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"THEREFORE, AS GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE, HOLY AND DEARLY LOVED, CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH COMPASSION, KINDNESS, HUMILITY, GENTLENESS AND PATIENCE." // Colossians 3:12
Seeing Jesus as the loving healing Saviour and God as the loving father, seems like an easy enough statement; but for me it has been one of the hardest things to accept. It’s remarkable how your past and the way you perceive things can hinder your ability to receive this simple truth.
I grew up in a home with an abusive alcoholic father. Most mornings I woke to the early dawn hours of it, most evenings were spent with it and every day I nervously sat in school waiting to go home to make sure he hadn’t went too far and that my mom would be alive and mostly well when I got home. Many school days no one noticed that I was wearing the same clothes as the day before, with no breakfast, snack or lunch from having to escape in the middle of the night with my mom only to sleep in a parking lot for safety. Everybody knew my dad and the bullies at school were ruthless with this. They didn’t know about the abuse just that I had the ‘outspoken drunk’ as a dad. Nobody knew how bad it was.
You’d think I would have been a troublemaker or maybe in detention school by high school but I was the opposite. I put on a smile through a timid, frightened and ‘less than average worth’ mentality. I escaped the torment through studying and had one of the highest marks in school throughout. We probably looked like the perfect family but you really have no idea what people are going through by appearances alone. My mom’s friends had no idea; she probably came off as a snob, never going to any outings. We were completely isolated. That’s the manner in these types of families. Why didn’t we go for help? We had nowhere to go and no one to go to.
SEEING JESUS AS THE LOVING HEALING SAVIOUR AND GOD AS THE LOVING FATHER, SEEMS LIKE AN EASY ENOUGH STATEMENT; BUT FOR ME IT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS TO ACCEPT.
One Christian I knew told me that my father would be going to hell because he was an alcoholic. Christians I knew definitely came off as outspokenly judgmental and were very quick to invite their critical opinions. I had already felt that our family, including myself, was ‘lower’ than others and felt that we weren’t good enough for God to listen to, not good enough for Christians to love us, for the time or care of anyone; we just were too broken.
When I was in my mid-teens, I knew it was getting worse and my dad would go too far one of these days. He admitted that he was going to kill my mother one of these days, even explained the foster system to me. That night, I told my mom that he was going to kill her, maybe both of us and that I knew she'd never leave him, the fear and ability to do so just weren't there. That night I prayed. I asked God where he was, and why we weren't good enough to save.
My mom would sneak stories of Jesus to us. I know this sounds crazy but at the time it made sense to me. I prayed that Jesus would take care of my family. I knew if I committed suicide that my mom would have no choice but to leave. It would be the motivation for her to open up to others and get help and courage to leave, so that night I prayed that God would recognize my sacrifice for others and would save my family. I felt that we weren’t good enough as it was, so I would have to sacrifice something to get help. Surprisingly I woke up to my mom freaking out, blood everywhere, I wrapped a towel over my arm and prayed what I thought was my last prayer and was shocked to wake up again. I still have the scar but it's fading like all the bad memories.
I FOUND IT DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE THAT GOD WAS OUR FATHER, A FATHER WHO LOVED US SO MUCH THAT HE GAVE HIS SON... AND SO THAT HE COULD HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH US. A LOVING FATHER, WHO NEVER CHANGES, IS SLOW TO ANGER, AND WHO CALLS US TO LOVE HIM AND OTHERS AS HE LOVES US.
Well two weeks later my mom left my dad, and years later my dad quit drinking and even began dabbling into God and the Bible a bit, we have an amazing relationship now. It's important to mention that although my childhood was hard, it also had lots of good memories too, with my dad and us as a family. I have a lot of my dad’s strengths and I am so thankful for them. And him. I don’t defend what he did but I do defend the harsh judgments against him. His story is his to tell, but every hurting person, every alcoholic, has his or her own reasons and story. They don’t just decide to wake up and make their lives that way, and the painful regret and guilt that torment them, you never know. I guess it goes back to not judging others due to the plank in our own eyes. You can’t judge a book by its cover or appearances. You hear about so many families who have unfortunately had to suffer through this but you rarely hear of the long lasting effects.
