Organizing the Manhood Camp is the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UWYI), and UYWI founder and conference speaker Larry Acosta shares his story as a bit of background to the need that he sees for a conference like this:
Larry Acosta’s Story… (Source here)
So much of what I’ve done in life and ministry (both positively and negatively) has in some way been in response to my father wound. I grew up in a home where my dad was often angry, controlling, abusive, and critical. We lived with a lot of fear and uncertainty, hoping we were doing enough so as NOT to get on Dad’s bad side. When he drank, it was worse; he would rage on all of us. It’s no wonder he was like this; he didn’t know the Lord, and his father treated him the same way. My dad just didn’t have the tools to be a nurturing, encouraging, and an affirming dad when I was growing up. This left a huge hole in my heart, a void that longed for love, blessing, approval, and validation.
I remember one time when I brought a report card home with all “A’s” and one “B,” and he looked at me and said, “What did you get the ‘B’ in?” No affirmation for the “A’s,” just critique for the “B.” This was one of those emotionally damaging experiences that led me to believe that the only way I could ever be “good enough” to earn his love and approval was to be “perfect.” This led me on this hell bent pathway to ceaseless striving, doing, and performing in order to prove myself in order to earn others’ approval. All I ever really wanted was the approval and “BLESSING” of my dad, saying that he was proud of me. This would have helped me to feel loved for who I am and to quit the desperate striving.
This would have helped me to walk with greater confidence instead of being so diminished by my insecurities. This would have helped me to develop healthier boundaries in ministry instead of overworking to prove myself in an attempt to earn the approval of others by always saying “YES” as a people pleaser, because I wanted them to like me.
Don’t get me wrong; a lot of good resulted in my life and ministry because of my father wound, fears, and insecurities. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, and I later completed a Masters Degree and a Doctorate for good measure, solid learning, and to perhaps show my dad that he was wrong about me…. I am good enough.
My father wound also propelled me to build a booming youth ministry and to reach youth throughout our region from over 30 different high schools. This mostly came from my passion to reach youth with the Gospel and to disciple them in His ways, but it was also fueled by my need to prove that the brown kid had game!
Okay, so here’s the deal: I could go on and on about my junk and the pain that my father wound has left in me, but that would discount the redeeming nature and power of God.
You see, a “father wound” is an ongoing psychological, social, or spiritual deficit that would ordinarily be met in a healthy relationship with Dad, but wasn’t, so now it must be overcome by other means. There is hope! There’s hope if you are that urban leader who is trying to grow beyond the pain in your story and is longing to heal through your own father wound. And for all the kids in your community and city who you are burdened for and who so desperately need to know that there is hope beyond the deep pain in their lives left there by absent dads, abusive dads, or dads who just didn’t have the tools to “be the dads they longed for and deserved,” allow me to share some practical insights for healing THROUGH your father wound.
1. Determine to break the chain of unhealthy patterns, habits, and dysfunction from your past. Have a “WHATEVER IT TAKES” attitude and commitment to break this generational sin cycle in your family tree. Embrace the pain in your story and allow it to fuel your resolve to be the first generation in your family to break away from those destructive patterns that have ripped your family off for far too long! Exodus 34:4-7 says, “And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” When I first read this, this read like a life sentence to me because of the brokenness in my family. However, I now understand this to depict what the results will be in my life and the lives of my kids and grandkids, unless I dare to invite Jesus to change me from the inside out and to break the chains of dysfunction, divorce, un-forgiveness, anger, critical spirit, alcoholism, etc., that exists in my family lineage. I am committed to doing whatever it takes to see these generational sins rooted out of our family tree, no matter what it takes! It may take a commitment to counseling each week so you can unpack the pain, heal through some of the hurt, and move toward greater personal wholeness. I personally have benefitted greatly from a knowledgeable and Christ-centered counselor. It may mean a commitment to an accountability group or an AA or SA meeting weekly…WHATEVER IT TAKES! It may mean a commitment to reading, ongoing learning, seminars, marriage conferences, and more.
2. Dare to learn “New Ways” and “New Words.” New ways such as, nurture, affirmation, playing together as a family, having dinner around the table together, reading with your kids, going to their games/school activities, showing real interest in them, taking family adventures together, daring to be the spiritual leader in your home, praying blessings over your children and spouse, even if you never saw this modeled! You can do this, WE CAN DO THIS, by His grace! Dare to create the family environment you wished you would have had when you were growing up. New words such as, “I love you,” “I believe in you,” “I’m proud of you,” ”I’m sorry, I was wrong,”“Thank you,” “Please help me,” and more. Say the words you long to hear and dare to say the words you wished you would have heard more of in your family when you were growing up. Let’s model this for our children, and when we mess up and default to the unhealthy patterns we grew up with, confess it to the Lord and apologize to your kids and move on! Keep growing…break the chain!
3. Discover the power of mentorship. Who is in your starting 5? Who are the people who have permission to speak into your life and to ask you the hard questions? I have a dear friend named John whom I meet with regularly over lunch or coffee. John is an older Christian man who speaks wisdom into my life and loves me like a friend and son. He asks me about my heart, life, family, ministry, and more. He cares about me and shows me what my relationship with my dad might look like if my dad knew the Lord. Every time I meet with John, a part of my father wound heals, just a little bit more. In addition to an upward mentor like John, I have peer mentors in my life that I meet with as well as mentees that I pour into. In like manner, every time I meet with my peer mentors and choose to be vulnerable by pressing into community, or I meet with the younger leaders in my life and build into them, a huge part of my heart heals, and I experience the redemptive power of God to RE-WRITE the pain in my story and to break the generational sin cycles in my family tree. As you continue to lead and serve amidst the urban reality, may I remind you that The City Needs a Father. Children and youth in our cities desperately need a father or a loving father-like role model who would dare to overcome their brokenness and compassionately love and lead those around them. Kids today are making disastrous decisions because of the pain in their lives due to their father wound. And you are alive at this time in history to help BREAK THE CHAIN personally as well as in the lives of youth growing up with distant or non-existent dads. The issue of fatherlessness is a global pandemic; may you step into your calling as leader, role model, teacher, mentor, friend, and father figure in order to make a difference in the lives of the youth all around you who need a wounded healer like you to point them to their perfect heavenly Dad.
Here’s more from Larry:
Please be in prayer that God will work in young men’s lives through the Biblical teaching at Manhood Camp this weekend.