About 7 months ago, shit fell apart. All the way apart. In every way, apart. Complete decimation of normalcy. It was, in part what divorce and custody battles do to folks, but there was so much more. Nothing felt scarier than transitioning out of a 14 yr. marriage whilst facing the worst part of myself whilst taking a moral inventory of my soul. Nothing felt scarier then scooping out 15 layers of grime, gunk, filth, dirt & shame particles everywhere. When I wasn’t scooping, I sat there inhaling poisonous fumes fearful to move, fearful to scoop, fearful to admit defeat. Paralyzed by fear, yet hungry for change.
During that time -the worst of the worst time- a former InterVarsity colleague and friend of mine, Joe Ella invited me to a retreat she was planning for women in ministry, official or unofficial.
Joe Ella, chile, I am in no place to be “in ministry,” I said. But she assured me that it was a retreat to pour into women and she wanted me there.
Joe Ella, chile, I am more broke than I ever been. I don’t have 2 pennies to rub together, I said. But she said she had me covered.
I drove to Chicago with $2.25 in my pocket to board a red-eye Mega-Bus, Nashville bound. Like I said, I was completely broke. Long story. I didn’t even know if I could afford the gas to get home, yet I distinctly felt the Lord asking me to trust Him, as ya know, a Father.
The retreat was, of course, life-giving. I connected with 12 other women of color in a safe, profoundly accepting and beautiful community. Over the weekend, The Father Issue kept coming up over and over again…
When I gave my life to the Lord on April 27, 1996 I fully embraced God as Father. It wasn’t a big mental leap for me, though I acknowledge ‘God as Father’ is an extremely difficult reality to get one’s brain around when one has had a sexually, emotionally, spiritually or physically abusive father. But not me! I had an air of pride around it you see. Because I trusted God as a good Father despite my own shitty sexually abusive pedophile of a Dad. I didn’t much understand that pride, where it was coming from or why, but it gave me an illusion of righteousness. At least I have this one thing I’m doing right! At least that! See everyone I don’t hate God as Father! I embrace God as Father! Look at me defying statistics & junk!
But, then I got to this retreat, knee deep in my gunk, facing my demons, inhaling the fumes of my own poisonous choices and I HAD TO ask myself and the Lord God Himself: God, am I really trusting you as Father because um, shit is fucked? I mean, Lord, it would be hard for the fuckery to be worse. Let’s gone ‘head & call a spade a spade. I may not *actually* trust you as I previously believed.
I mean, really. When you have unabashedly walked yourself into a MINEFIELD and you watch your limbs fly off and your gut bleed out can you honestly look up to your God and say, ‘Lord I have trusted you as Father!‘?
Folks, you can only lie to yourself for so long. Needless to say all of illusions surrounding my so-called ample trust of God as Father were dashed in one final fatal blow.
At the end of the retreat, Joe Ella prepared scrolls for each of us with a personal message. I lost it when I read the words, “Grace, God is restoring your identity as “Daughter of the Most High,” and continues to reaffirm His love and commitment to you. Stay looking up to Jesus, trusting that His love is enough.”
And I lost it again when the ladies took up an offering for me and handed me a wad of cash.
And I lost it again when one of them wrote me a letter about how God will see me through this time.
And I lost it a few other times while I sat with the Lord during the guided, solitary quiet times.
And I lost it at least twice during a few group prayers times…and throw a few hugs in there as well.
Joe Ellas’s scroll. Plain as day. God was working to restore my identity as a daughter, which meant somewhere along the way, I’d lost it. Set it down. Got prideful. Fearful. Knew better. I’d satiated the crazy, little nut-bag child running my life whilst giving her everything she thought she wanted and consequently blew her little ass up in a minefield.
Fast forward to present day.
I’ve been tossing this around, prayerfully considering how to transition out of the minefield into the land of milk & honey. Here’s what I now know: My Father Issue isn’t my disbelief that God is a good, loving, kind & merciful Father. He is good. That much I know.
But, everyday, can I look in the mirror and say, “yes, today I believe I am a beloved daughter, worthy of a good father”?
It is mind boggling that some women can, hell, that any woman can wake up and know that they know that they know their inherent worth.
Or that *gasp* they don’t have to think twice about it.
Or that *gasp* their own biological father poured into them in such a way that facilitated this privileged unexamined mindset.
Or that *gasp* lots of women’s biological fathers did not actively work against this foundational and necessary belief in order to have a normal existence. I’m not angry at my father all over again, but I am realizing the cost of what he stole: a basic sense of inherent worth and dignity which absolutely directly affects my ability to love myself.
It doesn’t matter if you have a good father, a great father, a loving father or an almighty God if you don’t believe you are worthy of what He has for you.
In this last year or two, it hasn’t mattered much that I believe God is a good God and a loving Father because I haven’t believed I’m worthy of His protection when He’s said, “hey baby girl, don’t touch that. You will get burned.”
Things are changing though. Hope is springing up amidst the cold winter. It’s below the surface but when Spring comes…watch out.
So. I’m working on my daughter-ship.