A close friend shared that gem with me recently, something she took away from her Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) study. I’m so proud of her, doing whatever it takes to come to terms with her broken road. And truly, we all walk a broken road, don’t we?
My dad was warm and funny and dedicated to family. He also worked a lot when I was young, smoked a pack a day, had a cancerous lung removed when I was fifteen, and lived just long enough to see me graduate from high school.
It cost me a tear to tell you that. But that’s okay—it’s one way I let God in to fill my empties.
In one of my favorite childhood memories, I’m ten years old, brushing buttercream-colored paint on a stucco wall. Dad has let me tune the radio to top-40, he’s next to me on a ladder with a paint roller, and even though he’s making fun of my music I just know he’s enjoying my company.
That’s exactly how I felt last Saturday. The leaves were falling, twisting in the breeze like a ticker-tape parade while I decorated the porch for fall. Out with the now-scraggly petunias; in with cornstalks, pumpkins, and pinecones. But I just couldn’t bring myself to throw out those half-dead petunias because . . . well, because they were still half alive.
So I pruned the broken and dying, scooped and lifted and repotted and patted and poured them a drink. No thought to time passing, shoulds waiting, fears niggling, or dirt gathering under my nails. I was wrist-deep in earth and soul-deep in contentedness. Doing without performing, alone without feeling alone.
In fact, at my core I sensed this as truth—that my pleasure brings pleasure to God, which brings me even more pleasure. Secure, adored, in companionship with my Father.
What’s the definition of a happy childhood if not a string of moments in which we feel implicitly loved and accepted?
I know this: There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make him love me less. Yet sometimes I struggle to massage that truth from head to heart. How much harder it must be for those who don’t have a single warm, fuzzy memory of their earthly father’s approval to hang their heart on.
I use the word father because Jesus used it. So did King David. And even though my mother gave me a lifetime’s worth of affirmations, for some reason it’s the ones I got from Dad that I keep going back to.
Watching the movie Ragamuffin, I was surprised to learn (spoiler alert) that singer-songwriter Rich Mullins, who pursued Jesus with abandon and penned some of our favorite Christian anthems, wrestled against the stronghold of alcohol. Because his father was harsh and unable to express love and approval, Rich was stuck. He just could not usher God’s love down into the marrow of his being. As the movie portrays it, he eventually took steps to make peace with his dad’s inadequacies.
Every human dad will fail us to some degree. But what our earthly fathers have done and said, or not done and said, doesn’t change what our heavenly Father has done for us and said about us.
I have loved you with an everlasting love. ~Jeremiah 31:3
So hey, friend. Feeling half alive in the hardening ground, scraggly and broken and anything but adored? Consider this.
What if . . . this aching for a father’s love is proof that you were designed to receive the Father’s love?
What if . . . our longing is not a great big hole, but rather a Great Big Hope? A hope that one day will be fulfilled to overflowing when we arrive at our one true home.
Not to mention, a hope that could be fulfilled today, right now, by mustering even the teensy-weensiest drop of courage. Go ahead, tell those lying voices in your head to jump off. What does your Creator say is the truest thing about you?
I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. ~John 15:9 The Message
What if . . . our happy childhoods still lie ahead?
Feel free to share a childhood memory you like to revisit.