Physical and emotional abuse can cause the inability to trust, poor self-esteem, anxiety disorders, and even post-traumatic stress. This crossed with the image of a “father” being ruthless and unpredictably angry;, leading to a love hate relationship can really add further distance with the idea of God as a father. I found it difficult to believe that God was our father, a father who loved us so much that he gave his Son, his blood and body, to us, so that we could be forgiven and receive a free gift of grace, eternal salvation, and so that he could have a relationship with us. A loving father, who never changes, is slow to anger, and who calls us to love Him and others as he loves us.
WHEN I RECEIVED MY OWN BIBLE, I STARTED READING THE GOSPELS. I STARTED TRUSTING AND REACHING OUT FOR HELP, SOMETHING THAT WAS A HUGE TABOO GROWING UP.
After we left my dad, my mom almost died. Being too much for me, along with the financial hardships, I decided to leave school for a while and work. A lady who barely knew us came almost every day and helped nurse my mom back to health. That and the grace of God saved my mom. Her faith didn’t sway, and it inspired me. (Later, I did go back and put myself through school later when things settled down). My mom and I started going to church. I remember the first time I went to church. That feeling of awkwardness, anxiety and obligation to fight the feeling that I don’t belong and put on a smiley happy face during the all time dreaded “greet your neighbour” part.
When I received my own bible, I started reading the Gospels. I started trusting and reaching out for help, something that was a huge taboo growing up. It is a very hard thing to do: to be vulnerable with God, with others and with myself. To have close relationships without the fear of feeling like you’re not good enough to be loved. God has shown me that I am good enough and that my past does not define me but that God is good and uses all things for good. Because of my experience, God has used me to help others going through similar issues, on both sides. God has given me so much love and compassion for others, and I think because of my past it is only strengthened. Recently I’ve been reminded that, no matter how hard things get or impossible they may seem, that he will never forsake us. Nope, he will never abandon us. He never changes and he’s always there, especially during those hard times, and even if we can't see him in them at that moment.
Years after my own walk with God began, I am very comfortable in my church, in my relationship with Jesus, and my relationship with my church family. Some of our closest friends came from there, and I look forward to "greet your neighbour" time with a sincere smile knowing we all belong here together. Church for me is a privilege to worship our amazing God, full of love and peace and healing. A place of encouragement, safe place of vulnerability, an inspiring opportunity to grow. And relationships, how important I’ve realized they really are to my physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I AM TRULY GRATEFUL AND BLESSED AND CAN SEE GOD IN MY PAST WHEN I COULDN'T SEE HIM IN THE MOMENT. I'M STARTING TO SEE MORE LOVE THAN FEAR IN THE WORLD AND JESUS AS A LOVING GOD WHO I'M GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE WAY I AM, BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN IN HIM.
Even more years after that, I realized that raising your hands in church, although at first, a terrifying idea, can have a huge beautiful impact on your relationship with Jesus. Freeing yourself from everything, surrendering all and giving it all to Him, and letting yourself go in that freeing feeling of love and receiving Him. Amazing. Our church has remarkably grown my ability to see Jesus in an even clearer light, shed light on past distortions of events with Him, and emphasized relationships and church family.
It’s been amazing to grow out of the chains we didn't know that still hang onto us. It's a process, and that's okay, it's still hard but I feel every time I read the Bible like it's my first time, the clarity gets better. I've never known Jesus like I do now and as my relationship gets closer with Him, I see him in an even newer light. The thing that keeps getting me over and over again, is the love and grace he has for us when and where we are. We are enough just the way we are right now. Just focus on your relationship with Him and receive his love and acceptance for you right here and now; he will guide your path. Jesus said to love God and others, and I think that the importance in that is easily overlooked; with my past I truly see the need and power of it. Especially when you really don’t know what others are facing. We're all facing something. Gods peace, that surpasses all understanding, and Jesus’ healing and revealing love can conquer so much. And we all so desperately need it.
I am truly grateful and blessed and can see God in my past when I couldn't see him in the moment. I'm starting to see more love than fear in the world and Jesus as a loving God who I'm good enough for the way I am, beautifully broken in Him.
To read a excerpt on the same topic: THE FATHER'S HEART: HE WILL NOT LEAVE US AS ORPHANS.
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