by Barb Poston
Father’s Day has been a personal struggle for the majority of my life. How do I choose a card for my father that speaks the truth without being unkind? Hallmark doesn’t specialize in such categories. It’s been a day for me that has been tough to deal with because of the brokenness and bitterness that has been in my heart for many years. In case you missed Brad Wilson’s teaching on breaking through bitterness that he preached at our church yesterday, on Father’s Day, you can check it out here.
Like some others of you, I have more than one father. During the time and stresses of World War II, my young parents birthed me and not much later, my father was sent off to the war in the Pacific. I never dared to ask the true story, but sometime after my father came home from the war, he packed up all his belongings into his car, drove down the street, waved to my mother—and he was gone. Since I was so young, I have no recollection of ever seeing my father during my childhood or teen years. At the time my father left, my mother was pregnant with my brother. Imagine a divorced mother with two small children, an infant and a four-year-old, trying to survive in the postwar culture.
Church Was My Haven
My memories of the next several years are spotty. However, when I was seven, my mother remarried. The man she married, my stepfather, was significantly younger and quite immature. He had a tragic upbringing, and he was an alcoholic. The best thing I can say about him was that he treated my brother and me as if we truly were his children. Even after he and my mother birthed six more children, we were still treated equally; however good or bad that treatment happened to be.
Growing up in that environment was somewhat like being raised in an orphanage, except we had parents. As the firstborn, I had many chores and was responsible for caring for the younger children. For my mother, it was a full-time job to care for the youngest babies and to manage my stepfather. Because of his alcoholism and job-hopping, we were a poor family. We lived in public housing, got government surplus food, and were the family that received Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas gifts from local churches and community organizations. I never had a birthday party growing up. But what a birthday celebration I enjoyed a few years ago at Christ’s Church when a bunch of fun people in our church gathered together at my request and packed up boxes for children around the world through Samaritan’s Purse “Operation Christmas Child” project.
That birthday party was a very appropriate celebration for me because as I grew up, school and church were my spots to shine. Church was my place of peace and safety. I absolutely adored everything about church. In the midst of all my home turmoil, I knew and still know with certainty that Jesus loves me! Conversely, one thing always confused me. Sunday School teachers often said that “God was my heavenly Father just like my dad was my earthly father.” If God were truly like my earthly father, then I needed to keep him at a safe distance.
Getting Rid of the Bitterness
You should know that I didn’t want to write this blog. The opportunity was presented, and I stewed about it for several days. Finally, God convinced me that someone else needed to hear my story. Others need to know that Christians haven’t had picture perfect lives and that everyone has a story.
Over the years, I’ve lived with many negative feelings. There’s been abandonment by my birth father; didn’t he love me? Then, with my stepfather came years of anger, resentment, fear, bitterness, and hatred. I stuffed all those feelings and functioned as mom’s good girl.
At age sixteen, I accepted Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. God did his part that day. I knew I had forgiveness, salvation, and the Holy Spirit within. As for me doing my part, I moved into God’s good girl mode. What I didn’t even know to do was to acknowledge all that hatred and bitterness that was going on within me. Actually, I’m sure I felt justified in my feelings.
Many times in the years since leaving home, these feelings have resurfaced. God has been patient and has given me much time before I knew I had to confess these feelings as not being Christlike, and turn away from them. It would have been terrific if one time would have resolved and released my hurt, my pain, and my sin. Each time I face my childhood, new layers of ugliness rise to the surface. God may be extremely patient and loving, but he won’t quit on me until he has dug out the deepest ugliness.
The apostle Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:30-32, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (NLT).
Not only did God convince me to write this blog because someone else needed to hear my story, now I see that God is using this to dig down deeper within me, to pull out lingering tentacles of that same old ugliness. Each of my fathers, late in life, accepted Jesus as his Savior. With God being true to his Word, I will meet both of these men in Heaven someday. God must prepare me for that day.
And now, if there is just one truth I would have you take away from my story, it is that God is faithful. He has been right there with me all throughout my life. Psalm 68:5 promises me that God is “Father to the fatherless.” Rather than God being like my earthly father, my precious Abba Father supplied everything I lacked in an earthly father.
The song “Never Once,” sung by One Sonic Society, is my story of life with God. He is with me, he is faithful always, and he loves me extravagantly. I invite you to worship along with me here.
Barb Poston has been married to her career military husband for fifty-nine years. After Tom retired from the Air Force and then Barb retired from Family Christian Stores, both still love serving the Lord through supporting and serving his church and his people.