Last Father’s Day

Sunday was Father’s Day. My own husband was proudly wearing his “Rad Dad” t-shirt with a big cheesy grin. At church, there were many smiles and well wishes. Daughters and sons greeting their father’s with loving hugs, and little tikes running about with “I love my Daddy” shirts. At the end of the service, the last note from the worship band faded away, and a video began to say…

“Who…

Read you a good night story.
Taught you to ride your first bike.
Helped you with your scrapped knee.
Always invited your friends to your house.
Chased away the monster under your bed.
…”

To be honest, I can’t quite remember all the things the video listed that dads should do. An account of cherished memories that some people take for granted. My heart was breaking inside of me so I quietly left the room to find a solitary place to work through my tears. A lady stumbled upon me, saw my tears, and knowingly whispered with a nod, “I lost my own father 13 years ago.” I just nodded back with a smile. How do you explain to someone that your tears are not because your dad died but because your dad was the monster under the bed? And yet, she sort of understood my emotions as I truly was filled with grief. Filled with a grief not from the loss of a parent but from the loss of something that would never be. Grief of the absence of the memories so beautifully depicted in the video. Grief over what our relationship should have been.

Some may say that I should be over this by now, but grief is unpredictable. Ask anyone who has lost a spouse or a parent. After they are gone, you are never quite the same, and so many things can trigger your grief. It is the same for me. Some days the grief sweeps in unexpectedly and sometimes powerfully.

But I compose myself and remember the step-father with whom God blessed me. The first years were rocky as he knew nothing of kids and I was an angry and depressed high schooler. As I grew older, I began to appreciate all he did to provide first for me and my mom and later my own family. And he bestowed with me with wisdom to help me live wiser. I am thankful to have him in my life. And my daughter is blessed with sweet memories, similar to the video, made with her Pappy.

Even better is my Holy Father who has walked with me down some really dark roads. And He has filled me with His Holy Spirit to protect me spiritually and to continue teaching me better ways to live. Wisdom that will help keep me from walking back down those same, old roads that only lead to destruction. He is my joy and my love. And when my journey here is over, there will be no more grief, no more lost memories, and we will meet in His beautiful, heavenly realm.

The Little Things

My hope over these past months of writing is that those who read will be able to see all that God has done for me. He has been there for me in so many big ways: loving me when I didn’t love Him, rescuing me from hell on earth, comforting me in my struggle to find peace, teaching me to defend myself against an endless barrage of lies meant to tear me down, and even keeping me alive through threats from myself and others. Jesus has been with me through all of these big challenges. Yet, I don’t want to overlook all of the small things He has done as well.

It is easy for us, especially when we long to be strong and independent, to try to maneuver through the every day little things on our own. But we were never meant to navigate life alone. I believe I have mentioned before that I serve on my church’s worship team as a singer. This past week I unfortunately came down with labyrinthitis which is the inflammation of the inner ear. On Tuesday, just opening my eyes sent my entire world into a spin. I could not stand up straight or walk by myself. In fact, the effort of moving unsettled my stomach to the point of sickness. Saturday was the first day that I felt confident to walk on my own without holding onto someone else or a wall. What does all of this have to do with Jesus? Sunday I was scheduled to lead singing. About a third of the way through rehearsal, on Sunday morning, my energy was depleted. It was overwhelming to stand and sing, and I was struggling to get my breathe in order to support my notes. While I tried to rest to regain energy before the start of service, I prayed for God’s strength. The Holy Spirit resides in all of Jesus’ followers – and He is a spirit of strength! He did not let me down, as usual.

Our pastor has frequently been reminding us lately “that we do not have because we do not ask.” And there is more to “have” than just material things. Jesus pours on His people many blessings: love, peace, strength, endurance, wisdom, discernment, and so much more. And there is no shame in asking. He wants us to reach out to Him just as we would want our own children to reach out to us.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

Again, we are not meant to walk through life alone. Jesus can be your life line for traversing the big and little challenges of life. And learning to trust Him in the little things will help you to remember and to know His goodness and faithfulness when things get hard.

The Next Climb

Have you ever been hiking and you could see the top of the hill, but your body was crying out to stop? So you do some self talk, “Look how close it is. You can do this. Just a few more steps, and you’ve made it.” With determination, you continue the climb only to find that what you saw wasn’t the top at all. Unbelievably, there is another uphill bigger than the one before. Your heart sinks, and the self talk battle begins again. I had this same experience running cross country in high school. I’d misjudge a lag of the race just to realize there was at least another mile to go, and of course, uphill. I have found forgiveness to be the same kind of animal. Just when you think you are there, another climb begins.

Forgiveness has played a huge role in my healing process. When I was young, I wanted to hold onto my anger against my father. Like somehow my anger would hurt him. Truth is, it only hurt me. It added an even darker element to my already crushed soul. And the darkness grew by its constant hunger for hate and malice which only increased my despair and grief. I could not begin to heal holding onto so much hate. A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders when I released that hate. At first, I tried empathy knowing that he too had faced some unknown evils as a child. This did not last and basically crumbled like a house of cards. It wasn’t until I began following Jesus that I learned that I could hand my hurts to Him which made forgiving much easier. Then I soon discovered that I kept taking my hurts back from Jesus which would completely knock the air out of my forgiveness. This was a fairly painful cycle until I eventually did learn to stop taking it back. Talk about a slow learner!

Compassion and empathy were a key component for forgiveness; however, I was incapable of extending that kind of love without God. As I learned more about Jesus and the Bible, I found peace in understanding the grace God had given me. God loved me even in my broken down, messed up state. He loved me even though I was a walking volcano of hate – a hate that I spilled out at everyone. He still loved me. And when I asked Him for forgiveness, He forgave me. He calls me to forgive others as He has forgiven me and leave judgment to Him. But again, this was not the final climb. Part of my false peace still remained in the hope that God’s wrath would be poured out on my dad under God’s judgement. I still wanted revenge.

This week a friend of mine shared her thoughts with me after reading one of my articles, “And, as difficult as it may be to hear … Jesus still loves your terrible, rotten, awful Dad. Apart from His grace (God’s grace), any of us could be as vile and evil as he. Jesus could reach down from heaven, and save your Dad … and redeem him. That to me is unfathomable grace, remarkable grace.”

She is right. And God is calling me to start another climb. A climb to the place where I can be ok if God saves my father the way he saved me. To be ok with someday seeing my father in heaven knowing that he experienced no retribution from what he put me through. That is challenging stuff. But I will be obedient through prayer. I will pray for endurance and strength for myself to follow God’s call but more importantly for my father. I will pray for his soul that he too will be able to reach out and accept God’s perfect grace. I will listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and fix my eyes, with hope, on the next ridge. And holding onto the fact that even though each new climb seems harder, the view keeps getting more and more magnificent.