These are the moments that make my heart burst. While my daughter was waiting for me to dry her hair Saturday morning, she plopped down next to my husband and asked if he wanted to read her daily Bible devotion with her. She reads her Bible and does a daily devotion every morning. Not because we make her. But because she wants to. To see her not only want to read her daily devotion instead of looking at Instagram or weird slime videos on YouTube, melted my heart. It made me realize just how much of an impact her Sunday School teachers, and children’s ministers have had on her. And it made me realize just how blessed she is to have a father who’s modeled what it means to be a follower of Christ in our home.
She and her father think each other is the most hilarious person ever. They make weird faces and noises on the way to school each morning and take hilarious photos and videos and share with each other non-stop. When she is upset, he talks to her. He offers so much sound wisdom and advice and spiritually guides her. And she wants his approval so much. They are the apple of each other’s eye. She is a daddy’s girl, through and through. They are inseparable when they are both home. I love witnessing their relationship. It brings comfort to the little girl inside of me who longed for the same.
I never saw my father crack open a Bible. I am not even sure I remember him being inside of a church except for funerals. Most of my memories of my dad are ones of complacency or anger and violence. To be alone with him was like a death sentence. My sister and I found reasons to leave the house if we knew our mother wasn’t going to be home. I never asked his advice. I only tried to seek his approval once that I can remember… I wanted to go to basketball camp and try out for the middle school team. I wanted to tell him so he would be proud of me. So maybe he would come and watch me play and show an interest in me. He had been an assistant and head coach for basketball and baseball teams at one time in his life and people often sought him out for private lessons or guidance. He decided to give me a private practice.
The basketball court near our house was on a concrete slab in an open air building. It was the local community center, unmanned and open to the public daily. We had the place to ourselves. No witnesses. I remember running suicides. Lots of suicides. I remember having a ball thrown at my face at the end of the suicides and being told to make a shot from where I was standing. I tried to steady myself, but I was dizzy and out of breath and the ball had hit my nose pretty hard and I wasn’t sure if it was bleeding. I missed. I remember him screaming for me to run and dive for the ball. Not bend over and grab the ball. Dive. My knees and elbows stained the concrete red. I stood up. He screamed for me to shoot the ball. I missed. He screamed for me to run and dive for the ball again. I don’t remember how long this went on, but longer than most people could humanely stand idly by and watch. I longed for someone to show up. For my mom to come and check in on us. For the building to collapse. For my dad to drop dead of a heart attack. You may wonder, why didn’t she just tell him no? That was not an option. I knew it could get worse. With my dad, it could always get worse. I didn’t want to know what worse was. I vomited. We continued. Tears poured down my face and sweat stung my eyes. We continued. All the while, he stood by with a weird smirk on his face. I think I thought at the time maybe just maybe he was proud? I look back on that time now, knowing the breadth of what he did to my mom and siblings in the course of his life, and I realize he got some kind of sadistic pleasure from torturing and abusing us. He was sick. I have many more stories. Many are too gruesome to share. But that was the last day I remember wanting my father’s attention or approval. I had been gradually building a fortress around my heart and on that day, the door slammed shut. In case you were wondering, I never played basketball again. I chose band and colorguard… two extracurriculars I knew my dad would never take an interest in.
For nearly the next 10 years of my life, I struggled with my faith. It took finally coming to Christ, a lot of years of prayer, tears, counseling, and guidance in my adult years to come to a come to a place of healing and forgiveness. I’m still working on both of those things. I still find myself whispering “I forgive you” on nearly a daily basis.
I’ve prayed over the years for God to show me the good in the bad. To show me where He was working and what the purpose was in all the pain. He’s still showing me. I will say this, I don’t know if I would be this grateful for the relationship that my daughter and husband have had I not gone through what I did. To see her experience all that my heart longed to know. She knows she is adored and treasured and loved. She knows her Heavenly Father and earthly father think she’s the most precious thing in the world.
Maybe you have a similar or worse story. Maybe you struggle to trust and feel loved too. If no one has ever told you, please hear me say this: I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m so sorry you didn’t know the love you deserved. Please know I’m weeping with you.
I firmly believe and have witnessed how God can use the worst of the worst in our lives for His glory. He can take what’s broken, and make it beautiful. Being diagnosed with MS, having an abusive father, being a lost teen who ended up becoming a teenage mom… these are the areas of brokenness in my life. And I can tell you now that I can’t imagine how different my life would have turned out if I had not gone through any of those dark times. I’m at a place of gratitude for how I got to witness God work and make beauty from ashes. He CAN and WILL do the same in your life if you let Him.