To ensure the healing of our father-shaped wounds while we purify our image of God’s fatherhood, it helps to realize how the wrong image is continually being inflicted upon us. Major influences in the culture we live in have been severely undermining the image of fatherhood for a long time.
Sing to the Lord a new song, / his praise from the ends of the earth, / you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, / you islands, and all who live in them. / Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices; / let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. / Let the people of Sela sing for joy; / let them shout from the mountaintops. / Let them give glory to the Lord / and proclaim his praise in the islands. / The Lord will march out like a champion, / like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; / with a shout he will raise the battle cry / and will triumph over his enemies. (Isaiah 42:10-13 NIV)
God designed his own warrior nature into the hearts of men. He calls them to stand up strong in zeal, raise the battle cry, and triumph over the Devil for the sake of their families, for the protection of the Church, and for the conversion of the world. Men are wired to be champions. It’s not surprising, then, that the Devil has been redesigning manhood.
For the past several decades in the US where I live — and elsewhere in cultures that have been influenced by the US — there’s been a strong and pervasive influence to make men less masculine, more like women, in the name of “equality”.
“The growing problem in today’s society isn’t that men are too masculine; it’s that they’re not masculine enough. When men embrace their masculinity in a way that is healthy and productive, they are leaders, warriors and heroes. When they deny their masculinity, they run away from responsibilities, leaving destruction and despair in their wake.” (Allie Stuckey, Prager University; see https://youtu.be/U-kxdyJs6y8)
Feminized men are passive men. Passive men don’t stand up to evil to stop it. Passive men don’t lead their children to Christ. Passive men don’t make heroic sacrifices for their family, parish, community or country.
So, who do you suppose is most delighted by this? Who is the primary influencer behind it? Who gains the most by mocking and destroying traditional fatherhood? The Devil, of course.
If anything can be labeled as the primary strategy of the Enemy, this is it: Destroy human fatherhood to destroy God’s fatherhood. It’s a coup d’état to take over as the illegitimate father of the human race. As stupid and unrealistic as it is (because God will never be defeated), demons have been waging this war for eons.
The war began when one third of the angels got upset over God’s plans for the human race.
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. (Revelation 12:3-4 NIV)
The word “stars” has long been used in Jewish literature to refer to angels; both the stars and the angels are called “the hosts of heaven.”
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:7-9 NIV)
This battle was fought before the creation of humankind; Satan was already present in his fallen state when he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Why did angels become demons? Why did they choose to fight God instead of remain in the splendor of his magnificence?
The full picture of Satan’s rebellion is unknown to us, but theologians have given us a lens into why it happened. Saint Thomas Aquinas proposed that Satan sinned by desiring to be “as God.” But why was he (and the other demons) so interested in usurping God’s role as the Father of the human race?
According to the general consensus of theologians and mystics, angels were created with full knowledge. Their awareness of God and his plans was not limited by physical brains like we have.
“The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph #391). He was also called Lucifer, or “light bearer,” when he was a good angel (see Isaiah 14:12-15).
In full knowledge of what God planned for the world, all the angels knew that humans would be created with a lower nature. They also knew that the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus the Son, would unite himself to humans by becoming the Divine Incarnation, God living as a man. And they knew that all the hierarchy of heaven must bow in adoration to the Incarnate One and be subject to the authority of this God-Man. Furthermore, they knew that they would be given the vocation of serving humankind.
This was too much for Satan and some of the other angels. They committed the life-changing sin of pride and rejected God’s wisdom on how good it would be for angels to serve humans. But despite their repulsion of this servitude, the reality remains: They are still subject to humans who unite themselves to the authority of the Divine Incarnation. (Feel free to laugh at the irony of this.)
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” [Jesus] replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:17-19 NIV)
Because the demons decided to rebel against God’s plans with full knowledge of how wrong they were, and they understood with clarity that it would lead to eternal separation from God, their choice was irrevocable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall.” (Catechism paragraph #393)
Their rebellion continues to this day, and in our lifetimes we have witnessed the increased activity of the war they have been furiously waging against God. However, they know they can never defeat God. So they turn their anger and hatred and battle strategies toward those who were the reason for their fall: the humans they do not want to serve.
Enemies invade countries that don’t belong to them in order to take over and claim the land as their own. It’s the same with our supernatural enemy: Demons invade human lives with the goal of taking over, stealing from God, and destroying the Kingdom of God (as ridiculous and impossible as this is) to pervert it into their own kingdom. The Church is both their primary target, since this is where the Kingdom of God reigns strongest, and their primary demise, precisely because this is where the Kingdom of God reigns strongest.
