When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” “You unbelieving generation, ” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood, ” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit, ” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” (Mark 9:14-25)
Several years ago while in counseling dealing with my “issues” related to the loss of my mom and the experiences of my childhood, my therapist made a statement that shifted the way I think about my decision-making, my past, and my future. It was one profound statement. “Romal you have been making decisions based on your fractures and not your future. In other words, you are masking your pain by making decisions that make you feel good about you, but are not good for you. You are drawing people and experiences into your life based on unresolved past pain and not your purpose.”
She was right. I started working on myself and paying attention to my thoughts, behaviors and the people I was drawing into my life. Then I started making changes based on the fact that I had to be deliberate about dealing with the pain of my past so that I could fulfill my purpose and “overcome my fractures” so that they do not impact my future.
This is also important to my responsibilities as a parent, a father (a dad). If a fractured past is not dealt with and healed it will inevitably impact your children and their future. Some of fractures were the result of my broken relationship with my dad. He was not there for me as a child and when we finally did meet and spent several years together it didn’t go very well. As a result, I was angry. Angry because he was not there for me, angry because we did not have the type of relationship I wanted.
I wanted a relationship with my dad like the one shared with us in this passage of Scripture. I wanted a dad who would do whatever it takes to make sure that I was okay; a dad who never gave up on me, who believed in me. I was angry with my dad because when I look at this passage of Scripture, this is the kind of father I wanted but did not have. If you are like me, whether you choose to admit and acknowledge it or not, the anger towards your dad is impacting your life, relationships and yes, your children. But in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.”
In order to break the cycle you have to learn how to forgive and be willing to forgive. What is forgiveness? I’m not sure who said it but “forgiveness is letting go of the life that you thought you wanted.” It means that there was an idea of what life should have been like or could have been like if you had your dad, and because that life didn’t happened you are angry. But you have to realize that life was never based on what was actually possible. It was not based in reality or facts. It doesn’t mean you did not deserve better, it just means that you cannot punish yourself or someone else for not living up to an idea. You have to “let go of the life that you thought you wanted.”
I heard a quote from a teenager once who said, “Unresolved pain becomes anger without a conscience.” Like so many young people, my pain resulted in anger and my anger led to unhealthy behaviors. In as much as I thought I was over the painful experiences of my childhood I was not. I had only become really good at suppressing them. There was a part of me that I did not like. The part of me that was angry and ashamed that I did not have a father. It was a part of me that told me I wasn’t good enough and that I did not matter; a part of me that I did not love or feel was worthy of love because I believed that my dad didn’t love me. But as Pastor Phil Jackson once said, “When you do not love all of who you are, the part you do not love will cause a revolt.” Like many kids today, the part of me that I did not love revolted in anger and like the boy in the Scriptures, I hurt myself and I hurt the people around me. But God desires that we have peace and that we heal. His plan for your life is not for you to live a life based on past pain but on God’s power to help you heal.
As Fathers we have to overcome our fractures so that they don’t impact our children and their futures. In other words, the places that caused your brokenness are the places you need to pray and ask God for a blessing. Recently I came across an interview where Maya Angelou was having a conversation with Dave Chappell. And at one point he says, I don’t know about you, but after all that you have seen and been through I would still be angry. And she said, you should be angry; if you’re not angry you’re either a stone or you’re too sick to be angry. But in your anger, she continued, you must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer; it eats upon the host and does not do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use the anger, write, paint, talk it, and never stop talking it.
You have a right to be angry, I had a right to be angry. But you do not deserve to be bitter. You deserve to heal and be made whole. You deserve that and your children deserve that. In fact you should be so angry that you are determined to make sure that another child, your child, does not have to experience the emotional pain you experienced.
When my kids were younger we use to go ice-skating all the time. My son was afraid to skate. One day we got to rink, and I helped him get his skates on and we got out on the ice. The first thing he did was grab the rail. As he stumbled along holding the rail, I said, “Jordan you have to let go of the rail and learn how to stand on your own two feet. You’ll never learn how to skate as long as you’re holding on to that rail.” He said “But daddy, I’m scared. If I let go, I’m going to fall.” And I said, “But Jordan, the rail is not helping you, it’s only holding you back.” Too often we hold on to things that make us feel safe but are not good for us and hold us back. So I said “Jordan, take my hand and let me teach you how to stand and skate.” He said again, “But daddy, I’m going to fall.” I said, “Yes, that might happen, but if you do I’m going to pick you up.” Finally, he let go of the rail and took my hand. He stumbled along while I’m holding him up but soon he got his balance and began to skate. As he started to develop confidence I said, “Jordan I’m going to let go now so that you can skate on your own.” He said, “But daddy if you let go, I’m going to fall.” I said, “Yes you might fall but if you fall what do you think is going to happen?” He said, “You’re going to pick me up.” That’s right. So he let go of my hand and began to skate around the rink. At one point he got too far away from me that I wouldn’t be able to catch him if he fell. And yep, he fell. But when he fell, I looked at him waiting to make eye contact. He turned, looked me in the eyes, and I smiled to let him know that he was okay and I was close by watching. He stood to his feet, regained his balance and started skating again.
There are times in life when we hold onto things that hold us back, but when we let go and take God’s hand, He teaches us something new that we never would have learned by holding onto what we were used to out of fear of falling. When you take God’s hand, God will teach you to stand, and if you fall He is never far from you and is ready to lift you back up on your feet so that you can keep going. Take God’s hand and allow Him to heal your fractures so that they don’t keep you from experiencing an amazing future.