An old college acquaintance of mine recently started a blog detailing the struggles that she has gone through, the pain she has borne, and the redemption she has experienced. I was interested to learn that her dad walked out on her when she was a child – just barely old enough to feel the pain of watching her dad walk out the door, and wonder if it was her fault somehow. I say interested because initially, I was surprised to learn this, she had always seemed way to happy to have pain like that. Then I began to think about all my friends and realized that they all (to one extent or another) have issues with their dads. Some of my friends have issues with their dads that are issues of gross neglect, irresponsibility, or sin, others have had issues with their dads that are more pedestrian. The fact is sin is something that plagues all parents to one point or another. This begs the question, though, Why don’t people have “mommy” issues to the same extent as daddy issues? Why do daddy issues, destroy lives, while mommy issues seem to only come up at family gatherings around the holidays?
In Eric Metaxas’s “Socrates In The City”, there is an essay, that posits the theory that bad fathers have a reputation of causing lifelong impacts because bad mothers don’t make for long lives for their children. In other words, a bad mother’s children will not survive to adulthood, so we only know the impacts of bad fathers, and not really bad mothers. While this hypothesis is interesting, I think there is a deeper reason.
If we look at who God has revealed himself in scripture to us as, we see something very interesting. God is constantly using sociological human relationships as pictures of our relationship to us. He uses 2 main relationships: The husband and wife relationship (I will write about this in a different post), and the relationship between child and father.
I wonder if God gave us the parent Child relationship to give us a tangible picture of the role God wants to play in our lives, and the role he has designed us to play. God is a life giving and self-sacrificial God. He is also a wise, disciplinarian, who sometimes disciples us when we are heading off the rails and other time rewards us when we obey his commands. This sound like a father to me.
Which leads me back to the issue of Daddy issues. What if we have Daddy issues because deeply wired in us is a need to have a father who is perfect. What if we keep searching for this perfect father to fill this whole, and in the end, we just fill it with flawed human fathers or flawed human father stand-ins. What if this desire for a perfect father is actually inside of us to spur us into the arms of our heavenly father, who has already said we are his children? Who has given his son, so that we could be his children in and through his own son? What if this is why daddy issues are so destructive? What if underneath a person with “daddy issues” is actually a person who is trying to substitute the uncreated father with a created father figure – a kind of tragic idolatry?
So those of us who are parents, where does this leave us? How can we who know that we are far from the perfect heavenly father, hope to fill this need in our children? I believe the answer is we can’t! However, we can point our children to our heavenly father. We can do this in our words as we tell them about our heavenly father, but equally important we must do this in our actions – we must do this in our repentance before our children and our heavenly father when we fail. We must let our children know in no uncertain terms that we can never fill the need they have for a perfect father, but rather the best we can do, is to point them to the only perfect father. On a personal note, thanks to my father (and mother) for doing this, and setting this example for me both as a child and as a father.