Fatherless: Leaving a second time

“Please don’t go, Dad! Please don’t go!” came the fraught muffled pleas of my ten year old brother. His head buried into my father’s abdomen. His chubby hands griping my dad’s tear stained shirt. Inches away, I stood on the asphalt, numb, emotionless, like a hollow effigy. As a seven year old boy, I was doing that “thing” I do. The thing I still find myself doing in a crisis today  —  shutting down  —  refusing to feel. Ignoring the ache of the blows until after the fight. So I can sort things out alone, lick-my-wounds privately.

My father said goodbye, then hugged my brother and me. He was headed to Virginia, which at the time seemed worlds away from this California boy. Then he turned, opened the driver’s-side door of his black truck and slid inside the cab. With the hallow metallic thud of a closing casket, the truck door shut. The ignition cranked, the engine throbbed and the truck lurched forward, merged into traffic and soon disappeared. This was the second time my father left. The only one I remember.

The first time he left, I was 14 months old and have no real recollection of it. At that time, when I was seven, the only thing shared with me about events surrounding my father’s first departure was a despairing account of my brother shrieking at a pained window, both hands pressed upon it, with tear stained cheeks, watching him leave. In that moment, the second time he left, I experienced none of that standing there on the asphalt. There were no screams from me, no heartbreak, no warmth of tears gathering behind my eyes — just cold numbness. Though ignoring the emotional grenade helped shield the present pain, it couldn’t stop the message searing through my psyche like slivers of hot, twisted shrapnel: “ You’re not worth much, Joel.” the message came.

In my experience, there is nothing more psychologically debilitating than fatherlessness. In the wake of a childhood devoid of a good — involved — male,  a chasm forms. This breach of the soul is so deep it rarely heals — at least, not on its own.  The good news is that a fatherless heart can be restored — revived — even resurrected, if you will. In the next few posts I would like to share some of my story and how, eventually, my unfathered soul found its way back home. My hope is that yours will too.

Please feel free to comment (below) or if you’d prefer to message me here (or on my instagram account @joeljohnsonorg). I know sometimes talking about this subject can awaken some painful memories, I would like to help you navigate through them any way I can. I look forward to corresponding with you.



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2 thoughts on “Fatherless: Leaving a second time

  1. Both my parents were drug addicts and we lived in poverty when I was little. When I was around 6 or 7 yo, my mom decided enough was enough. We left my dad because he was abusive, running around on my mom, bringing drugs into the house, etc. When I was around 9 years old, we checked into a Christian homeless shelter and my mom completely changed the trajectory of our lives. I am now 30 years old and my dad is still drug addicted and homeless. He still contacts me from time to time and it sometimes throws me for a loop. But I have known for a very long time that God is my father. God didn’t just fill the empty parts of my heart, he gave me a new heart. A heart of forgiveness for my dad, a heart of compassion for the homeless and addicted. Being fatherless can be disabling, you almost have a disadvantage in life – until you experience the love of God. Now I am married to an amazing man of God and I get to witness him being an amazing father to our boys, and will hopefully see my boys grow to be amazing fathers to their kids. Fatherlessness is an epidemic. The enemy knows that a man who loves God and who leads his family in the Lord is a mighty weapon.


    1. Oh my! This is beautiful! Tears!!! Thanks so much for sharing this. Out of the ashes of fatherlessness can bring forth miraculous things. You, my friend, are a Phoenix !


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