As I opened my eyes this morning, I thought of myself as a Father, and wondered what this Father’s day would hold for me. Then, immediately knew the selfishness in that thought, when I offered this day to Him, my Father, our Father, in heaven, as I always do, each day. But what gift could I ever give God, who created everything? The answer came easy, me, and my day, my thoughts, my time, my heart. Life is a gift, from Him, by Him, because of Him, and I can give that back to Him, and see Him smile, and I Know He is pleased. I always tell my kids and grandkids, when they ask me what gift or thing I would like for Father’s day, so they can show their appreciation for what I have done for them. I say, just do something for me, clean my truck, or let’s just do something together. But really, they are my gift, just being with them, and the fact that they would honor me with their hearts, so I could know their love.
Our Father wants the same for us, His children. For this Father’s day, honor the Father with your heart, with your love for Him. Thank Him for the gift of life, and your Relationship where you can call Him Father, there is no greater gift. But now I want to share with you a true story about my Dad, my earthly Father. Truth is, I really don’t “want” to, I don’t need to, but because God wants me to, I will.
There are a lot of things you don’t know about me, my name, where I live, what I do for work, etc., etc., and that is really not important or necessary. But on this Father’s Day, our heavenly Father has convicted me that I must share some personal stories about my life, so they can be a testimony to you of how He has worked and continues to work in my life, healing me, and others, of so many things. As I share these stories, my guess is you will wonder how I am still sane, and still care. I will just say, with God, and His Love, all things are possible. I hope that anyone who has experienced similar experiences will see how the Father, Jesus, and His Holy Spirit not only got me through it, but helped me overcome it, and can help you too. So here goes.
I was verbally abused by my dad, from the age of about 12 to 17. He was once a great man, really great. But life dealt him some hard blows and he starting drinking, heavily. We were a “Catholic” family, and observed the rituals of that faith, but not the heart of it. His faith failed him, or him it. Each night, and every night, he would walk in from work at 4:30 PM each day, grab a beer, and chug it. It was only a question of whether it would be one six pack or more, whether he would eat supper, or not, and when the talk would start, about how bad his life is, and which one of us would be there to take his abuse. His words would start with regret about his life, and then morph into what failures we all were, how we all failed him, especially me. During pauses of the yelling, he would grind his teethe, so that you could hear it throughout the entire house. He smoked. He used canned tobacco, with papers, and “rolled his own” cigarettes with a little device. He put a paper in the slot, tobacco in the sleeve, and press the roller forward, and a cigarette came out the end of it, no filter of course.
So by the time all this started, my two older brothers had left for college. I don’t know, and cannot remember, if they left because of him starting to act this way, or he started to act this way because they left. My mother avoided him like the plague, so I was left to bear the burden, too young to not love him, or not respect him, and took the abuse like “good son”. I was raised to obey my father and mother, to love them, to respect them. He would make me sit there for hours, listening, and would not let me leave. During the week it was less, because he knew he had to get up for work, and the weekends were terrible. Each evening, as I would return home, I would wonder if he would be there, sitting at the kitchen table, angry, depressed, drunk, and growling. The only time he wasn’t was when he was sick or we had company, which was not often. The anxiousness became a fear, then a dread and a fact, and a depression that never left. Years of this abuse became a part of me then, and something I must fight, with the Lord’s help, to this day. Everything about it and him was in a word, selfish. Self pity is a complete waste of time, and the gift of time, and those who have to go through it with you. It damages you, it is destructive, and only hurts all those around you. It does not please God in any way.
I know that as I write these specifics, there are many of you saying, I experienced much the same thing. There is so much to this story, that I don’t have the space for here. Look for future posts, and I will expand the story and some of the things I have touched on here.
But I want to jump ahead to the happy ending. You say, “happy ending”, how can there be one, but there is. This is the short version of a very long story.
