Father, dad, pops, whatever word you use for the male parent in your life, it can bring up deep and complicated emotions. Our earthly father, and our relationship with him, for good or bad, will influence us for our entire lives. When you’re dealing with an orphaned or abandoned child, this can be profoundly complicated. Where does their security, and definition of fatherhood, come from?
It’s the rare movie scene that causes almost every male to tear up, the end of Field of Dreams is one of those scenes. When Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) plays catch with his dad as the sun sets it will squeeze a tear out of almost any man. That moment of healing between a father and son, the symbolic act of the “catch” as something is passed between them is powerful. There is just something about the relationship we have with our father that is universal. It’s not always great. Eventually, we realize that our parents are just flawed individuals like everyone else, but that relationship will brand us and follow us. It is reflected in the way we live out our lives, and how we parent our own children.
My wife and I were blessed with great fathers; men who lived as faithful providers, good examples, and loving husbands. They both lived by a defined moral compass. Although we’ve both lost our fathers over the last few years, their influence remains and continues to guide us. There are many things I remember fondly about my dad. He lived in a precise and consistent way: same job his whole adult life, ate dinner at the same time every night followed by the evening news, we were at church EVERY Sunday in the same pew. His temperament never changed; he was a rock. The worst I ever heard him cuss was the occasional “ah hell.” He gave me my love of Steinbeck novels, fine woodworking, and classical music. He made me who I am and I miss him deeply.
For any of us, our relationship with our earthly father is intertwined and woven together with our image of who our Heavenly Father is. Grace, acceptance, stability, discipline, love, all of the emotions and attributes we believe about our God are viewed through a window tinted by the image of our earthly father. Our heavenly Father is perfect; our earthly fathers are flawed. For many people, believing in a perfect Father after being abandoned or abused by their earthly father takes many years of healing, if it happens at all.
Restoring the image of a healthy father figure is essential to the long-term healing of a child who has been orphaned or abandoned. This restoration does not happen over-night, and it needs to been done with great care. Whether you’re caring for a child in an orphanage, one in foster care, or one you’ve adopted, this healing of the father image needs to happen if the child is ever going to grow into a healthy adult. It’s also critical if a child is going to have a healthy image of who God is.
If a child, especially a male child, does not have a male showing what a healthy person is, they will seek out whatever examples they can to see how to live their lives. I’ve seen this happen to young men who are raised in poorly run orphanages. They leave home and have no history of a strong male example to draw from as they make life decisions. How to act as a man of God, how to treat women with respect, how to walk with dignity. They spend much of their lives approaching life, and relationships, in a broken way. Their marriages fail, their faith never matures, and they’re left with finding their way in life from an unhealthy stew of input from wherever they can find it.
I do not believe the healing of the father image happens in counseling or “quality time,” although both of these things play a part. Healing takes time. A lot of time. Years of consistent healthy male examples in the life of a child. A child needs to watch healthy men of God living out their lives on a day to day basis. They need to watch healthy decisions, reactions, and actions take place for many years for the healing to take place. By seeing a solid male in action, showing grace, stability, guidance, love, and acceptance, a child can begin to understand who God is. Much more than we can ever realize, although we are flawed, we represent who God is to our children. We need to truly take on the image of Christ if we are to have a hand in the healing of broken children.
A few days ago, I was at a BBQ with several of the orphaned children (now adults) who were raised in our home. Midway through the party, I watched as a great young man, now married with three children, patiently and slowly showed his attentive eight-year-old son the proper way to season and grill steak. This might seem like a simple act, but I watched this man represent what it means to father someone, and show the patient guiding hand that our heavenly Father represents (The steak was pretty good also).
If you’re caring for orphaned or abandoned children stay the course. Healing doesn’t happen quickly. Continue to live a life representing who our Heavenly Father is. You are being watched more than you realize, they will follow your example.
The above photo is of Ramon Reid and his son. Ramon knows what putting fatherhood into action is all about. We need more men like Ramon in this world.
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