Donald Miller is one of the few ‘Christian authors’ I can deal with reading, as he is both a gifted writer, has studied the craft of writing, and also doesn’t write tritely or with the supercilious arrogance of ‘this is what you should believe, and this is how you should live it out’. He makes me think. He writes with intelligence. And he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Over the years, I’ve had many recommendations of books I apparently ‘must’ read to help me with my ‘Daddy issues’ or ‘mother wounds’ (contemporary Christian women seem to be all about ‘mother wounds‘ and the ‘father’s heart‘ these days, and the language they use in their endless seminars on the topics does my head in to the point where I dread having to go to women’s conferences. Or faith based conferences in general). I’ve had a lot of pity about my upbringing being a poor child of divorce, and let’s face it a family history which is like something out of a soap opera. I did get told by a pastor once that the way I don’t cry all the time and seem totally at peace with it all is apparently because I still need healing. Thank you very much, but after 28 years I’ve kinda learned how to deal, and yes that evolves as the circumstances continue changing. Plus, you weren’t there for the 2 years I spent crying and screaming and swearing at God in church corridors asking him why I’d had so many crappy father figures placed in my life. I got counselling and gained perspective. And now I’ve worked hard at studying others to find better examples of parenting, marriage and fatherhood.
I’d spotted the book by Donald Miller and couldn’t afford to buy it at first, but then one night spied a copy on my friend’s bookshelf. Yes, that was the night Miss S and I ended up in a conversation about what I do for a living and why some kids grow up with out a Daddy.
In the introduction he writes…
This book is about the hard, shameful, embarrassing stuff you and I have to work through as an individual. It’s about me secretly admitting to you I needed a father, and how I felt like half a man until I dealt with those issues honestly. And if you let it, this book is an informal guide to pulling the rotted beams out of from your foundation and replacing them with something you can build a life on.
What Donald Miller does is look at aspects of life and character and talk about how a lack of a father meant that he didn’t learn certain lessons the same way (or at all) and how he had to learn them in different ways. He talked about some of the fears common amongst those who have grown up without fathers. And some of the attitudes and behaviours we might have learned because of how we’ve grown up without a male role model in our life.
I personally am very thankful to have grown up with a single mum. I’m proud that my Mum had the courage to leave a terrible marriage which was beyond repair and instill values and lessons in me that have helped me succeed in life. I’m certain that I’d be in a much worse place as an adult if she had made a different decision. However, there are things I missed out on as a result of being a ‘divorced kid’. Like being able to be part of organised activities or play with my friends at weekends. Being a latch key kid (which I think made me much more responsible and sensible from a young age. It could have gone the other way though). Not having a good example of relationship to live with (this could just as easily happen if you’re the child living parents who do not have a healthy marriage).
To be honest, though his writing is influenced by growing up without his Dad and what that instilled in him…I’d recommend this book even if you grew up with your Dad. Because no parent is likely to have given you a perfect example of how to live life. He talks about integrity, sexuality, dating, friendship, mentoring, authority, decision making, work ethic, education, belonging and forgiving our fathers.
Josh said, “You either get bitter or you get better”. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate; it belongs to you.
There will always be a reason to feel sorry for ourselves. And sometimes it really is appropriate to grieve something terrible that has happened in our lives. But we also have to move on; we have to set ourselves free from the trap of self-pity.
As I read that, I wanted to jump for joy at a book that finally told me ‘yes, it is ok to move on!’ I’ve always felt like pastors wanted to hold me back and pity myself and my need for healing for all the insecurities I was left with growing up with such terrible examples of fatherhood (or none at all).
It’s a book I know I’m going to go back and flip through over and over again.
If you grew up with an absent father…I really commend it to you.