My father is an alcoholic.
And the daily choices he makes drastically change my life.
Let me tell you a story in order to explain my situation.
It was a month before Spring Break. God led me to outlets of information about forgiveness and what being selfless looked like. I listened to podcasts, watched sermons, read Bible verses over and over again about forgiveness, and pleaded to the Lord to give me strength to face my father. The Lord was preparing me to face the giants of my past that were, and still are, towering over my life.
Then Spring Break began. So I went home.
When I went home, things were fine for the first day. (Even though I was internally freaking out.) The second day…well let’s just say that was one of the hardest days I’ve had in a while.
Unfortunately, my mom was working, and it was just my dad and I at home. Luckily, I had to work that day, and I told myself, “Just hold on until 5pm, and you will be fine.”
So I did everything in my power to avoid my dad that day.
I avoided him by “sleeping in.” In reality, I just closed my eyes when he came to check on me. I avoided him by “going to work out.” In reality, I went on the longest bike ride through the countryside so I would have an excuse not to answer my dad’s incessant phone calls. I avoided him by “doing homework in my room”. In reality, I was watching Netflix hoping he wouldn’t come in. I avoided him by taking a long shower. In reality, it was a way for me to lock my dad out and distract myself from the painful truth.
These techniques of avoidance were ways I was trying to find peace and gain control of my reality. I was just trying to escape the pain of disappointment I had built up toward my father.
Then I ran out of ways to avoid him.
So I started to get ready for work. My father was unfailingly drunk once again. It broke my heart. Disappointment, rage, anger, and hate toward his addiction began to boil up inside of me, but I acted like everything was fine because I didn’t know if confronting my dad at that moment would be helpful. I didn’t know if I could unconditionally love him where he was at. I didn’t know if I had enough patience to listen to his slurred speech reminding me of his absence.
I had to get out and attempt to grasp onto hope, because I was in what it felt like a hopeless situation.
Before I left, my dad walked me out to my car. He hugged me goodbye, but all he could get out in a slurred speech was, “Please be careful. Please be careful. Please be careful.” Over and over he begged me, like I was going off to war or something. And every time he said it, I was reminded of our broken relationship. I was reminded of how shallow our relationship was rooted. I was once again reminded of his absence.
I rolled up my window and began to drive away from my drunk father while watching him out of my rearview mirror stumble back inside. Immediately, I broke down into tears crying out to God to be present in my life at that moment. I asked Him to give me patience. I asked Him to help me to forgive my father and his actions that have caused a ripple effect of hurt and anguish in my life.
Then I called one of my closest friends, Katie. I let everything out, because sometimes that’s the only way to recover.
I left my house 30 minutes earlier than I should have that day because I knew I wasn’t in a safe place emotionally. Remember when I wrote that the Lord strengthened me before I went home to face my father? Well, I feel like all the ground the Lord covered in my heart was taken back by the enemy. I lost hope.
So that’s a piece of my story.
Now, here’s my journey of forgiveness.
Colossians 3:13-15 “13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
This verse rocks my world because it aligns so perfectly with my reality. Verse 13 calls Christians to forgive one another because Christ first forgave us. That’s rough stuff right there. I have found that it’s so easy to forgive someone you don’t know very well, someone who you don’t spend much time with, someone who doesn’t have an immediate effect on your life, or someone who is actively attempting to be forgiven. It’s so simple for me to forgive my friends, my mom, my sister, my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, my grandparents, my roommate, and the list goes on and on. But things seem to be different with my earthly father.
With my earthly father, I am choosing to carry the heartache. I can’t seem to let it go, and it is causing serious setbacks in my emotional and spiritual life.
My father is the current exception of forgiveness that I am trying to work through. But he is not the excuse to hold back forgiveness.
I am still marked with deep wounds given to me by my dad. Wounds that throb every day, wounds that won’t seem to heal, wounds that are cut open every time I have to see his face, every time I hear him open the front door because I know his intentions, every time I hear him walk down the hallway with little bottles of liquor sloshing in his pockets, every time I see him drive out of the neighborhood because I know he is going to feed his addiction. It’s the little things that trigger anxiety, confusion, and hurt in my mind and heart.
Sometimes the thought comes to my mind, “He’s not doing anything to fix this problem so why should you?” And right there, that question, it’s the enemy. It’s the enemy saying that I cannot forgive with God’s help, I am not strong enough, God’s love isn’t powerful enough to transform the entirety of someone’s addiction. I know the truth. The truth sets us free. The truth changes lives in radical and unexplainable ways. The truth is more powerful that any lie will ever be. God is the truth and the hope that I am holding on to and I pray that He will substantially alter my fathers life. I pray that God would grab hold of his heart and mind. I pray that my dad will be surrounded by the Holy Spirit is such a powerful way that he will not be able to ignore it. That my father would have the bravery and boldness to confront his problems. That my father’s addiction to alcohol will be broken and he will give it to God. That one day he will be set free from the chains he has locked himself in. Prayer is powerful, and I refuse to let any lie trump the truth.
Here comes verse 14.
Verse 14 tells us to love, because love gives life and makes things whole. Every time I have to be around my father I pray that the Lord would help me to love him unconditionally.
And finally, verse 15 calls us to have peace and be thankful. Yet again, I pray that the Lord would give me a peace that surpasses all understanding, and that I would be able to be thankful in all circumstances.
After all that being written, I am thankful for my father. I am thankful that I have these wounds. I am thankful that I have to face this pain. I am thankful for where God has carefully placed me. I am thankful for this list of, what seem to be only awful things, because it causes me to grow. And without prayer and full reliance on God, we will inevitably fail because it is impossible to face a giant so great alone.
James 1:2-4 “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The pain that we face in life is a wonderful opportunity for us to either wither or flourish.
Like the addiction my father is facing, I am facing the battle of daily forgiveness. Some days are harder than others, and there is always the feeling of heartache from a broken relationship with my dad hanging over my head. It’s a weight that I must actively choose to give to God every single day, and sometimes even more than once a day. Forgiveness and consistency go hand in hand.
From this situation, I will grow and I will flourish. I will be ripped apart and I will be given more wounds, maybe even some scars.
I am not perfect, but God is and he’s teaching me.
I am learning how to forgive, slowly but surely. But forgiveness is a difficult task to fully accomplish, and it can’t be done in one day. So, step by step it must be done. Daily, the issues we face must be taken to God. And one day, with the Lord, we will face our giants and we will defeat them.
I hope this message has challenged you and turned the wheels of thought in your mind. Let us not forget: absorb the message, exude the truth.
With love & inspiration, Emily