The Truth About Freedom

Lesson: Unraveling Suppressed Truth in Search for Healing

Well, it’s been a very long time since I’ve written on here. I’ve been very busy. I’m at a great place in life, but there are some things I’d like to share that have been heavy on my heart for some time now. God has been taking me on this journey toward healing, uncovering things that have been buried in my subconscious since I was a kid.

I have to give a disclaimer: this is definitely the modified version of this post. Certain things I had originally written while journaling, I just could not find the strength to include in this post. But here’s what I can say…

As a man, you are brought up to be strong. You are taught, in many ways, to be a rock. So my process for facing hardship growing up was to “mourn” on my own (because I have always been somewhat sensitive), then push the struggle to the back of my mind and never think about it again because I’m “a man”. The reason this is dangerous is because I had to grow up suffering through struggles I had no idea I had. It’s like being in the middle of a war zone knowing you’re supposed to be fighting, but never understanding who your enemy is. You keep fighting the wrong people and the wrong things, not realizing you are only hurting yourself because you are helping the enemy—whoever it is—kill everything that could possibly help you win the fight. I kept trying to solve the wrong problems.

Last school year, my counselor asked me many times how my feelings were towards my dad. I found it odd that he’d continue to ask this when I was certain that I had not harbored any hard feelings towards him. He wasn’t the world’s greatest dad, but I forgave him and I’m fine with the current neutrality of our relationship.

Well, God made me explore that more, and now I understand that although I had forgiven my dad long ago, there are still countless wounds that were left due to his absence and negative influence, and the pain cannot change until I address its roots.

I remember how it was before I met my dad. I remember being in children’s church, and the teachers would ask if we had any prayer requests. My single request was always, without fail, “Please pray that my dad would move from North Carolina to California, and pray that he will stop lying.” I didn’t understand the idea of that not being anyone’s business yet; I just sincerely wanted a healthy and personal relationship with my father beyond the phone calls.

Well, God decided to answer that prayer, and that ultimately led to some very deep wounds.

(Side Note: I’m always baffled at how as a young Christian, God was so adamant about answering my prayers in order to teach me his power. When I was young, I prayed that I would stop having 20/20 vision so I could get glasses. Next time I went to the optometrist, I needed glasses. Needless to say, some prayers could have been left unanswered!)

My dad did move to California, and my mother would take us on occasional trips to the mall to meet him. I still remember the first time I ever saw my father. I had no idea why we were at the mall, but I was looking straight up at this giant, Goliath-sized man with the geekiest smile on his face! My mom said, “This is your father.” I’m sure my eyes lit up. I had never been happier. God came through! I was instantly in love—a crazy, strange love that a child should have for his father.

He would spend time with us for hours. He would take us to the good shoe stores that we couldn’t afford on my mother’s income. I remember my sister crying because he wouldn’t let her go to Payless! And as trust was built, eventually we were able to stay at his house hours away for lengthy periods of time. It was great! Well, sort of.

There were still the times—countless times—when my dad would promise to come get us. Times when he’d say he’d give my mom money to help care for us. Distinctly, I remember a few times when he’d go as far as to say that he was on his way and couldn’t wait to spend time with us. I would eagerly pack my suitcase and sit it by the door waiting with immeasurable anticipation to hug my father and my little brother (half-brother for the sake of explaining the story).

Well, probably needless to say, he did not show up. He had called a few times to assure us that he was stuck in traffic. But as hours went by and the phone stopped ringing, my oldest brother was the first to unpack his bags, angrily saying that he wasn’t coming. I would scream out, “Yes he is!”

Another hour went by. My sister came to sit at the door with me, stroking my arm. She didn’t say anything, but I knew she had lost hope as well. Later, my mother would come get me to console me and put me to sleep. It would take years for me to get used to this.

The truth is, I don’t hold anything against my dad. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t make excuses for him—his actions over the past 15 years or so have been inexcusable—however, I do understand that there are factors that contributed to the kind of father he was. With that being said, my purpose in writing this is not to slander his name (we are all full of inexcusable sin).

