This is a guest post.
Growing up, I had a pretty rough childhood. Around age 7, my mother and father began a long, heated and very bitter divorce. At first I was too young to realize what was going on behind the scenes with my parents, but I began to catch on very quickly to the anger, hatred and hurt between them, especially from my mom. In time, my father moved out.
As a child I do not remember ever seeing my parents kiss or show any kind of love or affection for each other in front of us. They always seemed somehow distant from each other. The only displays of love I saw were from my mother, who was a stay-at-home mom, always cooking, cleaning, gardening, mowing, then catering to my father once he came home from work. My father never seemed to want much to do with my sister, brother and I. He seemed to take my mother for granted, expecting her to do everything, including taking care of us. I have very few memories of my father ever doing anything with us kids or around the house.
As I’ve said, their marriage degraded and fell apart. Eventually, to get away from my father, we moved to a small town an hour away, then to a house in the country. I attended the local Roman Catholic school, but after a short time, my mom sent my siblings and I back to our old school, which was also a Roman Catholic school so that we could be with our friends again, back to where we felt safe, felt at home. It is here, at this Catholic school where my story really begins.
Growing up, my mother raised my siblings and me first and foremost to love and respect God. She felt that God was very important; so much so that she volunteered a certain amount of time at the Catholic school to help make up for the rest of our tuition so that we could continue to attend. If you’ve ever been to a Catholic school, you know that every day starts with Mass. The younger kids sit up front and the older towards the back. Every day is started with remembrance and worship of God. My love for God, His Saints, the services, and Church history started here – a result of this school and its daily services, prayers and teachings.
Although my spiritual foundations were being laid and nurtured at this school, my soul was also being put through a great trial. During the long divorce, I developed a great anger within myself. I was angry at my parents and at God. Why was such anger, pain and confusion descending upon me? Why can’t things go back to the way they were, when they were relatively worry free?
When I was around 8 or 9, I began to feel a voice within me every time I attended Mass. One day after school was out I went into the church just to sit in the peaceful and prayerful silence. I would do this sometimes before walking home. While sitting in a pew towards the front, I was particularly transfixed on the crucifix that hung over the altar. I sat there in prayerful silence, talking to God within my heart, reaching out to Him with my whole being, and that Voice stirred again within my soul. The voice, although not in literal words, was discernible by my spirit, clear as day. I began to cry, asking God to help me, to help my mom and my siblings, and that I’m so tired of being angry and sad. I told Him that I wanted a dad, that I hurt so much from all the hell I have endured and having seen my mother endure for us, trying to protect us from all the bad things my father was doing to us. Looking up at that crucifix, with Jesus Christ arms outstretched on the Tree, I heard this voice within me, louder than the loudest crack of thunder and yet more peaceful and quiet than the stillest whisper on the calmest day: “I WILL BE YOUR FATHER. DO NOT BE AFRAID. I LOVE YOU AND WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU. YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE A FATHER. I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU.”
And surely enough, I have always been blessed to have not just one, but MANY father figures in my life, all of whom taught me, guided me, loved me. Whether it be the man my mom met a few years afterwards who took up the direct role of father figure, or the local parish priest that guided me to Orthodoxy and fanned the flames of love and faith within me, or the various other men who loved me and took care of me and my family in some capacity during my life. I have always had a father. Many fathers! And it is with uttermost thankfulness, love and joy that I thank our Heavenly Father, from Whom “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). It is therefore why I can pray, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name…”
-Your Brother in Christ