What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Ashley.

I want you to know that I have always felt fatherless. I didn’t know my biological father until I turned 21, and he didn’t know I existed. It took me awhile to realize that my step-father wasn’t my real dad. I think I figured it out when he and my mother divorced about 14 years ago, and I never saw him again. As a child I can remember kids making Father’s Day cards at school. I think I probably made one for my uncle or grandfather. I remember “bring your dad to school” day. I remember fantasizing about having a huge family with a dad who you could sit in an armchair with whenever you wanted. My mom had lots of live-in boyfriends, so I had many candidates. Most of them were not exactly father material (as my mother will tell you). But I clung to the possibility that they, somebody, anybody would by MY dad.

I want you to know why I have so many friends of the opposite sex. I don’t want to date them or anything. I just have this deep desire for masculine companionship. I want you to know that it has created some very awkward relationships. Let’s be honest, most guys aren’t interested in having a best girl friend. But I have this crazy desire to be taken care of by a man. This desire doesn’t necessarily go away when I am in a relationship, either. I still need my male friends, even when dating. I say “need” because it is an ache in my heart.

I want you to know why I have a hard time trusting people, even these guy friends that I so desperately need. I made contact with my dad when I turned 21, and my entire life changed. However, it wasn’t the fairytale I had always imagined. He wasn’t just some single guy sitting around waiting for a daughter to love and take care of. He is married. He has other children. My presence has completely disrupted his life and potentially even ended his marriage. (I have been told it’s not my fault. Sometimes I believe it.) He continually says he wants to have a relationship with me; he just has to deal with his family right now. I can’t remember the last time we spoke. We have never even met. I have prayed and cried about this more than you can imagine. I know it’s silly; why should a grown woman grieve so much? You have never had a dad, so what’s different now? But inside of me is this child who never moved on because she never could.

I want you to know that I try not to be bitter. I fiercely love my mother and would never blame her for decisions she made when she was my age. I respect the fact that my father is trying to keep his family intact. I understand that my friends just don’t know what to say when they give me blank stares after I pour my heart out to them. But every few months or so, another wave of emotion hits me, and it’s all I can do to keep my head above water. Sometimes anger and bitterness simply win the battle. I also want you to know that God has put some amazing men in my life to stand in the gap. Without these men, I would have long ago given up. This trial was not lost on me. The deepest desire of my heat is to foster and adopt children, giving them the family that I dreamt about.

If you are, could be, have thought about being a parent, I want you to know that this is everything. Children need their fathers. Single-mothers are warriors that this world could not exist without, but we are wired to need a father. I beg you to consider this in every decision you make involving sex, marriage, or divorce. There are millions of broken people walking around who have the same story I did. I work in the foster care system. I know about 100 of them personally.

I want you to know that April 2, 2013 was the one year anniversary of the first time I spoke to my father. I have laughed and joked to make it easier for my friends, but this has been the most nightmarish year of my life. My worst fears have come true. The beautiful truth is that I don’t think it can get worse. I have been to the bottom, found Christ there, and rejoiced through my pain. If it does get worse, I suppose I will just do it again.