My purpose in writing this is to come to an understanding of how these things have impacted my life on a large scale, and to hopefully be able to take some steps toward healing at the conclusion of this brief-ish letter.

In pondering over various struggles of mine recently, I’ve come to understand that for years I’ve longed desperately for intimacy.

Running and running in circles praying for a change

And looking at all my struggles madly cursing out my name

Forgiveness comes easy unless I’m forgiving me

I’m a Christian superstar to everybody but me

To me I’m just a poor man broken and under pressure

The little boy whose father left him waiting in the desert

Counting the time passing but couldn’t count very far

Had to find out my identity through training on the job

I didn’t have a teacher, didn’t have a model

Asking me how I feel and telling me what to follow

Society didn’t claim me, couldn’t do church cliques

So I had to be alone and strong enough to resist

The urge and fight problems that I didn’t know I had

And magically know that my lust for women came from my dad,

My desire for affection, and struggle with depression,

Till Jesus said that I am not enslaved to folks’ rejection

-Christian Sanders | “Free”

artlimited_img328215I’ve always felt alone growing up, partly (now I know) because my dad made me feel so unloved. My mother has always been the greatest woman I’ve ever known, but she can’t give the extra dosage of fatherly love that I had lacked. This loneliness—this emptiness had manifested itself in timidity and a silent yet vulnerable, incessant plea for affection, love, and intimacy.

Sadly, no one gave it. I never seemed to mean much to people. I don’t mean to sound sorry for myself; God has built my confidence at this point. But my struggle has continued. In the past, I dealt with insecurity because of this; however, although I am confident now, I still struggle.

What do you do when someone means a lot to you, but you seem to be insignificant in their eyes? Get over it, most people would say. I agree. Everyone won’t value you. But when you grew up with a shortage of affection, love, intimacy, how do you navigate that? It isn’t that easy to watch the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen walk past you unfazed, uncaring, nonchalant. You almost wish she had something negative to say about you. I can easily check off the “disinterested box” once I discover a nasty attitude. How do we, people who were made to be loved, simply become okay with that human void?

As wise as people think I am, I do not have an answer to that—not a sufficient one at least. I do not devalue the love of God. God’s love keeps me and covers me and consoles me and gives me peace, but he never promised any of us will be pain free. That is one of the worst “churchianic” lies people are constantly fed. But I don’t believe in churchianity.

As much as I feel God’s love, I still find myself in pain. If I’m honest, the pain comes nearly every night as I reflect on my day and my life and how this 20-year-old craving has still never been fully quenched.

One thing I have learned, nonetheless, is that freedom in Christ is not a magic trick. It is not some grand performance God did as he screamed out, “Now everything will be easy for everyone!” No. Not at all. Our freedom has been accomplished in Christ. But Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Why does Paul have to urge free men not to live in slavery? Because everyone who was once enslaved must overcome the mentality of a slave, and it may take a lifetime to fully grasp how to live a life that parallels the freedom God has given you.

We are free, as Christians, but we must learn what that means. We must strive to live as though we’re free, and it isn’t always easy. The greatest battle you will ever have to fight is the battle between your mind and your feelings. You might feel like you will never amount to anything. You might feel like love from others (or the lack thereof) dominates the ability to be content in Christ. But Jesus has set you free. Jesus has set me free.

What’s the lesson? Well I’ve learned that in spite of what I feel, I may be chained to this feeling of depression due to other people not valuing me, but I don’t have to be. At times, I’ll act like a slave because I was born a slave. I’ve been hurt by too many people. I’ve been a slave to my father’s void and lack of love my whole life. But Jesus set me free. That means that even when I’m acting as though I’m still enslaved, I am a free man! It may take the rest of my life for me to learn how to live like it, but I won’t stop. I won’t stop fighting. The Son has set me free, and I am free indeed (John 8:36).

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