From Rejection to Reclaimed

(A story of fatherlessness by Isaiah Crockran)

My story of abandonment is not unique. It is not unique to the Black community, although fatherlessness parades around the neighborhoods of Black families every day that a beautiful baby boy or girl is birthed. It is not unique to minority groups or families below the poverty line, though poverty nearly destroyed my family and the families around me. In some ways my story is not just my story. It belongs to the millions of people in America who fell by the blows of fatherlessness and never got up. It belongs to too many others for me to keep it to myself. I hope as you read my story, it can become your story too.

I remember my biological father. When I was very young, I loved him without a filter, and I knew that I loved him. He was my favorite person to be with, to see, to listen to. I don’t remember talking much to him. However, I remember listening to my father’s voice when he spoke to me. I have a faint memory of when he sang “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley around the house. I remember his eyes were some myriad of green and brown, and his skin was light and complex, like my eyes and skin were. I remember his laugh when he would beat my brothers and I in arm wrestling. I remember thinking he was the strongest man in the world, and that he could protect my family from anything.

I also remember that my father drank. I cannot remember seeing the problems his drinking produced between he and my mother, but I knew there were problems. Things weren’t the same. Less laughter. Less singing. Less of my father. My father moved out, and then eventually moved on. I learned as an adult that he felt it was the best decision. In some ways he was right. The dysfunctional and abusive nature of my mother and father’s relationship needed a change, or it needed to end. But when their relationship died off, a part of me did too.

Growing up, I had a few male figures in my life. Some of them I didn’t care for; my uncle was very close to my dad and I resented him for it. Others like my grandfather had been a source of guidance for my brothers and I. I found that a few men saw the need in the lives of my brothers and I for a mentor, and attempted to fill that void. Today I am grateful for their investments into me, but back then I could not see it. I was lost in an array of emotions that, at the time, I could not name: bitterness, rejection, resentment, denial, unworthiness, and most of all loneliness.

I spent much of my late teenage years attempting to disengage from the people around me. I let hurt creep in for so long that any injustice done to me by others became personal. I was glad when my family moved from Georgia to California. Although I miss them dearly now, I wanted to escape rocky relationships where boulders could come falling down cliffs at any moment. That was my perception of family, dangerous and unstable. I was smart enough to know that my over-generalization of my relationships was unfair, but I saw no other way of protecting myself from being hurt by others.

I cut ties with so many people that I loved, and I tried to build new and better relationships. I let myself become a happier person, and I explored new friendships with people who looked different than me, who were older than me, and eventually who had a different sexual orientation than me. At some point my understanding of healthy relationships blurred, and I became sexually active with guys my age and older. Initially, I could not ignore the shame that overcame me due to my spiritual convictions. Eventually, I was able to compartmentalize those convictions and live a double life. I did so for years before I was able to become honest with someone about my sexuality. I look back at how many bonds I created, and how emotionally vulnerable I let myself be, and I realize how none of those interactions or relationships with other men were built on anything to help them last.

I saw my history repeating itself as I allowed certain people to enter my life and see me vulnerable. I felt and still feel as vulnerable as the kid who stopped hearing his dad’s laugh all of a sudden. There are days that I listen to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to help me feel the pain that I suppress, just so I’m not carrying around loaded baggage. But I know that, as I come to understand my life experiences, and myself I am not defined by my father’s actions, nor by bisexuality or fear of being hurt. I am defined by Christ alone.

Through my vulnerability, I have been able to gain a healthier sense of being in relationship with men. I’ve come under spiritual mentors who help me to cultivate who I am in Christ. I’ve interacted with my father several times in recent years, including a trip to visit him for a week in Florida. I understand a little more why things happened the way they did in my life. I’m not perfect at forgiveness, and I’ve got a ways to go before being in a close relationship with my father is comfortable for me. But above these things, my experience with abandonment has brought me to a place where I’m no longer afraid to be hurt by others. There is still work to be done in me for certain, but the realization that I am no longer lead by fear or emotions has been life giving. I have come to understand The Lord as a type of Father who would never abandon me as His son. It wasn’t until I confronted my biological father’s lack of commitment to me again in 2014 did I truly perceive The Lord’s consistency as a Father. He does not make a habit of forsaking His children, which makes Him a safe person for me to practice being vulnerable with. My hope is that others will come to know The Lord as a safe and loving father who has no other agenda but us, and will therefore never abandon us as His children.