Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Father's Day: A Letter to You, Dad.

Well, I never thought it would end this way. Not like this. Over the past few years, I've written a lot to the "fatherless generation," and shared the depths of my own journey of ups and downs and deep pain and even greater redemption. You know, I never considered that this story, that my story, would end without reconciliation.

I always assumed there would be a tomorrow, a next week, a next month. I always envisioned that slow motion scene of me running into his arms, him embracing me and us weeping together, then laughing--Jesus' glory, daises, and all.

This Father's Day, I'm learning that even if that scenario never will play out on this side of Heaven, that Jesus receives no less glory.


Well, it's Father's Day and if it were an option for me to call you, my guess is I probably wouldn't. And today I'm choosing not to feel guilty over that because I trust my heavenly Daddy, and have no want to stray from right where He has me. Our story, my story with Jesus and you--well, I just didn't think it would end quite so suddenly, dad. It's funny how when you suddenly can't do something, you seem to want to do it all the more.

And today, I just really wanted to call you up and talk to you.

Dad, if we could talk today, I'd remind you that none of us are promised tomorrow. I would plead with you to stop living your life for things that have only temporary, earthly gain. These things, dad, they will leave you lonelier, emptier, and more broken then when you started. I promise. Sin takes us further, keeps us longer, and costs us more then we were ever willing to pay. I would tell you I've tried what you're doing--I've been there. You're not alone, dad. The cycle feels endless and all-consuming. It takes more and more to satisfy, and even a little more then that to feel nothing at all.

That's why you keep at it, dad.

You're not some exception, one who is destined to some crappy life. You're more like the rest of us then you may have ever imagined. You are broken and have fallen short of God's glory. But in that very place dad, dead in your sin and brokenness, there is One who gives hope. You can know freedom too--you can be free. I know you try and try...and try again. You do better for a little while, but then the pain gets real and you go back to drinking it away--because that's all you've known to do since you were fourteen and opened that liquor cabinet for the very first time.

I read recently that fatherlessness creates an appetite in the soul that demands fulfillment, and from my own experience, that could not be more true in my life--and I see it in yours as well.

I want you to know, dad, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry you didn't have a daddy who loved you as he should have. I'm sorry for the horrific ways he hurt you, and all things he never taught you--and I'm even more sorry for all the things he did teach you. I'm sorry I never asked.

My little girl heart yearns for the love of her earthly daddy that he just never knew how to give her.  Yet my adult heart weeps for the decades of pain and darkness you endured, seemingly with no way out. For the way that his abuse shaped the man you would become, the choices you would make, the pain you would feel, I grieve with you dad.

"The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." -Zephaniah 3:17 

I just wish you could have had the joy of knowing a father's love. That you could have had a breath of relief from taming that raging appetite inside--for something, anything, to just offer a few moments of true satisfaction.

Dad, I want you to know, it's never been about doubting your love for me. Jesus has secured me as beloved, and that really is enough.

He taught me that sometimes we are so broken inside we don't know how to show our love to those around us, like some fathers may instinctively do. The letter you wrote to us kiddos, we all read it now, dad. I knew you were broken, because I was too. Broken people break things, even things they value the most, yes, even their little girls.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." -1 John 4:7-8 

I need to tell you that I didn't pull away when your life got real dark because I was angry or fed up with your choices--though I'm sure I have been at times. I didn't withdraw to get back at you or because I had given up on you over these last three years, though both were tempting at times.

You didn't hear from me because I needed to soak in the love and discipline of a Perfect Father who knows best how to meet my every need and hears me--something you simply couldn't provide. I pulled back because I knew my tendencies--my savior mentality--to be destructive, and I was learning better.

Dad, I needed to be redeemed by the power of the Cross, I needed Jesus, who while I was still dead in my sin, He made a way for me to be reconciled to God through Himself. He loved me that much--that He knew I would turn away from Him, and spend years of my life searching to be satisfied and valued and whole--trying to earn something that I didn't deserve, only to find He had already provided Christ, the only way I could be reconciled to Him! I couldn't do anything to earn it--what a gift! Jesus met me in my brokenness and set my feet on solid ground--He made me new and my life never looked the same because I belonged to a Perfect Daddy so those others things no longer bound nor defined me. Praise God! He did that for you too, dad. Can you imagine that?

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." -Eph. 1:7

One day, dad, I am praying I will get the joy and privilege of being a faithful wife to my husband and mother to my children--and that required this time of healing. It meant that these generations of brokenness before me, before you, before your dad needed to be broken by the power of the Gospel in my own life. I couldn't remain a victim who would continue the cycle by victimizing, dad. I needed space and time.

I just never imagined our time, that it would run out so fast.

I am so sorry for that dad. But I would not change the decisions I made because through those decisions I am no longer a victim of your decisions or my own--I am a child of the King.

I never got to tell you, but I forgive you, dad. I forgive you for all the ways you failed to be my protector and provider, for the ways you robbed me of innocence, and for the ways you failed to be a man of your word. I forgive you for continually choosing alcohol over your family, who tried everything to care for and fight for you. I forgive you for the way you taught me to fear men and the authority that comes with them, for the way that destroyed relationships. I forgive you for the lies I came to believe were true about my value and worth because of your words and behaviors towards me. I forgive you for fearing man more then you feared the Lord.

Dad, I forgive you for showing up hung-over to lunch after three years of not talking with one-another, which would also be the last time I ever saw you. I forgive you for abdicating your role in my life as an adult. I forgive you for even the consequences of your sin that play out into my adult life. It may be an intentional and re-occuring decision I will make the rest of my life, but Dad you are forgiven by me. Not because of anything great in me, but simply because I have been greatly forgiven and have done nothing to deserve it.

"Be kind to one-another, tenderhearted, forgiving one-another as God in Christ forgave you." -Eph. 4:32

I still find it shocking some days, like today, that you're really gone.

Since your death, I think I have grieved so many things that I never imagined I would. Layer after layer, they just keep peeling back more ugliness within me. I thought I had already trudged that path--been there, done that. I thought the pain was over and the redemption had taken hold. And it had--it has. The more layers, the deeper my love for and dependence upon Jesus is becoming, and for that I can rejoice in seeing Him working, in the midst of such brokenness.

Our Heavnly Daddy is patient and gracious towards us, desiring that we all would come into personal relationship with Him.

"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." -Ps. 86"15

I still don't understand the seasons the Lord allows in our lives, but I know that none of my pain is without purpose nor can anything, not even loosing you or my grandpa this year, separate me from the love of Christ.

Oh how I wish you, my earthly daddy got the chance to know my Heavenly One--to have received that new heart of flesh in exchange for the one crafted of stone. Perhaps that occurred, and I pray that it did.

Dad, I forgive you and I am thinking of you today.