whether you had, or have a good father or a shocker, this message is for you…
“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),
And what was the promise? From Exodus 20:12, that your days may be long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. A long and prosperous life is the reward of honouring your parents.
If you hold onto bitterness towards you parents you will shorten your life!
So today is the day to forgive your father, whether he was a good dad or a bad dad, because every father is imperfect.
But how can you honour your parents when they were horrible parents? How can you honour your dad if he was a source of so much pain in your life?
You start by forgiving your father this Father’s Day…
I bet that when they said I am your father most of your father’s loved you. They may not have demonstrated it the right way, or may have made decisions that failed to show you love, they may have even Abused you or your mother, or left you for whatever reason. Yet still, almost all of your father’s tried to love you.
There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
Today you can forgive your dad as the ultimate Father’s Day gift, whether the finds out about it or not.
We all have things we can forgive our fathers for, some more than others. No one has had a perfect father, although mine came close.
I AM YOUR FATHER?… HERE’S THE STEPS TO FORGIVE YOUR FATHER
So many of us have poor memories of our fathers. They hurt us, disappointed us, we’re never there for us. Maybe they left us and our mum. Maybe they were never there in the first place. Maybe there were always busy working or reading the paper when we wanted them.
Australia is the land of the absent father. Traditionally the kids are women’s business, while we blokes work hard, play hard or drink hard.
How can you forgive such a great travesty against you? You were young. Maybe you were innocent. Maybe you were a teenager reacting. Maybe you were a primary kid disappointed and missing out on dads’ time.
1. RECOGNISE ALL DADS ARE IMPERFECT
No earthly father is going to be perfect. I’m certainly not. We all say I am your father, but we all have bad days, bad moods or make less than stellar decisions.
So the first step towards forgiving your father is to recognise that, like every other dad in the world, yours is not perfect. He may be great, he may have always tried his hardest, he may love you with an undying love, but each of us falls short at some point…
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Don’t be mad at your father’s shortcomings, recognise that he has them and love him anyway, warts and all, the good times and the bad. You were loved despite your fallibilities. When he said I am your father he didn’t become infallible!
2. FORGIVENESS STARTS WITH A DECISION
Fatherhood is one of the basic ingredients of character development. Statistically the vast majority of prison inmates have had poor or no relationship with their fathers. Your father should have been there for you, and good fathers are a critical part of the Fabric which shapes your life.
But the reality is that your dad is human. He had failings when you were young, when he first said I am your father, and he probably has the same failings right now. He’s a sinner, just like you! When you hurt someone, when you disappoint someone you care about, when you let God down and sin, don’t you want to be forgiven?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins
The Apostle Paul put it this way
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
If you refuse to forgive, it’s like drinking poison hoping the other guy dies. You are only hurting yourself, not your dad if you fail to forgive him. In fact, many times dads are completely oblivious, and while you think you are punishing them, often times they don’t even realise! Typical guys right?
So in order for you to forgive your father, the first thing you need to do is make a decision. Whether you have feelings about this or not, the first thing is to decide to forgive your father.
If you make the conscious decision to forgive your dad, no matter how hard and no matter what it is that he did or said, then this is a great starting point!
3. FORGIVENESS MEANS SURRENDERING YOUR RIGHT TO GET EVEN
As human beings we have an inbuilt desire to get even. We think it’s our right. He said, “I am your father,” but then he hurt me, now God, I want you to sort him out for me. I have the right to be treated well by my parents. I have the right to carry a grudge if I’m not.
No you don’t! When you become a Christian, you surrender your right to be treated right. You have no rights, only to serve.
Our world bangs on about rights all the time…
Human rights, aboriginal land rights, women’s right, children’s right, gay rights, now transgender rights, we’ve got save the koalas, save the whales… Why not just join them all together and have land rights for gay, transgender whales and be done with it?
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Listen to how the message puts it…
Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Forgiveness means letting God sort it out and dropping the so called right to get even!
4. FORGIVENESS MEANS EVEN IF THERE ARE NO FEELINGS
We are creatures of feelings, we usually wear our hearts on our sleeves. We expect the right feelings when we do something. Yet often feelings and emotions crowd out and distort the truth.
We might think when we feel the right feelings we will forgive our fathers. But we shouldn’t be led by our feelings…
Many people marry based on feelings of love, or lust, or infatuation. The trouble is, feelings come and go, but the decisions we make determine our destiny. The Bible says…
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
So if we rely on feelings of the heart we are in trouble, and you’ll find yourself changing your mind every few minutes. If you are waiting for feelings of forgiveness before you forgive anyone, you’ll be waiting for a long time.