I moved out of the house to get away from him when I was 17, got three part time jobs, went to college, and supported myself. I got very sick, almost died, got better, got married, and all that time sought God to be real, which he was not. I wanted Him to be, but I was honest enough to know he was not, at least in my life, at least to me. And I wanted was to know Him, really know Him, to know He is real, beyond a shadow of a doubt. A nice Christian lady from church helped me see the fractured relationship with my Dad kept me from seeing God as someone I could be loved by and love. One day, I went to see my dad, years later, after he was too old to be mean. Each of us had forgotten those terrible days, kind of, at least swept it under that rug, where all the dark memories hide. Well at least he did, but I did not, apparently. We did not speak of those terrible days and nights, as we all do, on purpose, to forget the bad past, to survive and have a false yet functional image of ourselves.
So boldly, I stood up in front of him, and asked the Holy Spirit to come and heal us, out loud, and it did freak him out a bit, like what the heck are you doing. It took a lot for me to do that, but I just did it. I told him what he had done to me, etc., etc., in detail, and guess what. He had forgotten it all, and had absolutely no idea what abuse had done to me, and how it damaged me. As all selfish people do, they think only of themselves at the time, and in the future, only remember their hurt, not the hurt they cause others by being that way, doing that stuff. He actually said , “I had no idea”. He said he was sorry, truly sorry, I forgave him, totally, because he asked me to. He was a broken man, humbled by his own failures, and wanted and needed my forgiveness. By forgiving him, I was healed. Simply out, from that day on, it was much easier for me to relate to God, as my Father. The power of His Love is great, as is the healing that forgiveness gives.
My dad lived for many years after that, to almost 90 years old. I know he cherished that he knew he was loved by me and forgiven. We really did have a loving relationship. But, he had one great fear. That even though he had my forgiveness, he still felt guilty, and felt that God would punish him for having done that. The Catholics have a word, Purgatory. Paraphrased, it is where you go when you die to pay for your sins, serve time, and when you have suffered enough, you get to go to heaven. Of course I told him there was no such place, it doesn’t work that way. He didn’t believe me. So many times I prayed with him. The message was this. I forgave him of his sins against me. If we accept Jesus as our total Lord and Savior, all our sins are forgiven. If we have done that, the only thing left to do is to forgive ourselves, and we must do that, otherwise we are being selfish (again for him) and foolish. As he lay in his bed, a few months before he died, I prayed with him again. I told him, to make it simple… I forgive you, trust and receive Jesus and He will forgive you, will you do that? And finally that day he said simply, “Yes”. A glow came about him, and we both knew the darkness had lifted. God was his Father, a loving, caring, forgiving Father, and that Purgatory was an idea created by man that has no place in a loving Father’s heart for his children.
At his funeral, I gave a speech, during the mass. Actually I wrote it, but was so emotional at the service, my son went up to the podium with me and read it for me, with me holding my granddaughter in my arms. The heart of my speech was that there is no Purgatory, and that it is a shame and a burden that the Catholic church professes about this very false thing that kept my dad from experiencing a true joyful and free Relationship with Jesus until the last few months of his life. When I finished, I saw the priest’s face was white, and he was speechless. Half the church applauded, and the other half just had their jaws hanging open. One of the hospice helpers that was at the service told me later she saw my dad dancing, in only the way that he used to dance when he was younger, where he slapped his feet, with joy during my speech.
Here’s the deal, beloved. Parents, be careful how you treat your children, because they see God, their Father, through your eyes, whether you like it or not, whether you are aware of it or not. Once you accept that, it is a lot of pressure, I know, but there it is. But it doesn’t become so much of a burden to know how to be that way, if you are a child of the Father. As He treats you, you treat your children. As He Loves you, you Love them. Parallel your Relationship with Him, with your relationship with them. The better and more close your Relationship is with the Father, the better parent you will be. It is actually very simple, and we make it more complicated than it needs to be. Happy Father’s day dad, and Happy Father’s day Father. Happy Father’s day all. May the Father bless you.