You’re the Father to the fatherless,
the answer to my dreams
—Glory to the King by Hillsong
One of my very favorite songs by Hillsong is Glory to the King, and yes, it’s true—I tear up whenever I listen to this song on the treadmill, just like this morning. The two lines that choke me up every single time are those in our quote above because you see, I’ve been an orphan since the age of twenty-three, and to be honest, I think I was an orphan long before that, at least in my heart. Motherless from sixteen years of age, I never felt loved or close to my mom once in all that time, something I look forward to God correcting someday on streets of gold.
But for some reason, it’s the loss of my father—whom we all called “Daddy”— at the age of twenty-three that rips me up the most when I hear the lines above because you see, my dad died right after I became a Christian … BUT not before God gave me the precious gift of reconciliation.
My dad was an eye surgeon and one of the best ophthalmologists in St. Louis, but I’ll be honest—he was a bit quirky, especially after he became a widower. He was a no-nonsense, bottom-line type of guy who had a charming personality but was really a recluse deep down inside. He’d do crazy things like throw string over the telephone wire outside his bedroom window to see which way the wind was blowing rather than break down and buy a weather vane. His television chair faced away from the door, so he bolted a really ugly wood-framed mirror catty-corner to the wall and to my mother’s intricately carved antique hutch so he could see anybody walking up behind him.
I won’t sugarcoat it here—I hated him. The man kicked me out of the house at 10:00 p.m. one night because I gave him a dirty look when he ordered me to make his bed. And trust me, you did not give my dad any sass or dirty looks or you found yourself on the floor. But I was twenty-one and a bit of a rebel, so when he lunged at me, I tried to ward him off with a kick in the stomach and some choice words. Needless to say, I found myself out on the streets late at night, along with my little sister, Katie, who insisted on coming with me.
Somehow things worked out, although I never attributed it to God. My orphan mentality extended to Him as well because I had two parents that professed to know Him while they emotionally abused each of their children and each other. My sister and I stayed with one of our married sisters for two nights before I was able to find a furnished flat and support both of us with my measly secretarial job. Dad never once called to see where or how we were, so I vowed I’d never go back …
And then I met the “Father to the fatherless,” a loving God who took me from the cold and bitter dark into the glorious light and I was no longer a rejected orphan but a child of the King, greatly loved. Talk about the “answer to my dreams,” Jesus Christ definitely was. He picked me up, dusted me off and replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh, just like He promised in His Word, and I have NEVER, EVER been the same!! Oh my, I would have gladly done anything for Him after that … or so I thought … until I got my very first marching orders. “Forgive and love your father,” He said, and as God is my witness, one long, agonizing groan trailed from my lips.
“But this is the guy who beat me with his belt, his shoe and a cat-of-nine-tails,” I’d argue to God, “the man who belittled me and demeaned me. He called me an angle-shooter and a whore, and finally turned me out to fend for myself.” Forgive him, the thought came, and love him. “But how?” I moaned. “Love is a decision,” my prayer partner Joy would say, “do it for God—for Him and through Him.” If you love me, keep my commands — John 14:15 and Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” — John 14:23.
Heavy sigh. So, yep, that’s exactly what I did. First I repented for my bitterness toward my dad, then I prayed to forgive him and then I put feet to my decision, along with a lot of prayer. “Help me to love him, God,” I would pray, and He did. I was single at the time, so once a week I started going to see Daddy, which consisted of me bringing his favorite dish—homemade beef stew for him to enjoy later—and me watching TV with him while we only talked during commercials. At the end of the evening, we’d only said a handful of words all night, but at the door, I would always put my arms around him and tell him I loved him. Of course, he never hugged me nor said it back. But I can tell you right now that one of the most poignant memories of my entire life is the night many months later that I went to hug my father good night. Suddenly I felt the slow circle of his arms around my back, awkward and halting. “I love you, Daddy,” I whispered with tears in my eyes. “I love you, too,” came his gruff answer, and light years of healing took place in my heart in the single drop of a tear.
That was a turning point for my dad and me, a restoration for a rejected little girl and the bitter, angry man who never really knew the love of God in His life until an equally bitter daughter gave him a glimpse. My dad and I became very close after that until he died mere months later. But not before he gave me the greatest gift he ever could.
As some of you know, I grew up being ridiculed and made fun of by classmates and my own family (sound familiar with Katie O’Connor in A Hope Undaunted??) because I was skinny, had crooked teeth and psoriasis. Oh, and I was a major CDQ (caffeinated drama queen, only the caffeine was Dr. Pepper instead of coffee!), so I was easy to make fun of. Over the course of my teen years, I had at least five guys tell me I was ugly, so I never felt pretty or attractive until one miraculous day when I was showing my dad our family picture someone took at my sister’s wedding. “You’re the best-looking one in the bunch,” he said in his no-nonsense way, and my heart clutched in my chest while years of insecurity slowly crumbled away. His words may seem shallow to some, but to me they were the words of my Heavenly father spoken through the lips of my daddy on earth. “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” — Song of Solomon 4:7.
And you know what? I am—through Him! And so are you!
Have a “beautiful” weekend!
GIVEAWAY!!! Join me this Monday, August 13-16 for my Seeker post entitled, “Kiss-ology 101: Warming up the Pages with Romantic Tension.” I’ll include plenty of excerpts from upcoming books and have a giveaway of any of my books including A Love Surrendered or A Light in the Window, so hope to see you there!