So after you have decided to forgive your dad as an act of the will, you need to recognise that you must follow through, regardless of your feelings for him.
My experience is that, if we make a decision to love someone, to forgive them, then even if we feel like an unemotional droid, at some stage in the future the feelings will follow.
5. FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN APPROVAL
This is vitally important… Forgiveness does not mean approval!
Forgiving someone is not your sanctioning their actions. If you have been hurt, let down, abandoned or attacked by your dad, forgiving him is not a mark of your approval for what he has done. Just because he said I am your father does not mean you have to give approval to everything he says and does.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If God the Father forgives our sin, does that mean He condones it? Of course not! God never condones your sin, in fact He hates it!
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
So forgiving your father does not for one second mean that you approve of what he has done, to you or anyone else. What it means is that you forgive him, that’s it, pure and simple.
6. FORGIVENESS MEANS KEEPING ON FORGIVING
Let it go as Elsa sings. The is is easy to say, and hard to live. Especially true when the person involved has never apologised, or maybe is not even aware of what they have done.
If your father has hurt you in the past, it’s time this Father’s Day to finally let it go… Let the past be past at last!
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Ok God, I can forgive him, but what if he hurts me again? I mean, if you have been carrying hurts from your father, you might notice that you are super sensitive to almost everything he says and does, right?
Here’s the reality, he once said, “I am your father,” but you are going to be hurt again… And again… And again.
Now does this mean you should open yourself to continued and ongoing abuse? No, you must protect yourself, that’s a given, but also recognise that pain is still going to be a part of life, and indeed any relationship.
Only God can give you the power to forgive again and again. Only God can deal with the pain, the super sensitivity, the injustice and anger that you feel.
If you ask Him, He will give you the power.
7. FORGIVENESS RECOGNISES HE WILL PROBABLY NEVER MEASURE UP
OK, here is the reality of forgiving your father. He most likely is not going to change. Whether you tell him of of your forgiveness or not, he probably isn’t about to change who he is. He might say I am your father, but chances are he will not change the way he expresses that statement.
Manage your expectations. High expectations will lead to constant disappointment. If you tie your joy to getting the right response from someone else, then you are in real trouble.
You can forgive your father this Father’s Day, be set free, release him, see your relationship improve and find yourself full of joy, even though you know he will probably never measure up. Why?
And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Not how he reacts, not what he does, or says, or even believes about you. Find your joy in the Lord, and you have the strength to forgive your father, no matter if he never changes!
Before I share my final point, let me make this absolutely clear. Forgiveness is you, forgiving your imperfect father this Father’s Day. But let me tell you what forgiveness is not…
It does not mean approving of or justifying what your dad did.
It does not mean pretending that evil never took place.
It does not mean making excuses for your dad’s bad behaviour.
It does not mean overlooking abuse.
It does not mean denying that you have been hurt repeatedly.
It does not mean letting dad or mum walk all over you.
It does not mean forgetting the wrong that was done.
It does not mean pretending that you were never hurt.
It does not mean that you must restore the relationship to what it was before.
It does not mean that you open yourself up to more hurt again.
It does not mean there must be a total reconciliation as if nothing ever happened.
It does not mean that you must tell the person that you have forgiven them.
It does not mean that all negative consequences of your or their sin is canceled.
Forgiveness is letting it go, whatever has been done or said in the past, and releasing your father from any anger, bitterness or hurt you feel towards him. It liberates not him, but you, and leads nicely into my final point…
I’m going to pause and pray right now with you. If you feel there is something you need to forgive your dad for, maybe for the first time or the 77th time, I’m going to ask you to stand where you are.
TODAY IS A GREAT DAY TO FIND A NEW, PERFECT FATHER
My dad always said, “Darin, I am your father,” and he meant it.
My dad was a great dad, but he wasn’t perfect. He hurt me at times by what he said. He worked hard and often was not there for me. He tried his best, and was to me a far better father than I ever could be to my kids, but he wasn’t perfect.
But God is!
My dad one day did the most incredible thing for me that illustrated what a perfect father is like.
On a holiday at Lake Cathai I walked out along a sand bank into the lake, stepped of and began to drown. I was 4. My dad didn’t remove his heavy clothing, but dived in to save me, and once he had deposited me safely on the shore, had a heart attack.
My dad laid his life down for me. Your Heavenly Father did the same for you, sending heaven’s best to a cross to die for you. To save you.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
This Father’s Day, celebrate, bless, encourage and forgive your father, by all means. But even better still, choose this Father’s Day to turn to your perfect father, your abba father, your dad…
Today your father in heaven’s arms are open wide to you. Have you ever run into His arms?