“[…] Do not fear […], let not your hands be weak. 17 The Lord your God […] will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
On Wednesday evening I attended Sozo, a ministry training video series that teaches what it means to be saved, healed and delivered. This week they taught about ‘The Father Ladder’ and how our perception of God is shaped, to a large degree, by our relationship with our family.
Our perception of God whether distant and harsh or near and loving, comes largely from our earthly fathers. When our fathers provide, protect and affirm our identity, we tend to see God that way. If Daddy adores me and is proud of me, I am more likely to believe that God adores me and is proud of me.
When our fathers fail in these areas it is in forgiving them that we are freed from that misconception about God, and rediscover Him.
They talked about how many wounded women choose partners that have the same negative and abusive behaviours of their dads had. I thought about past boyfriends. I almost made that mistake. I remembered Howard, a man who stepped into the ‘Dad role’ in my life before I met Tim. I have never known a man more like Tim than Howard is. I thanked God, again, for the example Howard was in my life.
I thought back over the years to childhood… the pain, the disappointment and the deep wounds that are now healed. And then a new revelation hit me: I have never dealt with abandonment. I have always known that I felt abandoned. Awake at night, as a little girl, terrified by the shadows in the doorway, I had to do it alone. I could not cry out for my Daddy to come and protect me. In fact, I feared the shadow was his, and he was coming to hurt me. At six…seven… eight… nine… and until 15 when I left home, I could not call out to him. I was alone.
I had forgiven him for hurting me, for terrorizing me, but I had never forgiven him for abandoning me and not being my protector. No wonder I struggle to believe that God will protect me when I am in a bad situation. No wonder, when I face a difficult situation, whether spiritually or practically, I struggle to believe that He will come through for me and protect me. In that moment of revelation, I chose to forgive my Dad….. again.
The timing couldn’t have been more significant. I needed to know that right now, to believe that God has not and will not abandon me.
Jesus, Our Brother and Friend
In a family with sixteen children, each in survival mode due to violence and dysfunction, wounding is inevitable. Sure, we forgive, let go, move on and understand what we all lived out of, but the scars remain for a time. Healing comes, one layer at a time.
I thought back to my wounds. I’ve forgiven my siblings and moved on. I abandoned my family the month before I turned sixteen and in the next two years they only saw me about a handful of times, if that. Then I suddenly reappeared. For almost two years I lived close to home but spent very little time there. And then I disappeared again, keeping limited contact.
I’m sure I have done my share of wounding my siblings. It was survival of the fittest, and my survival was in taking care of myself, to remove myself from the reach of my family so that I would not continue being wounded.
Now, all these years later, I love my siblings, I care about them. Still, the reality is that an element of bonding never happened under the circumstances of our home life. Again, the woman said, forgiveness is key in freeing us in our relationship with Jesus.
Finally, we learned how the nurturing, comforting and teaching mother represents the Holy Spirit and, when misrepresented, there is confusion. I heard this part of the teaching, but stayed stuck on number one and two. Not because there are not things to look and work through in my relationship with my mom. Not because there are no wounds. There are. But the first two were all I could handle in one evening. My mind was tired, and my spirit needed time to process it all.
The Father’s Affirmation
Thursday morning I intended to get several items from the grocery store first thing. I should have slipped out at 8:30 in the morning. I was out of detergent and laundry piles were waiting. And I was almost out of cream for my coffee. But I stalled. An hour passed. And another. Still I stalled. For no particular reason. Another fifteen minutes. Finally, at about 10:45 I slipped out, regretting slightly my late start, but only until I discovered that God had His own agenda taking shape.
I grabbed my items, and headed for the check out. Slipping my card in the chip reader, I saw a gentleman across the store. Howard? I squinted. (Should have worn my glasses!) I wrapped up paying for my purchases, squinted again and was confident it was Howard.
When I was twenty-one, Howard and his wife Alice stepped into my life and helped me unravel the pain and trauma of those early years. Together they showed me love, acceptance, grace and offered me hope for healing.
I walked across the store, abandoning my big box of groceries. The thought occurred to me that they were paid for. Someone could walk away with them. That was a risk I was willing to take.
Howard saw me and his eyes lit up. With pride beaming from his eyes, he told me how proud he is of me. He had recently spoken with someone whose wife had attended a women’s retreat where I spoke. He encouraged me and blessed me. A second time he said, “Trudy, I am so proud of you! And I love you very much!”
I felt like a little kid again, but this time I was soaking up the blessing. There was no fear, no pain, no abandonment.
A great big Howard-kind-of-bear-hug later, I walked out the door, more empowered than a kid after eating a bag of candy and a Red Bull to wash it down!
It wasn’t until I walked away that I felt God saying, “I’m proud of you too. I sent Howard today, just to remind you that I am here. I know what you’re going through. I see your struggle. Your fears have not escaped my attention. I am here. You are loved. I bless you.”
That alone could have taken me a long way. But God wasn’t done.
At home I unpacked my groceries and had just tossed the empty box in the hall, to be taken to the garage for recycling, when the doorbell rang. There, peaking through the side panel, stood my ‘little’ brother, grinning from ear to ear. He’s thirty-five now and taller than me, but he will always be my little brother. Some things never change.
We spent several hours together on Thursday, talking, laughing and sharing heart to heart. He’s a wonderful young man and I’m so proud of him. Proud to be his sister. Proud to be his friend. Proud of how honest he is, how authentic, how transparent. Proud of his heart , his kindness.
He told me I am easy to talk to. He shared some cool ideas he has and wondered if I wanted to be part of making them happen. Of course I do! And then he left.
As he drove away, the previous night’s Sozo lesson returned. Jesus, my Brother… my Friend. He is as willing to interact with me, to be part of my life. I love Jesus. He lived transparently. He stood for Truth. He lived authentically. His heart is kind.
In one day two unplanned meetings, both relating to the previous night’s teaching and my struggle, had affirmed a deeper truth about God in my life. And in that affirmation, my heart was strengthened for the battle we call life.
As I thought about this post, and it being Mother’s Day weekend and all, I wasn’t sure how appropriate it was to share right now. On further thought, I realized how much fathers hold the power to influence their daughters—the mothers of tomorrow.
This weekend, while Howard is not my Dad by birth, he did give me an amazing gift by showing me the gift of being valued. I observed how he did this with his birth daughters years ago, when I first moved into their home. He told them how beautiful they were, how proud he was of them. I had never heard a dad talk that way before but that example changed my life and shaped my expectation. I saw that I have value and should be treated with respect.
My brother gave me that same gift of respect and value. While he was here on Thursday, he told my fourteen-year-old son how fortunate he is that we can discuss sex. Understandably my son mumbled something about it not being cool, to which my brother replied that it’s very cool. He told my son that he is fortunate. While he may not have thought of it, he blessed me in my role as a mother.
I love being a mom to my kids! I thank Howard, my brother and all those who influenced and empowered me on this amazing journey! Especially the godly men in my life who bear the image of God and represent the Father’s heart. Through you I am reminded that God is my #1 cheerleader—that He delights in me.