Sometimes when one is working through the issues of life, you hit a major point that requires some re-alignment. I’ve never been much for the concept of sorting through one’s past to fix things in the present – I’ve too often seen someone who has been on that journey using it as an excuse for their boorish behavior. “Oh, I can’t help it, because I was _____ as a child.”
Don’t get me wrong – abuses suffered as a child are reprehensible, and the parties responsible for the abuse should be vigorously slapped. (he said, from his lofty perch high above, blind to most of what passes by…) And the pain from abuse is very real and must be dealt with in a caring manner. No, I have a problem when someone uses that as an excuse, proclaiming themselves as a victim. That denies the power of God in being able to heal the past and move us into the future. (again, I’m spending a little too much time in the “everything is black and white” section of the lofty perch seating area… sorry)
So, with that kind of a mindset, you’ll not be surprised to find that I’m reluctant to look at my past as a key to my issues at present. And that went along fine… sort of… until today. The word my counselor used was “abandoned.” Wow. Really? Nah! Really?“
A bit of history would be in order here… My dad left us when I was three, and the reason my Mom told us was that he didn’t want to hurt us anymore. Dad was an alcoholic, never able to conquer it, and decided that rather than work through it, he’d just leave. (I’ve never put it in that way before in all the years I’ve told that story… interesting…) And so, I grew up not knowing him. No visits, no communication, just silence. My brother bore the pain of those years more than me – mom told me of times when he would sit all day, waiting for dad to come and take him fishing, and being disappointed when dad never showed. Or at least I thought my brother was the one hurt – I honestly didn’t remember any of it.
Fast forward to when I was 21… We heard from my dad for the first time I could remember. He was back in Michigan, at his brother’s place, and he was dying. Mom, my brother and I met him there, and I really have no words to describe meeting my dad for the first time I could remember. Mom asked him to come up and spend Thanksgiving with us, prompted by some God-given impulse. And I remember driving right past the house, not wanting to give up my holiday to spend it with this stranger. Spent some time talking with a much younger but far wiser friend, then went home.
At the end of that weekend, two events happened that changed our family’s history. First, dad surrendered to Jesus and became a new creation. Second, mom and dad decided to remarry.
Yes, I sang at my parent’s wedding. And my brother was my dad’s best man. How many of you can say that?
We had dad around for almost two years, until he died. The story we told folks was that he died from complications from the alcoholism. That’s true, in a certain light. But there’s a truth that very few outside of my family know about what really happened. His mind snapped – we know this because he had a cassette recorder running and we could hear him raving – and then my dad bailed on us once again.
He took a rifle, went into the garage, and killed himself.
(once again, I’ve never described it that way, that he bailed on us… interesting)
He would have met Vicki two weeks later – she was coming home to spend part of Christmas break with us, and he was looking forward to spending the holiday with his family and the girl who would become a part of that family. My dad is the one, when hearing me talk about Vicki on the phone (a lot), replied, ”Son, when you’re done shopping, get out of the store.“ Wise words indeed.
Abandoned. Twice in one lifetime by the same person. And I had no idea what that did to me. I always thought that the time God gave me with dad provided closure to my life, an ending to the story at last. And it did, but it also left unseen scars that I wasn’t aware of until today.
I’m a very visual person – to truly learn something, I have to see it as a picture or a pattern. (it amuses Vicki when I remember a phone number by the pattern it makes on the number pad…) When my counselor said ”abandoned,“ the image I got was of the gears and tumblers in a machine (a lock, a mechanism, something like that) turning, all of them spinning and searching for alignment. I saw a splinter, a fracture, a rift that sped through the gears all the way back to their beginning, and the cogs and gears trying to mesh together to close the gap and come back into sync. Some of the flaws I live with at the present end of that machine (if you will) found their connection all the way back to that point, and showed me why they can’t seem to find their place in the whole unit. Some of the things about me that frustrate me, but elude my grasp in trying to deal with them have their roots in that place, flaws in the machine buried so deeply that they weren’t visible – until now.
So, what now? That is a very deep question. I can tell you one thing – you’ll never hear the phrase, ”well, I do that because I was abandoned as a child“ out of my mouth. Or, if you do, you have my full permission to smack me. (Not in the face, please – I have a phobia about being slapped in the face. Just ask Vicki about it…) But I’ll be thinking about that question for some time to come. I’ll probably draw it out, trace some of the fracture lines, and try and make sense of the pattern that emerges, but what to do with it from there?
As my counselor said, it’s time to accept the love of the One who has never abandoned me. I am not an orphan – my Father cares for me, He loves me and He watches over my present as He has watched over my past. The fracture, the chasm, the void can only be filled by Him. He is a Father to the fatherless.
He is my Father.