They Took My Father
Updated: Jun 3
Becoming the Hero, Written Series
My biological, “earthly” father left my life when I was two and hasn’t contributed much fatherly impact since. That was roughly forty years ago. It is what it is. At the time they felt bad for me and replaced my earthly father with a Heavenly Father. They told me he loved me unconditionally. He would never leave my side or turn his back on me. I have an earthly brother but I got a heavenly Brother out of the deal as well. If I ever felt lonely or needed comfort all I had to do was turn to them. They were my family. As real as the flesh and blood family around me.
I believed them. How could I not? I was a kid. They repeated it constantly. I put all my father eggs in one basket and it was a sure bet. I was promised. I made covenants. I went all in. I have perspective now that I could not have possibly had then when I began my fatherly journey. What I remember is talking to my capital ‘F’ Father constantly. Always have a prayer in your heart was my guiding post.
My body was a house of fear. Consistent long term abuse had taught me to fear everything and everyone, yet my very nature was to trust and love. While this duality is something I can acknowledge, honor, and move with as an adult in their forties, I did not have this understanding as a child. I knew I was scared and I didn’t know why. Fear was a constant so when I got old enough to understand prayer that’s where I turned for comfort.
I was constantly praying. Father (capital F) became my constant companion. I prayed while I walked between classes, and to school. I prayed in the bathroom when it all got to be too much. I missed a ton of music from high school because I was often praying and conversing with my Father while I drove. ‘Bad’ things still happened but I had someone to turn to when I needed him. My Father loved me unconditionally and when I got to Heaven he was going to scoop me in his arms and twirl me around while we giggled and he kissed my head and told me how much he missed me and how happy he was that I was home. Death has never scared me. It’s only been a joy and blessing to be reunited with my Father who would never leave me or tell me I’m not enough. It’s all I wanted. To run into my Father’s arms and be embraced with love so full I would never be frightened again.
Then they started taking him. Little by little. Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Starting around junior high. A message about not bothering God with all your problems. “He doesn’t have time to listen to everyone’s constant whining so make sure when you pray you only pray about the really important stuff.” Shit. That’s exactly what I had been doing! Panic ensued. I had always felt good, felt The Sprit, when I talked to him. Had I misunderstood? Was Father mad at me for wasting his time? Was I actually talking to Satan and he had tricked me?
I spoke to my leader at the time and she told me not to worry about it. That my relationship with Father was beautiful and she knew that he loved me and wanted to hear everything I wanted to share. I was comforted. The damage had unfortunately already been done though, and I began editing myself. My talks with my Father became shorter and shorter. I shared less and less of myself and sought comfort elsewhere. My rock, my stability, my anchor to safety was no longer secure.
There were many more confusing messages along the way and each time the distance grew as Father became God with a capital ‘G’. Honor, respect, piety, and reverence replaced love, safety, and familiarity. The most damning part was that Father now became fear. Where once lived the surety of Father scooping me up and celebrating me, there now lived fear that I wasn’t good enough to even catch a glimpse of his personage. The very thing Father was protecting me against, he became. This is when I really started to hate myself and my wickedness. Forgiveness was no longer freely given in conversation between Father and daughter. There were now gatekeepers that decided if I was worthy enough to see him. Worthy enough to partake of his Sacrament, his covenants, his love.
I was wicked. So very wicked. I did not have the vocabulary I do now to understand that I’m gender and sexually fluid. That fuller understanding didn’t come until my late thirties. What I did know is that I wasn’t like the other girls. I tried and tried but I couldn’t be like them. Not for long anyway. I had wicked thoughts. Wicked drives. Wicked tendencies and they told me Father did not approve. He knew my heart. He knew my thoughts. There was no hiding from him. The omnipresent Fatherly gaze that kept me safe and secure was now a wickedness monitoring system. AVOID THE APPEARANCE OF EVIL! That was ‘easy’ enough. I pass for straight and cis, but he knew. If he saw my heart and heard my thoughts he knew just how wicked I was. Not just for who I was but for what had been done to me. He saw. He knew. So much wickedness lived inside my body. There was no escape.
I sought him in the temple but my Father didn’t live there. A God of rules and symbols detached from humanity and love lives there. And, shit, there’s more wickedness. If I could not find Father in the temple I must really be disappointing him. He must be weeping when he sees what I’ve done with this life that he gave me. More shame. More fear. Go more. Try harder. Find him.
While I speak with many people who left religion in their teens (or earlier) they all seem to have figured out that following the rules kept no one safe so they stopped following unsafe rules. They saw the hypocrisy and the shame and said, “This is nonsense. This isn’t making me happy. I’m out.” I, on the other hand, internalized everything. If Father had left me it meant I hadn’t followed the rules strictly enough. I missed him terribly. If I followed the rules as perfectly as possible he would love me again. I wanted so badly to make him happy. To please him. Maybe the days of picking me up and being proud of me were gone but I could at least prove that I was willing to go against even myself for him. So I did.