However, all humankind is their target. Demons hate even those who do not unite themselves to the Divine Incarnation. And those who are not united to Christ are the weakest and easiest to conquer and enslave.
Satan’s number one priority is to replace God’s fatherhood over humankind with his own evil fatherhood. Therefore it’s no surprise that human fatherhood has been under attack in insidious and obvious ways. Jesus called Satan “the father of lies” (see John 8:44). By invading human fatherhood, demons invade God’s fatherhood and try to make him look like the liar.
They take advantage of our limited awareness. They know we like to supplement what we don’t know with whatever will fill in the blanks. They know we are prone to getting wrong ideas about Father God based on what human fathers are like. They use our human limitations against us, creating false images of Father God, thus interfering with and even destroying the beautiful father-child relationship that God wants to have with humans.
This demonic strategy not only weakens families but also prevents many of us from discovering and embracing God as the True Father.
Roseann’s story reveals how the Devil undermines God’s fatherhood even in good Christian families:
My parents were 17 years apart in age. They were very good Catholics but they did not have a devoted love for one another. My mother fulfilled both parenting roles because my father worked a lot of hours, including weekends, to provide well for our family.
The father of lies says, “Hey dads, you’re not being a good father unless you provide well for your family. Your family needs and deserves a bigger house, a car for every driver in the family, and expensive vacations. To give them what they want, work harder. Work longer.”
I gained my father’s attention when I began to play sports. He came to as many games as he could. But my mother never came to my games. She was so busy doing all the chores of the household, even cutting the lawn while omitting the tender, precious moments of bonding with her children.
The father of lies says, “Hey mothers, your children need to learn to not be selfish. They should realize that you don’t have all the time in the world to give them. Every chore is important. The house must be kept clean. What will the neighbors think if they come in and see dusty shelves and toys strewn about and old newspapers piling up on the end table? And by the way, don’t ask the children to do your chores. They can’t do it as well as you can; you’ll only have to re-do it anyway.”
When my father wasn’t working, he was doing charitable works for the church. Charitable works had been my father’s life when he was single.
The father of lies says, “Church activities and charitable works are highly commendable. You sin if you don’t make them a top priority. Therefore they take precedence over all family activities.”
Roseann’s parents seem, on the surface, to be good people. And they were, but the Devil hated them for it and took advantage of their vulnerabilities. Like many well-meaning parents, they believed the Devil’s sneaky lies that the culture had normalized. Mixing good parenting with worldly ways is like punching a hole in a soccer ball. One good kick and the ball (or the children’s image of God’s fatherhood) deflates.
Roseann explains how it happened to her:
There was a lot of quarreling between my parents. My father did not like my mother telling him what to do or what was needed. Quarreling really hurts the love atmosphere needed for a good and enriching family life. The biggest stumbling block in my relationship with Father God is the fear of disagreements.
Regarding how the culture normalizes the Devil’s strategies, she says:
I believe that men no longer know how to be fathers. In today’s culture, so many men are missing in their role as fathers. And many mothers desire to be like men: having jobs or careers equal to men, having girls’ weekends, drinking alcohol equal to men, not taking the time to raise their children in the formative years of life. And more families are divorced rather than married once and for life.
We can see the effects of damaged fatherhood in the divorce rate. Separated parents often, however inadvertently, diminish the role of fatherhood. When dads are portrayed as the bad guys by hurt and angry moms, children usually develop a wrong idea about fatherhood. When dads spend their weekend custody visits focused only on having fun with the children, the authority and leadership of fatherhood gets lost.
Fatherhood is undermined when the husband does not serve as the head of the family. It happens when his God-given authority is ignored, rejected, abused, or supplanted. God’s design for the family is for both mother and father to discuss things openly with each other, seeking God’s will together, submitting to one another respectfully, and using fatherly authority as an extension of God’s authority to empower what is decided. But in many homes today, the mother is dominant; she takes control by having the last say. The children are directed by the father to “go ask your mother”. Or the opinion of the father is over-ruled by the mother-in-law or the wife, who has the louder voice.
Certainly abortions destroy the value and importance of fatherhood. And materialism tends to prioritize careers as more important than parenting. The picture of God as a doting Daddy begins to be blurred when babies are toted around in portable car seats more often than they are carried in the arms of their parents. The same thing happens when they’re bottle fed for the convenience of mom instead of being nursed. Likewise when their formative years are spent with babysitters who are not family members, even though both parents are alive, and when family interaction is replaced by TV shows and video games.
