I can honestly say that I’ve never really had a father. Although he is still alive, I have never had the opportunity to get to know him.
My memories of my father are limited to his coming home unexpectedly one night, after we had not seen him for some time, and my mother crying. All I really remember about my father is his absence.
My feelings towards my father gradually turned into complete confusion and dismay when his behavior caused my mother to become so ill that she had to go into a hospital. I was visiting her one day trying to comfort her, and my father came to see me. By that time, he was living with another woman. Somehow I found enough courage to ask him if he would consider coming back to live with his family. He simply laughed nervously and said, “No, it is too late.”
There is a tremendous emotional handicap that comes with the absence of a father. Although my mother constantly showed her love for me, I could not help feeling betrayed.
I could not live with such a feeling forever. The first change occurred when I joined the Church. As a member, I realized I had to find it in my heart to forgive my father. But I still felt confused. I understood that I could forgive him, but what exactly was I supposed to forgive him for? I never hated him or wished him any harm. But I was still angry. I felt sorry for him and upset at the choices he had made. My mother, although not a member of the Church, asked me to include him in my prayers and ask that the Lord might take care of him. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
As I learned more about the gospel, it seemed to make matters worse. When I learned the importance of the priesthood, the blessings that come when it is exercised properly in faith, it made me sad. Why didn’t I have a responsible priesthood holder in my family to go to in times of trouble?
But a chance was already in progress. As a member of the Church I began to see the world and the people in it from a different point of view. I turned aside from bad habits and tried to live the way the Lord wanted me to. I found great comfort in prayer. For I now finally realized I had someone in whom I could confide all my problems, my joys and little triumphs. It was a feeling that completely overwhelmed me, made me feel important. I knew He was listening.
I realized that I did indeed have a Father, that I literally was His son in the spirit. It filled my heart to know that there was someone willing to lend a helping hand to sustain and encourage me. I was given a great gift—the feeling of belonging. I was not alone. I knew the world to be literally filled with my brothers and sisters, all sharing a common Father. Sometimes I would look at people around me and think, I know something wonderful and I long to share it with you. We are related.
What the Lord gave me was strength, peace, and fulfillment. He made me see why a concept like forgiveness is truly all-encompassing and powerful. The Lord forgave me of my sins and transgressions at my baptism. And by sincere repentance I can still be forgiven. It was clear that I did not deserve this privilege if I did not find it in my heart to forgive my father. I learned that in spite of his habits and conduct, I should honor him and try to find a way to help him instead of silently condemning him.
It’s been a long, hard struggle for me, and I cannot say that I still do not long for the physical presence of my earthly father. But I know now that he needs help. And through prayer, work, and example, someday I may be able to help him truly realize that he, too, is a son of God.