As horrific abuse continued to happen, and my leaders continued to put the onus on me, I fell deeper and deeper into the rules. If I studied more, I’d understand better and then I wouldn’t be such a failure. I got to the point where I was studying scripture at least two hours a day. I threw myself into every calling wether I liked it or not. Did the prophet give a suggestion? It was law to me. Family night, scripture study (individually, as a family, and as a couple), prayer (individually, as a family, and as a couple), church attendance, temple attendance, lessons with my kids, church magazines, church videos, church picture kits, and scripture stories. My parenting revolved around church. My life revolved around church. My desire revolved around feeling that safety again.
I would look around constantly at my friends, family, and fellow church members and no one seemed to be freaking out about following the rules like I was. In fact, I was laughed at many times when I expressed my concerns. I seemed to be the only wicked one. No one else appeared to be as concerned with their wickedness as I was which could only mean that I was even more wicked than I thought.
That wickedness was going to cost me the only consistent source of pure love I had ever experienced in my life. My kids. If I couldn’t pull it together I would never see them again. They would live with Father and I would not. I needed to please God who had replaced Father even though I still felt Father in the quiet moments and play. He was there and it was wildly confusing because they all said he wouldn’t be. They said that it was Satan and I needed to be careful because I would be led even further away from Father. Father and God were so very different yet they went by the same name.
I moved to the central location of our church and lost Father even more. Many spoke of him. Some seemed to carry his love but not many. Here God ruled. God reigned with a mighty sickle that controls, work, social, church, and legislative life and sweeps out those who don't agree. Love and safety were only given to the ones that looked the right way. Pretty families chose who deserved God’s love and who didn’t. I became familiar with “casseroling.” Being nice to families that didn’t hold their standards until it became clear they weren’t going to convert and then ice them out of all neighborhood activities. Kids not allowed to play at the homes of non-members. Kids at birthday parties asking loudly which kids were members and leaving out the ones who weren’t. This was not Zion as I had pictured it. This was not what my Father taught me about loving my neighbors. I was confused but holding on to my Father while their God seemed to crush spirits and lives without care. Including mine.
They used my Father to betray me. I asked for help. I needed help. I went to their offices and pled with them to help me keep myself, and my children, safe. They said God doesn’t work that way. They said that they were very sorry but God didn’t meddle in the affairs of man and to trust that God would take care of the problem when I died. They said it was unfair to hold the people who hurt me responsible in this life as that was God’s job. “He knows and he will take care of it. However, here in this life, it’s our job to turn the other cheek.” I explained that I had turned the other cheek so many times that my entire spirit was bruised and tattered. I explained that my kids were in danger and turning the cheek didn’t stop the violence. I didn’t want them to end up as bruised and tattered as I was. They smiled at me and said to trust God but they couldn’t help me. I even wrote a letter to the prophets but no one responded.
More and more though they attacked my very core. The parts of myself that I could hide from mere mortals but that Father could see clear as day. He knew and years before, according to them, he was making sure everyone else knew how disgusting people like me were. My Father uses his church and their billions of dollars to try to change laws to make sure people like me could not get married. That was crushing but at the time I had found an eternal companion so I tried to focus on that. Yes, I am inherently wicked but I was fighting the natural man inside me with everything I had like he asked me to. That had to count for something. It wasn’t enough though. Not for Father. He needed to make sure even (my) children knew how wicked and disgusting people like me were. (I was) Apostate. Counterfeit. Fake. Pretend. Tool of the devil. Father wanted to make sure I knew exactly how he felt about me.
The last ember of Father that was still alive inside me has been stamped out. I poured water over the ashes to make sure they will not reignite. There is no love. No safety. No security from him anymore. Only fear, pain, and crippling loneliness in place of Father. I grieved my Father more than I have grieved anyone in my life. My earthly father is not reliable. It hurts but I can live with that. He’s human after all. Fallible. Father (with a capital 'F') was supposed to be better. Unconditional love. Eternal blessings. Forever family.
My Father knew every cell in my body. He knew my thoughts and my heart and he loved me with a love that kept the fear at bay. He wanted me to be safe and happy. He saw my flaws, my quirks, my wickedness and loved me even harder. My Father held me in my darkest moments and whispered in my ear that I would be safe and he loved me. He was so proud of me. My Father enveloped me in his arms and didn’t let go. My Father loved me. I am so grateful for that little girl who created a love so powerful that it took almost four decades to destroy.
My Father is dead. They killed him. They replaced him with their God and I want nothing to do with him.
I will take this ability to create boundless love and I will surround myself with it. I will cultivate it until fills every fiber of my being. I will bathe my children in love until they believe anything is possible. I will fill my home with love until it spills out into my neighborhood. I will pour my love into my friends so they will never feel alone or deficient. I will be love.
I am love.
#love #father #lds #religion #god #domesticviolence #abuse #healing #home #family #wicked #church #safety #security #comfort #anchor #queer #2slgbtqia #lgbtq #trans #transgender #sexuallyfluid #genderfluid