There are myriads of ways that the worldly culture has opened the door to the infiltration of Satan’s anti-Father strategies.
It’s not surprising, then, that God’s fatherhood is disrespected by many adults today. Our society is full of children in adult bodies who are still seeking the father they needed while at the same time they ignore God, the only Perfect Father, believing that faith in him is irrelevant. Morality is whatever people decide it should be, which is idolatry because they are doing what Satan wants to do: usurp God’s authority. This, then, is another source of false images of God. They must have their own way. They’ll even throw temper tantrums over it. Whatever they want, they believe they should get. Never mind how it might affect others.
Television’s role in the downfall of fatherhood
Consider what the history of television reveals about Satan’s strategy. When I was a child, a popular sitcom on television was “Father Knows Best”. In the 1950s and early 60s, the culture was much gentler than today’s. The father of lies was in the early stages of corrupting modern culture. His influence was not as widespread as it is today.
TV shows told stories of intact families, and we laughed at the foibles of children who still had a lot to learn. We all knew that the stories did not depict real life, but that’s why we enjoyed them. They gave us an escape that reassured of us of what the ideal should be. Family entertainment gave us a picture of what families could strive for.
By the time I became a teenager, the culture began to glorify rebellion against parents and Christian morals and anything else that stood in the way of a self-centered worldview. Divorce was given approval in child-friendly family shows. Women were often depicted as smarter than men.
Some shows dared to tackle important social justice issues, such as racial equality, which was good, but they didn’t stop there. Whenever a rebellious mindset is in control, it invents injustices — like the fallen angels did when they believed it was unjust of God to ask them to serve humans. A common scene in family shows was (and still is) a battle of wits between parents (usually divorced) insulting each other while the children turn it into an opportunity to get what they want (of course without suffering any emotional wounds). Thus evil is made to seem good and good is made to seem evil.
A prime example of entertainment being used as a battle tactic was the very popular 1970s show “All in the Family”. Archie the father was a very prejudiced bigot who dominated his wife and needed to be corrected by his smart-mouthed daughter and her out-of-work, somewhat stupid husband. The feminist daughter represented the new world that viewers were being invited to forge, where women are supposedly better than men and their rights are supposedly more important than everyone else’s, including the rights of children. (The legalization of abortion in the US occurred two years after this series began.) Archie Bunker represented everything that viewers didn’t like about their own fathers. By laughing at the stupidity of Archie, we could stop crying — however briefly — about the hurts we suffered in our childhoods.
Little by little, fatherhood was increasingly undermined. By the 1980s and 90s, while my children were growing up, TV sitcoms often portrayed dads as buffoons. The kids were smarter and wiser than the parents. TV characters who were divorced became more prevalent. And the trouble-making ex (always the father) was either undeserving of family life or else he was blatantly uncaring. At best, he was absent.
And then came shows in which fathers portrayed the glorification of corrupt moral values as if this were a good thing. They were womanizers or lazy drunks or hustlers or con artists or selfish connivers. Lust replaced love.
And think of the abundance of shows, both comedies and dramas, that featured childless couples. If any did have children, their families were almost always very small.
Next on Satan’s agenda: TV shows that normalize homosexual love and children being raised by gays and lesbians.
Fatherhood has lost its godliness. However, Father God is not going to let the Enemy keep winning. He is already working a plan to restore holiness to fatherhood and to families. We’ll look at this in upcoming chapters.
Of course, television was not the only tool that the Enemy has successfully used. The history of TV merely gives us a clear timeline of the undermining of fatherhood.
The destruction of true fatherhood has even infiltrated the lives of Christians, for two reasons. One, we are taught by the culture in which we live, with its subtle, decades-slow creep of moral relativism invading our thoughts and ideas. Two, the Church has failed to teach and glorify holiness in families as strongly as the Devil has worked against it. This is why so many people today need to read this book and find help from our Divine Father.
Thankfully, there have been signs of a reversal of the fatherhood-destroying trend. One example is the popular series “Last Man Standing”, which first aired in 2011. Despite its mix of Christian morals mingling with worldly ways and characters with conservative values and some with liberal viewpoints, fatherhood is handled with respect. After it was cancelled in 2017, so many fans clamored for its return that another network rebooted the series a year later.
