It is fitting that I should write this story on Valentines Day, for this is a story of two broken hearts; healed and mended, then melted together as one–in an instant. This is a story of True Love.
Anyone who comes from a broken family understands the pain of divorce. I was twenty-seven years old when my parents divorced, and while some people think that a person shouldn’t be “affected” by such things once they are adults, I can assure you–I WAS! I was shocked when my parents divorced. I had no forewarning in the natural. But, on the day that my dad told my mom that he was moving out, I felt a great anxiety in my spirit–so great that I told my husband, “Something is terribly wrong in California. I want to phone home.” Considering the fact that I was three thousand miles away, on a remote island in Northern Canada, when I felt this anxiety, you can appreciate that I was deeply affected.
Pain and confusion became constant companions as I tried to “understand” what had happened–what right did he have to leave my mother? Whose standard was he using to exercise his right to leave her? What had she done that was so terrible that he could not live with her? I had questions and I asked them of nearly everyone around me. I asked God the same questions, and in so doing, I realized that my own life was in quite a mess. As I came into a better alignment with God, I searched the Bible for “the answer” to all my questions about my dad. Since he had been a Baptist minister at one time, I felt certain that he would know and obey what the Bible said about such an important issue.
About two years after the divorce, the whole family gathered in California–for one of those BIG attempts to bring reconciliation–I felt certain that dad would listen to God’s Word. I reached for my Bible and said, “Dad, look at what God has to say about what you are doing.” Before I could find the carefully selected passage of scripture that would straighten this mess out, he stood up and loudly cursed me, the Bible and the whole family. Then he walked out. Needless to say we were all in shock. The shock of that cursing lasted a long time–eighteen years for myself, and twenty years for my brother and sister.
Eighteen years is a long time. Think about it. It generally takes eighteen years to graduate from high school. A whole “lifetime” of events takes place in eighteen years. During those years, contact with my dad was minimal. A card from him on my birthday, Christmas cards, the odd phone call which always stirred up the pain. Someone would hear about something that he was doing and he would again become the topic of our conversation for weeks. My mother never stopped talking about him. She never let him go.
My mom maintained her relationship with God throughout this long painful separation. She read her Bible, went to church, cared about us kids and loved her grandkids. She worked as a secretary and saved her money so she wouldn’t be a burden on anyone when she retired. But, always, she was obsessed with talking about my dad.
I would say that most of our conversations about him were judgemental. After all, we read our Bibles; we knew that what he had done was wrong. She had done nothing that the Bible sanctioned as reason for divorce. By the time of his third marriage, we knew he wasn’t coming back to her. Still, his actions and their effect on our lives were frequent topics of our conversations.
After many years, I gave up hope for my dad to ever be reconciled to his family. I doubted he was even a Christian. I felt he was a totally lost, immoral, unstable, unsavory person. That was a very dark time for me. Gradually, I got used to the darkness in my own soul–it seemed normal.
Mother did retire and she moved from California to Canada to be near my family. She had missed out on much of the growing up of my five children, and she wanted to get to know them. She bought a condominium two blocks from my house and the kids enjoyed having “Gran” live so close. One year after moving here, she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Lou Gehrig’s disease was a death sentence. There was no cure. There was no treatment. I spent four months pryaing and asking God to heal my mother. Finally, the answer came: “Help her die.” I accepted her diagnosis and did all I could to help her.
I wish I could tell you that I was a “good little Christian” who praised and thanked God every day for His righteous judgements–but, the truth is that I questioned God. I really felt that it was unfair of Him to let my dad go free, when he was the one who had done this great wrong to his family, and to allow my mother to die this cruel death. Finally, I asked God, “How do You see this situation?” The answer He spoke to my heart would one day transform all our lives.
About a year after my mother died, I felt something stirring inside of me–a desire to see my dad. In the long eighteen years of separation, I had only invited him once to visit my home and during that visit I had tried again–and unsuccessfully, again–to confront him with the Bible. I had no reason to expect that another visit would end differently, but I honored that desire anyway and invited him for a long weekend.
My dad came armed with his own arsenal of justifications. He knew what to expect from me. I hadn’t planned anything specific to confront him on–I didn’t need to, I had a whole list of offenses that I could whip out at any given moment. So, the weekend progressed–awkwardly, but quietly.
I had no idea that Spirit was about to move in on us in a powerful way. I simply invited two gentlemen friends over for lunch. They lead a prayer group I attended and I suppose I hoped they would “say something” important to my dad. If not, it was a way to let others meet my dad and see the man who had so wounded me. We were sitting around my dining room table, when one gentleman began telling the story of a young soldier in Napoleon’s army who had gone A.W.O.L., been caught and was now about to face the firing squad. This young man’s mother came to Napoleon and pleaded for mercy for her son. Napoleon replied, “He doesn’t deserve mercy.” To which the mother implored, “But, Sir, if he deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy!” At that, Napoleon allowed the boy to live. After telling this story, the gentleman said, “I have no idea why I told that story. It just came into my head.”
As he has been speaking, I felt the strangest sensation of heat come over my head and into my chest. Without wavering, I said, “I know why you told that story.” I turned toward my dad and gently said, “Dad, when mom was dying, I felt that God was being very unfair. So I asked Him what He had to say about the situation. Would you like to hear what God had to say about you and mom?” The room was very quiet. I could tell that my dad was afraid to know. But, after a few moments he indicated that he would.
I felt the heat increasing as I reached deep into my soul for those words, “He said, I could not heal your mother, because she would not forgive. But I see the wounds upon your father’s heart, and I have pity on him.'” In the moment I spoke those words, the power of Spirit hit both of us “like lightening.” We stood up, pushed our chairs back from the table and fell into each others arms, sobbing. After quite a while of crying and kissing, we sat down again–even the two gentlemen present were crying–and I realized that I could not remember even one of those offenses on my “list.” The whole list was erased from my memory–and five years later, it is still gone!
From that day on, my dad and I have had a relationship that is far beyond mere “reconciliation” or “recovery.” We never had a relationship like this before–ever! This is a totally new relationship! We talk on the phone every weekend, we plan visits around special holidays, we go to conferences together. Where before my dad had been closed to the “things of the Spirit,” due to the wounding caused by my own judgementalism and legalism, now he is hungry for more of the Spirit. Right away my dad began having powerful dreams which he KNEW were from God. He shares these dreams with me and we discuss their possible meanings.
Two years after this momentous day, my dad was reconciled to my brother and sister. My family traveled to California where we had a true “family reunion.” It had been twenty years since the divorce.
Whenever my dad and I are together, we look for an opportunity to share our story. It is a story that brings hope to hopelessly broken relationships. It is a True Love story.
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