I am typically hesitant to say that God said, says, or is saying anything that isn't already in the Bible, so the stuff I write below is what I feel like He's been saying, but I'll be the first to admit that really, who knows?! I do feel like He's been speaking to me though, and here's my take on some of our recent interactions:
God: Write. Me: Write... what?!! God: ....... (Fast forward to a few minutes, days, or weeks later...) God: Write. Me: Write... what?!! God: ....... (Repeat.)
Soooo... here I am. A little lost, honestly, not sure what the heck to say, but pretty sure that I'm supposed to say something.
After months of going back and forth in my head about what to share, I've decided that some context might be helpful... that way when I figure out what it is that I'm supposed to be saying, you'll have some background to help makes sense of it all. I am usually pretty private and don't share this stuff openly so I figured the internet was a nice, safe place to change that. Ha!
Here we go....
Looking back, I remember about 4 interactions I've had with my biological father. He and my mom split up when I was a baby... I was about 7 months old and my older brother was just turning 5, so whenever I say "parents" in future posts, I'll be referring to my mom and my step-dad because I have no memories of my biological dad and my mom together co-parenting. I'm sure I'll share more about him and things I've learned from his absence (and limited presence) down the road, but not today.
It was my step-dad who was physically present as a father figure in my life starting from the time I was about 3 and I want to tell you about him.
In many ways he was extremely selfless. He and my mom both worked really hard and always provided for my brothers and me. We always had whatever we needed for school or whatever extra-curricular activities we were involved in, and that didn't come without sacrifice. Money was often really tight and I don't remember him ever buying anything for himself... only for us.
He was hilarious. When times were good, there'd be a room full of family and friends with cramped cheeks, buckled over from laughter.
He loved God. He loved music. He sang beautifully and was in our church choir.
The best thing I can remember about him is that I never felt like he was my step-dad. I felt like he was my Dad-dad. He raised me and was the only man I ever knew to try. Growing up, he never treated my older brother or I any differently than he did my younger brother, who was his biological son. I have never felt any less connected to my younger brother than I did my older even though we had different dads and I really feel like that's a gift he gave us. It actually never even occurred to me that there was a difference between my two brothers and I love that so much. I really believe that if he'd treated my younger brother differently, it would have created a division between us siblings and I'm so thankful to him that that was never the case.
Sadly, my step-dad struggled with a chemical imbalance, mental illness, and often depression, and because of this, there was a cycle that seemed to repeat itself...
1. The doctors would figure out a combination of medicines that worked for him and kept him balanced. 2. He would take them. They would work for a while, but eventually, his body would adapt and they'd stop being effective. Or they'd work so well that he or the doctors thought he could stop taking them, or take less of them and they'd try that. 3. There'd be a huge blowup...
He wasn't physically abusive in terms of actually hitting anyone for a long time but he was very scary. There was a lot of screaming really horrible things, a lot of intimidation, and a lot of breaking things in and around the house. Once, for example, he threw a dining room chair through our front bay window onto the front lawn.
There were a handful of times growing up when these blowups would occur and then we'd leave home for days or weeks at a time, or longer. Usually we'd go to stay with friends or family. Once we went to a shelter for battered women and children. Or maybe twice? I can't remember. There were a few times when he left instead and we got to stay home while he stayed with family friends for months.
It was really heartbreaking because I know he hated that part of himself and just wanted to be well. He didn't want to treat us that way and would do anything anyone suggested to "get better." He took the medicines the doctors told him to. He asked for and received prayer for healing a gazillion times. He went to counseling. He met with pastors. He stayed involved in church. He admitted himself to in-patient treatment programs for long periods of time. Still, the cycle repeated itself. Sometimes we'd have months or years without a huge blowup but even then, we were always on edge wondering when the next one might occur. And sadly, it always would.
I remember being really scared when he was out of control. Mostly scared for my mom because she was the one facing him, but she was always so strong. I don't remember being afraid that he'd hurt me... at least not until one particular incident later when I was a teenager.
I remember being embarrassed because everyone on the whole block heard and saw when my parents fought and it must've looked really crazy.
I remember that sometimes when fights would escalate, my older brother and I would put our shoes and jackets on and start to gather our things together in bags because we knew we'd be leaving again, usually late at night, and we might need to get out quickly and not come home for a few days.
I remember him saying sorry after we'd see him again. And I remember being so eager to forgive him. I knew he didn't mean to do those things. I knew in some ways he had no control. And as I got older, I also knew that in some ways, he did.
And I remember Jesus... always with me during those scary times.
I remember that I would go sit in my closet, scrunch myself into a ball, and I'd pray. But I was never praying to some far-off distant God. He was always right beside me. I could feel Him. He was present. He comforted me. He calmed my heart. I knew that he loved me.
I knew that even though I had one father on earth who helped make me but didn't care enough to ever get to know me, and another who tried to love me but usually didn't know how to very well, I also had one in Heaven and right beside me who loved me perfectly, and I was never alone because He always met me in the midst of my brokenness.
This is the Jesus I still know. He is still the loving Daddy I've never known in a man, and He's still the God who meets me when I'm broken.
P.S. My step-dad recently went home to be with the Lord and I am so thankful to know that he is now finally free from his sickness. He tried so hard for so long to beat it and I know by God's grace, he finally has... I can just see the clouds full of angels with cramped cheeks, buckled over in laughter.