Dealing with the devil
We who love the Lord our God and embrace his fatherhood want to save unborn children from abortions. We want to promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We want to help young adults realize that children are gifts who are more important than self-centered goals.
However, I believe we will not be able to win these battles until we first help others gain respect for fatherhood. Nor will many of our evangelization strategies work without it. We don’t like hearing this. It sounds too discouraging, so let’s examine this more closely.
Consider how culturally-influenced people react when counter-cultural Christians stand up for the truth about abortion, homosexual marriages, and other hot topics of morality. You probably have some in your family. They don’t understand the truth because they don’t understand God’s fatherhood — his loving, protective fatherhood. The truth feels threatening to them. This means God feels threatening to them. They don’t know that he has their best interests at heart. They don’t know that all of his commandments, as revealed in sacred scripture and the traditional teachings of the Church, are prescriptions for a life that they’d be thrilled to live if only they would trust him.
We could say to them what Jesus said:
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:43-44 ESV)
Satan knows that with the loss of respect for human fatherhood comes the corollary loss of respect for God’s fatherhood, leading to an increase of sin and estrangement from God.
If we’re going to reverse this trend and heal family wounds by uplifting fatherhood, we have to introduce people to Abba-Father — the real Father as he truly is. To turn our world around by evangelizing it, changing hearts for Christ, we have to help people heal from their wrong images of God’s fatherhood. And this begins by purging our own false images of God from our thinking.
After 21 days of working your way deeper and deeper into the Father’s heart, shedding the various ways that you’ve misunderstood God because of misperceptions caused by imperfect parents, how much closer to him do you feel now? Granted, it’s a process that needs to continue long after you finish reading this book. When we’ve thought one way (the misconceptions) all of our lives, the old ideas have formed deep ruts. Your new understanding of God’s fatherhood has given you new wheels for your journey through life, but they will repeatedly slip into the ruts. This is normal. This is not a problem as long as you remember to stop, readjust the track you were thinking, and consciously work at creating new ruts. The longer you use your new insights about who Abba-Father is and how much he cares about you, the deeper the new ruts will become and, therefore, the easier it will become to stay in the new way of thinking.
What if everyone you know overcame their misperceptions, too? How would a better relationship with Abba-Father change their lives? How would it impact your life? Multiply this out to everyone they know, then imagine it rippling out to others and still more others. How would this change the world?
This is what the Devil wants to make sure will not happen. Demons are aggressive about stealing God’s children from his kingdom. They are constantly trying to turn people away from the Divine Father and to keep them away from him. They are thieves who want to kill and destroy any type of fatherhood that reflects God’s true nature (see John 10:10).
It’s no accident of societal evolution that the image of fatherhood has been undermined more than motherhood or childhood.
God gave protection to his image when he gave the commandment that protects families: “Honor your father and your mother” (see Exodus 20:12). Regardless of how imperfect our parents were, how abusive, rejecting, or trouble-making, we defeat Satan and his strategies by honoring them.
What does “honoring” look like? It does not mean overlooking the ungodly ways of our parents. Nor does it mean justifying their sins with remarks like, “Well, he treated me the same way his own parents treated him; it’s what he learned.” While this is true, it’s also true that each person is given the brains and opportunities to choose to break free from the problems of their upbringing. Each person has the freedom do what is right, to heal from and overcome the bad behaviors they learned. (The exception to this is when demons have taken possession of a person; an exorcism is needed before they can have such freedom.)
Forgiveness is our first step in becoming free of a parent’s unholy and unhealthy behavior patterns so that we don’t fall into the trap of imitating their patterns. It’s a common problem: We can abhor a parent’s behavior, declaring that we will never treat our children the same way, but we end up being all too much like that parent. Forgiveness is not enough to break the mold. We have to consciously and deliberately watch for the sins of the parent getting repeated in our behaviors and then go to the Sacrament of Confession to receive God’s supernatural grace in overcoming it. With the help of the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, we can succeed in becoming who God created us to be instead of who our human parents created us to be.
Honoring our parents does not mean putting them on a pedestal or even praising them publicly. It’s doing good to them whether they deserve it or not, because of their inherent dignity which God gave them.
It’s doing acts of love, not just saying that you love. It’s being concerned about their needs and doing deeds of caring. Many people today claim to love their parents while actively rejecting them; this indicates that the Devil has gained access to them. They have succumbed to the very prevalent lies of the father of lies and thus became his pawns of division and the destruction of fatherhood.
