By Andrea F.K. Watson
As a young single Christian woman, I should clearly understand the concept of love. I have a relationship with God and He is love. Since renewing my relationship with God, I had decided to become celibate. I decided I would no longer share my body with someone who would not be my life partner, i.e., husband. What I know now that I did not know then is that this would take more effort than I thought. The year I turned 30 years old, bells and whistles began to sound. I was still single, no children, working in a well paying-albeit-dead end job. Many of the accomplishments on my to do list were left unchecked and I was none too happy about it. It was time to do some self-reflection. I finally had to admit I had some issues and I needed to begin to deal with them.
One of the items on my list, would be “daddy” issues. My biological father, whose genes and utter likeness I share, chose to step away from fatherhood after marital separation. It appears he thought he could convince my mom to stay with him by refusing to have a relationship with me unless she had a relationship with him. I guess it took for me to become an adult, for him to believe she was serious. I have often pondered the question how could he have truly loved me and made this decision. Let it be duly noted that my mother loves me unconditionally. She is definitely a super mom and deserves to be on the Who’s Who list of Mommies. Our relationship is definitely filled with joyous love and mutual respect. I was nurtured by her in every way a mom should nurture a child and daughter. She married a wonderful man, who became my “dad” (step-father does not fit for him, because he was more than that). But birth fathers are very important to a girl’s development of self-esteem. Without my knowledge the absence of my birth father created a void. I have searched for the love of my father in many different ways and in many men to fill that void. But yet the void remained.
Originally I supposed if my dad walked away, then all men would eventually do the same. How could I remain close or allow myself to ever get to a vulnerable point with men emotionally, if the first man in my life proved to be unstable? Secondly I had no concrete basis of the concept of father/daughter love. Since my parents separated when I was at a young age, man/woman love was even a foreign concept to me. As a young lady, my thoughts of receiving love from a man were from what my ears and eyes took in on television and by word of mouth from peers. The lesson learned was that the only way to make a man stay around was through manipulation and/or sexual activity. Before my vow of celibacy, I could do the physical part, but asking me to share my mind and my heart came with a hefty price. I would constantly set great expectations on the men in my life that they could never meet. Then I would blame them for being selfish and insensitive. I was only asking them to be perfect and shame on them for not stepping up to the plate. I simmered with questions, but there were no answers were available, yet. So at a very young age I started toward a path of looking for love in all the wrong places, only to be afraid that the “love” would eventually stray. Unfortunately I blamed my dad for my bad decisions and also some of the bad things that happened to me by the hands of other men.
I was pretty good at masking my feelings of sadness, unforgiveness, anger and low self-worth in regards to my father, because I never had to deal with them. All of that came to a crashing halt in 2006. My biological dad approached me and advised me that he was worried about his health and his future. He asked me if I would become caretaker of his financial affairs. I needed some time to ponder this. I eventually agreed. Then in early 2007, my father became ill, very ill. He asked me to me help care for him. This would mean moving in with him and caring for his needs. This was around the same time I would be quitting my job and enrolling in a clinical psychology master’s program.
In August 2007 a new chapter in my life opened as I embarked on a new journey in career and school as well as my home life.How does one make a home for two people who do not know each other? How does a grown-up woman, who feels like a little girl, begin to foster a relationship with her dad, who is unknown to her? The house physically needed so much work before I would even consider moving in. The house needed painting, the carpet needed cleaning, old furniture had to be removed, and the pipes in the basement were leaking, not to mention the smell of the old house. Only by the grace of God has all of this finally been completed. I had my dad’s bedroom and his den all set up. The living room, breakfast nook and kitchen are finished to my liking. The grass is cut and the bushes are trimmed. I began to think I just might be able to live with this man after all. I was quite proud of the accomplishment. If I had been paying attention, I would have realized a pattern manifesting. I was trying to pretty up the minor details (outer layers) without dealing with the major details (inner layers). I should have put more effort into the foundation of our relationship versus the house. I did not want to admit that I did not want to move in. But I was his only child, and he was ill. If I didn’t do it, who would? This could be the only opportunity to get to know him. And maybe as a young Christian woman, I could learn the necessary lesson of forgiving this man and be healed from some past hurts. Love would be the only way to get through this experience.
There is a song by Kirk Franklin (2005) called “First Love.” In the song, he talks about coming back to God, our first love, to receive our healing. For me it brings to mind the scripture in the Bible in Revelations 2:4-5, instructing the church members to return to its first love and to do the works it did at first. Due to multiple factors such as molestation, absence of a father, premature sexual activity, and so on; my idea of love had become tainted. Love had become a physical act mixed with lust and sexual activity. These were my own thoughts that had gone astray. My mind had to be literally renewed and transformed. Even though my biological father walked away, my Heavenly Father was always present. In order to learn to love my dad, I had to return to the first love of my Heavenly Father. He is the architect who laid the blueprint for my restoration. If He can do it for me, He can do it for anyone. Essentially, God taught me to receive love by ultimately giving me the best of what He had, His Son Jesus. Because then all I had to do was receive Jesus.
This has not been seamless at all. Love is patient and love is kind, even when I am neither patient nor kind. But just because it is not easy does not mean I will not get through it. I have learned God really does give strength to the faint, and if you ask Him for patience He will grant it. I have learned that I am not perfect, but God is perfect and my weakness is made perfect in His strength. Also relationships are not always, if ever, truly 50/50; sometimes they are 60/40 or 40/60, sometimes even 70/30. I have learned that commitment and vulnerability are just a part of the game. I have learned relationships take work and effort, all relationships. Finally, I am learning it is OK to receive love.
Everything is not perfect with my dad but I believe everything happens for a reason and our relationship is being perfected. Maybe I need to heal him; maybe he needs to heal me. Maybe it is a little of both. I am open to the process. Its not always easy. Its different learning him as I imagine it is difficult for him to learn me. I am no longer a little girl. But the little girl in me needs this. I know in the future I will appreciate his contribution to my life. I hope he will appreciate mine. I am not always sure of the end result but I do believe God has a plan with this thing. I will be wiser, better, and more than anything, I am able to give and receive pure love.
***My Dad passed away in October of 2008 peacefully after kissing his little girl goodbye and leaving her with a peace and love that only God’s love could orchestrate.
Excerpt from thesis and manuscript, The Experience of a Girl Learning to Receive Love Without A Sexual Touch.
By: Andrea F. K. Watson