When Fathers Fail You

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy.” Psalms 68:5

I believe that God always makes a way to take care of you and looking back, I can always see the people He brought into my life to guard me and to guide me. 

My dad went to jail when I was really little. Probably younger than a year or right around that time, I’m not really sure when or why because we don’t speak of it, I just know that it happened and my memories of him are pictures of my mom taking me to see him in jail. We would drive a few hours to see him, arrive at 7:00AM to spend a few hours there. The officers would call him over the system and we’d have to wait for him to be called and come out. And this continued for the next few years, but because he was an immigrant, he was deported to Colombia and our communication over the years has been little to non existent. 

I’m sure growing up without a father was a root of a lot of the problems I faced as a young girl and a teenager. I was boy crazy lol and so insecure – placed my identity in my looks, my hair, my popularity. 

At 7 years old, I had a step dad and for the next 10 years, he would shape my identity. At first, he was my entire world! I had never had a dad and I was just so excited to be able to wear the daddy’s princess shirts (because I’ve never been able to) and to have someone to dance with at my Quinceanera or at my wedding. He would buy me toys, take us to the movies, plan my birthday parties, take us out of town, and so much more. 

But then something shifted, something I didn’t understand when I was younger but now don’t blame him for. He was in his 20’s taking care of two kids who weren’t his and had life happening, just like we 20 year olds do. He became angry, aggressive, and controlling- with my entire family. 

I was constantly grounded (because of my mouth – I never hold back lol) for things like mismatching my socks or a girl in my school writing on my arm. I would get my phone taken away for months for turning it in at 9:01 instead of 9:00PM. I felt like he was more affectionate towards my brother because my brother was always the calm, peaceful, good one and I was the one who brought trouble, talked back, fought in school.

I would get notes from the front office letting me know not to ride the bus because he was going to pick me up and I would be terrified the rest of the day, full of anxiety. I knew I had probably done something wrong and was going to get in trouble for it. Sometimes the car rides were a trip to get ice cream and other times, it was lectures and unreasonable anger. This created “waves” that would later follow me into my 20’s. Waves are the idea that I am simply tossed to and fro in life, with no control and no preparation, hence my need to control everything. There is always uncertainty with waves. And even though everything is going so well, something bad WILL come. Because with my step dad- something bad was always coming. 

This continued through middle school and finally ended my 8th grade year when my parents finally split and he never came back. 

Towards the end of his time with us, they would fight, he would leave and I would be so relieved for the next few weeks, secretly hoping he was gone for good. 

And although my heart was hurting when he left because I was fatherless again and  because my mom was hurting, I can’t tell you how relieved I was when it was finally set. I was finally able to be normal. To be a young girl. To be my wild loud self. 

And to think that I once thought that normal was being a daddy’s girl but at this point felt normal was not having a dad. I was glad he was leaving so I could be a normal teenager and have a normal family. 

After this season, I enjoyed life with the occasional teenager rebellion and drama. I felt like I had finally gotten my mom back and was able to confide in her because my step dad wasn’t controlling everything. 

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Then I turned 15 and started attending a youth group. Through this youth group, the youth pastor became a spiritual father, a father figure, a best friend and literally my entire world again. 

And again, for the next 10 years, this man would shape me and make me mostly who I am today. 

At first, everything seemed great. The “my dear’s” affirmed me and the texts and involvement in my life meant the world. At first I would ask bible questions and ask about theology because I was so hungry to know more. Then I would ask about relationships and life. And eventually I began to share every secret from my past to my present and of things to come. I shared my dreams, my failures, my heart and to me, I thought maybe this is what a father was like. He would take me home after services and would pay for my food, invite me to all the family events. I would celebrate him on Father’s day and honor him with a gift. 

Eventually, the verbal & emotional, spiritual abuse began. I would get shamed and called out in public. Things like “shut up and sit down” or “stop acting like a freaking child” and even being told I was acting skanky or that I needed to get my crap together to be used by God was what I would constantly hear. These may not seem like much but I don’t believe anyone should be spoken to this way, blood or not. 

And it wasn’t always this way. But one day, I woke up, 10 years in, and don’t really know how I allowed someone speak these words over my life when I am a strong girl, never afraid to defend myself. 

I realized over a year ago that the feeling both my step dad and this new father figure made me feel was all too similar, too familiar. 

And that’s when I began battling my connection to him. It feels almost easier for someone to walk out and never come back versus having to find courage to leave and then constant strength to not return when life feels like it’s falling apart. 

You see, I learned to depend so much on him that whenever something would go wrong, I knew he could fix it, no matter how bad I had messed up. 

And although the way I was spoken to and treated was not okay, I am thankful today. 

He taught me to be strong, to show up no matter how I felt, to find beauty in my brokenness and developed me into the woman I am today. 

And I was dreading today. Because father’s day is never easy for me. I am reminded that I am fatherless, that I only have one parent, that I have had one father walk out and 2 figures who failed me. 

But it’s never about that, never about what someone does to you, but rather how you react and what you do with it. 

I have chosen to forgive and to continue forgiving. It’s not easy. Some days I feel like I hate them and other days I want to cry because I miss him so much. And other times I want him to fix everything and just go back to “normal”. 

What I choose to stand on is that nothing surprises the Lord. He sends humans to take care of us and in their humanity, they don’t get it right but at least they made an effort. 

The Lord is the perfect father and I can finally view him that way. I woke up this morning and instead of feeling abandoned, I felt a sweet love entangling me. And the first words I whispered were “Happy Father’s Day my sweet God” 

He knows my pain, my anger, my deepest sorrow. And I don’t have to explain that in this moment. All I have to do is respond to His faithfulness and know that He is good, and He truly is. 

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Maybe you have a dad and a mom. And maybe you can’t relate. But maybe there’s someone who failed you, abandoned you. Or someone you need to forgive. I want you to know it’s a choice. One to make DAILY! I have to remind myself daily to let the hurt go, forgive the words spoken over me, and to let go of those who walked out. Some days are easier than others but day by day, I make the choice.

Whatever you are facing today, know that God is good. He is faithful, he has your back and He always makes a way to take care of you, even when you don’t understand. Humans fail us all the time, just as we fail other humans too. 

But the best thing about Jesus, is that He makes everything good. He covers us and allows a blessing to come out of the most painful moments in life. 

A special father’s day to those who have stood in my life as one. I still honor you from a distance and choose to do it because the word of God tells me to honor and because of His grace in my own life.

Happy father’s day to my mom. I love you. Thank you for everything always. You are the best mom and dad we could’ve ever had. 

And lastly, Happy Father’s Day my sweet God. Thank you for never failing me. Never walking away and for always loving me. You are my very favorite ever and I don’t know what I would do without you. A father to the fatherless. A father to me. 

Forever dancing in His love, 

Leslie Tatiana 

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