“In the world you will have tribulation…” (1)
I never questioned what love was until I sat looking out the window of our brown-shuttered house on 45th street, waiting for my dad’s white convertible to pull up in the driveway. I sat…..waiting, tracing the stitches in my blue, hard-covered suitcase as I looked out. This was not the first time. I had been there before, but this time I had doubts. I had questions.
Love, to my 10-year-old mind, was very simple up to that point because I felt I was living in it. I did not question its existence – kinda like when you are taking a walk in a beautiful valley. You don’t question what that valley is because you are there. You are sensing it, feeling the breeze, touching the flora. My parents were divorced, yes, but my mom and grandparents always made sure I was surrounded and protected – I felt loved.
But, as I sat by the window that day, I was forced to back away from the feeling of being there by my dad. That beautiful valley was becoming more like a distant view, colder and detached; because as I sat there by the “waiting window,” the evening became night, and ever….. so…… slowly……..the…. time….. passed.
My dad never showed up –
I expected him to. I expected him to be my daddy. Doesn’t every little girl?
I always looked forward to spending time with my dad. He was charming in the eyes of others. He liked to bring me to the mall, hand me a $20 bill and send me off to buy something. He would take me to lunch (leave big tips) and sometimes take me to a movie. But then there were the times in between when me and my 2 brothers would never see him, never hear from him. My brothers liked playing sports but he would rarely come to their games, instead, he had his own leagues.
We watched my mom struggle to provide shelter, food, and clothes for us. (We had all of those things but it was because she fought for us. She kept the valley breezes blowing in our home.) She did not receive her allotted child support and for a while, we were on welfare living in a 2 room shack sleeping in 2 double beds. SO after a while, I started to resent those $20 bills handed to me. I wanted my dad. I wanted him to give himself, his time. I wanted him to show interest in who I and my brothers were, and what we loved. I wanted him to stop trying to appear like the nice guy to everyone else and to really be a nice dad. In time, that beautiful valley that I was distantly viewing with him, slowly became more like a postcard in my hands – nice to look at but far, far away and unreal.
My relationship with my dad continued to be of post-card quality as my years went on. I would hear from him every couple of months, sometimes every month – whenever it was convenient for him. I would day-dream of him really taking interest in my life. He was present, but was more there in the bigger moments to hand out gifts. I did appreciate those things – don’t get me wrong. I did. But I had always hoped we could talk – really talk. I wanted a daddy who really liked to be with me. I wanted to feel his strength and presence over my life. I wanted sound advice. I wanted to trust him.
When my husband and I had 2 beautiful children, I again caressed that postcard and wished for more of the “real”. I thought maybe they would be a catalyst to better our relationship – they were so wonderful after all, and here was the second chance he always told me he wished he had. He said he was sorry for his absence and would do it differently had he had the chance. Here was his chance.
So, I remember vividly when he broke the news to me (all while he expressed tremendous guilt) that he would be moving 4 states away to rural Ohio to live with his in-laws. Disappointed, I remember looking out yet another window – this time with no suitcase packed, no anticipation, no more waiting. Thoughts unraveled as I gazed out into the wooded lot next to our family home – my stare blank, my mind full, the sound of my 2 children playing in the background. I held that post-card relationship in the hand of my mind wondering why this would be all there would ever be. I wondered about the unsettling feeling I had – the co-mingling of love and resentment in my broken heart.
I recalled some things my mom told me about my dad’s growing up years. His parents, Mona and Daniel (a coal miner) had him when they were very old so by the time his teen years hit, his parents were in their mid 60’s. They were (described by my dad as loving each other and never fighting) described by my mom as distant, his mother very cold. Hence, my dad ended up very often on his own. For that young boy, I felt compassion – maybe he had never learned responsibility; maybe he had never learned how to love (have I?); maybe he learned how to survive for himself. I don’t know for sure – and I will never know.
But I did resolve to know this: my dad was broken, just like all of us. I resolved that we are all tangled up in some way because of this broken world – a world where the god (small g) makes messes of people lives. He authored sin; he destroys relationships; he keeps the love of Jesus Christ veiled and re-defines it into something “other” – something that looks similar but lacks real life. (2)
Love on this earth will always be imperfect in some way, and can never be defined or explained through another human being – in some way it will be distorted. Perfect love can only be found in its immutable Source.
For this, I say, “My soul wait only upon God for my expectation is from Him.” (3)
Now this is the goal for which I clumsily reach…….
…..and when my eyes rest there, my expectation from others grows dim, my resentment leaves, and the true “definition” of love seeps into my pores.
I start to learn from Someone,
instead of trying to define love through someone else.
This alone has released any anger and has allowed me to forgive.
“He heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds” (4)
But forgiveness does not make two people close. I have tried over the last 10 years of my relationship with my dad to still hope – but a certain distance was more comfortable for him
so, it became more comfortable for me.
I question that distance, especially now.
A few weeks ago my dad died and it is as though he is now at the “waiting window” of my heart watching for me to feel more.
Maybe I should feel more.
I feel like I should feel more.
I try to force myself into that postcard in order to produce some realness.
But it is just not there, so I ask for grace.
My dad asked for grace too. And I guess, that is what heaven is full of………he is there now not because of what he had to bring, nor what he could not bring, but simply and only because of the blood of Christ.
“For by grace are you saved through faith, and not of yourselves” (5)
In glory, my dad finally knows perfect love. He is with my late brother, Steve and he can now finally talk with my mom with an open heart. Fences are being mended and one day I will be there too and we will be a family again.
“….but take heart I have overcome the world.”
Maybe in this broken world, the beautiful valley of 1 Corinthians 13 love is a piece of grace too — a gift we get to experience in fragments. Fragments that are precious to enjoy in those moments we have them. But reality for now – is that we will not always BE there when it comes to our relationships – and it is unfair to expect others to fill a place
only God can.
And He will.
IN the Person of Jesus.
He calls us to intimately learn of Him. (6)
He calls us to wait at the window of His meek and lowly heart with great expectation.
He calls for our souls to repose on His chest and with perfect freedom of soul unabashedly say,
And in that place, we return to the freedom of a well-loved child. (7)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~How have you found healing for your own wounds? How have you dealt with a broken family? Leave a comment – I would love to hear your thoughts.
1) John 16:33
2) 2 Corinthians 4:4
3) Psalm 62:5
4) Psalm 147:3
5) Ephesians 2:8,9
6) Matthew 11:29
7) John 8:36