Even the worst of parents are to be honored as God commands. This does not mean that we respect them. In fact, everyone has to earn respect, even parents. God commands us to honor our parents regardless of whether they have earned our respect.
Nor does “honoring” our parents mean ignoring their sins and unhealthy behaviors. Whatever they’re still doing that should get stopped or healed or changed, if we can help them overcome it, great. If we cannot, we need to set boundaries and enforce them. We need to protect ourselves from being manipulated by Satan’s strategies. And if we have children in our care, we need to protect them, too.
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies (see Matthew 5:44). Let’s face it, he was talking about our parents, too, not just criminals and terrorists or that nasty boss at work. A parent is an enemy whenever he (or she) does anything that opposes God’s fatherhood. And because Abba-Father cherishes what is good in us, parents are enemies when they oppose our God-given dignity. Even when they are right and we are wrong, God wants them to treat us with respect.
To love our enemies, we have to first forgive them — even if it’s seventy-seven times (see Matthew 18:22) every day. The next step is to do good to them or for them — even if the only good we can do is pray for them. When we do this, we defeat the Devil!
Forgiveness is often difficult, but it becomes easier when we realize that we are not approving of their sins. We don’t have to wait for them to become remorseful. Forgiveness is the act of relinquishing to God our desire to retaliate or to see them get punished. It’s choosing to let go of the hurts that chain us to what they did wrong, so that God can heal us. Forgiveness sets us free from the hold they have on our emotions.
Once we’re free, we can honor them by reaching out to them with unconditional love. We can honor them by connecting to the heart of their soul, which was created in the image and likeness of God. We can focus our relationships on what is good in them. We can give them the love that God has given to us.
In doing this, a miracle happens. We become even more aware of Father God’s love for us. We feel closer to Abba than ever before.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)
The problem is that people don’t change as quickly as we want them to, and some people don’t change at all, at least not that we can see. To be able to forgive them seventy times seven times, we have to make the conscious decision to respect and love people the way they are right now, even while disapproving of and disliking what they do. If they never improve, can we love them anyway? What if their lack of improvement causes us more problems — can we love them then?
Forgiveness is not based on what others do, but on what we need. Forgiveness releases us from the hold that their sins have on us. It’s a decision to protect our joy and not allow others to control our feelings. And for this to happen, our forgiveness must be sincere. We can say with our lips that we’ve forgiven others, but if our happiness depends on others changing, we remain frustrated and angry. On-going anger is a sign that our forgiveness is only lip-deep.
Joy through forgiveness is dependent upon God, not on what others do or don’t do. We choose to forgive based on the love that God has for sinners, not on whether they deserve it. And then because we’ve given them mercy, we receive God’s mercy and we’re released from the emotional chains that have bound us to the damaging effects of their sins.
This often is enough to heal our pain. When it’s not, we might need the help of a therapist. The nature of the pain is frequently multi-layered, especially when dealing with childhood hurts. To be fully healed we need to identify one layer at a time and choose to forgive several times.
To protect ourselves from the return of pain, or when the person we forgive is still actively repeating their offense, it helps to examine why we feel hurt even after we forgive: Our needs are not being met. As long as we keep wanting others to meet those needs, we feel hurt over and over again. However, nobody except God can meet all of our needs. Unless we look to God for all that we need from others, the pain of our wounds is going to control us until the day we die.
To defeat the Devil, we merely have to do the opposite of what he wants us to do. He wants to divide you from God, therefore love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul, passionately, without being lazy about it or half-hearted. And the Devil wants to divide families, therefore forgive the family members who have sinned against you. (Note: Enforcing safe boundaries is not being divisive. The person you need to protect yourself from is the one who caused the division. You can love them unconditionally and do good for them from afar, and this too defeats the Devil.)
Today’s Exercise: Write a letter of forgiveness
Think of the parent who most damaged your thoughts about God’s nature as Father. Write a letter to that parent without ever showing it to him or her. In the letter, explain how the damage was done and why this hurt your relationship with Abba-Father. Then, in writing, give forgiveness to that parent. Include a prayer that asks God to forgive this person as well.
Don’t just think about it, write it. This will activate the cortex of your brain, resulting in a quick calming of your emotions.
You can repeat this exercise for the other parent and anyone else who has given you wrong ideas about God’s fatherhood.
If you need to recall what the wrong ideas about God are and what the truth is, review the previous chapters of this book.
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© 2020 by Terry A. Modica
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