Hot summer air radiated from my bright red cheeks, one pressed against the pavement, the other facing the dusky sky. I had fallen asleep waiting for him to come. My heart raced with every rattle of the road and ached each time I knew it wasn’t him. My mother begged me to come inside but I pleaded “just a little longer, he promised this time”. I couldn’t understand the anguish in her face until becoming a mother myself, nothing is more unbearable than watching your child suffer. I hated her for hating him, but I now know the why of her disdain. He robbed her of the same things that he robbed me of – stability, security, love, and family.
The daylight faded into night and still, I stayed, I would have stayed forever had she let me. My Daddy was a handsome, loving, and charming man. The sound of his deep country voice and the feel of his mustache stubble on my face is etched in my brain. I loved being with him and felt loved by him. My memories were few, but their sweetness made his absence all the more painful. At some point, I am not sure when, I stopped searching the audience for his face, I knew he wouldn’t be there. I stopped trying to call, I knew that no one would answer. Yet, despite my adjusted expectations, no matter what my father didn’t do my love for him and desire to be chosen by him never faded.
Not being chosen by your father leaves the kind of scar that never fully heals this side of heaven. There is a sense of shame and “not good enough” that becomes part of who you are and how you see yourself – it colors your sense of inherent value. I used to refer to it as the “dark mark” the kind of invisible broken that you feel like everyone can still see, even when you try your best to hide it. I was 12 years old the first time I heard the term “Heavenly Father”. Though it was many years later and far removed from the Mormon religion before I really knew my Heavenly Father, I was immediately intrigued by the concept. Was He, my father? The only father I knew left me waiting on hot concrete and starving for his acknowledgment. How could I be loved by God the Father if my own Daddy didn’t want me? I wrestled between desperately wanting to believe I was chosen – fearfully and wonderfully made – and wanting to protect myself from more rejection.
What I couldn’t have known all those hot summer nights ago is that He was already working out His plan for my life – I was never alone on those steps. He was there with me, protecting my heart from being hardened by the weight of my circumstances and the limitations of my human father. While working all of the hard things together for my good, he allowed me the space I needed to decide for myself that I could trust Him. I may have tried to evade Him at times, but He was always in my peripheral vision, waiting patiently for me to accept my inheritance as His daughter. It was the Love and pursuit of my Heavenly Father that allowed my heart to remain soft toward my father in the flesh. I still remember it like it was yesterday – the day my Daddy met my children for the first time. He scooped them up in his arms and enveloped them in his infectious energy. I beamed, feeling like a child again as I watched him wear Grandpa like a favorite t-shirt. It was a moment I had prayed for my whole life, and it was coming to fruition. The years of my life that he’d missed out on and the trouble he had been in and would still fall into didn’t matter – in that moment, we just were.
The road with my father was difficult, he was afflicted with addiction, mental illness, and regret; he lived in the kind of mental prison that no words I could say or thing I could do could free him. I still feel that loss and the tug of “what if” now and again, but I am thankful that I could still call him my Daddy when he died. It is no easy thing to love and forgive someone who has hurt you – so deeply, but there is no greater healing than remembering whose you are and trusting that He is in all the details. Had I held onto the hurt or refused to accept the Love of a perfect father because of the brokenness of an imperfect man, I would have never experienced the joy and freedom of forgiveness. Forgiveness looks different in different situations, but it is always characterized by the ability to make peace with your pain and surrender the offender to God so that you no longer carry the burden of their brokenness. It is harder to forgive when your identity is tangled up in your trauma; therefore, I had to allow myself to be defined by the power of God to redeem me rather than the things that people have done to hurt me. I said yes to walking in freedom as the daughter of The King and you can too.
Listen to Tamera’s episode Reconciling Relationships Between Parents and Their Adult Children with Tamera Rasmussen