I grew up in dysfunction. I experienced and witnessed emotional, verbal, and physical abuse growing up with my father. He struggled with alcoholism and mental illness from being a war veteran and because of other factors.
My father's love was always there, but his actions caused me sometimes to see him and think about him in a negative light. For years, I had a lot of anger, bitterness, and hate inside because of my father's abuse. I remember there were days when I would say to others and think to myself that I hated him and wished he would die. I thought that was a solution to the problem. I thought that was my way to freedom and a better life. I was hurting.
When I left home after graduating high school to attend college, the dysfunction followed me. Not only was I broken from so many years of trauma, but the same cycles were repeating themselves. Many days, my father and I would get into an argument over the phone for various reasons. It left me feeling sad and hurt because I longed to have a healthy relationship with him. What I wanted and needed were his support and love.
I longed for everything a father was supposed to be to his daughter. I felt like I was always having to defend myself when negative things were being said or done that hurt me. I had difficulty figuring out who I was and where I was supposed to go in life.
I wanted the relationship with my father to be better. I wanted my father to respect me and see me as an individual who has her own opinions, own ways of doing things, and own ways of thinking, among other things.
One day I was sitting in my car in my grandmother's driveway, and I got into an argument over the phone with my father. After hanging up the phone, the conversation left me angry, and it brought me to tears as usual. I was again hurting. I could not understand why my father was the way he was and why he would say the things he would say.
At that moment, the Holy Spirit came over me, and this voice inside of me began to tell me that I needed to be the bigger person and that I needed to act out of love towards him. I felt a shift on the inside after that. That moment changed my life, changed my perspective, and changed my relationship with my father forever. I found forgiveness.
Later, I was able to open up to my father about things done to me and how I felt, which started my journey to healing, learning how to work through all of the anger, bitterness, and hurt. I told myself that I would respond in love and no longer feed into the negativity. If he called and the conversation turned hostile, I would politely end it and get off the phone, making sure I told him how much I loved him.
If you were to see the relationship that I have with my father now, you probably would not believe what it took to get to where we are. Healing did not happen overnight. Our healing has taken years, years of evolving, praying, loving, and wanting things to be better.
When I look back, I see how much our relationship has progressed and is still progressing. Sometimes, it brings me to tears thinking about how much God has restored our relationship and continues to do so. I see how much my father has changed and is still changing. I can see him through the lenses of love.
The memories of what I had to endure will always be there, but it does not determine how I feel or what I think about my father now. I can empathize with him. I understand that he has his own struggles. He did not have a good example of how to be a father or understand how to love. Which is how the Lord gives me grace every day, and I choose to do the same for my father.
My father is human, and he falls short--we all do. Now, my father is loving, supportive, and so much more. Now when we talk over the phone, we rarely argue. We have conversations about many things, like Bible scriptures to just life, sometimes for a couple of hours.
There was a time when my father didn't tell me how much he loved me, but now he always tells me how much he loves me and says God bless me. We joke with each other, and we motivate and uplift each other.
I am grateful for what the Lord has done in our lives. Growing up, I wished I had a different dad, but now I would not trade him for the world because he was hand-picked by God to be my father, and I love him. I would not be the woman I am today without him.
My relationship with the Lord strengthened, and His love and faithfulness continue to help me persevere. I have learned how to forgive, and I am still learning. The pain I suffered gave me more compassion for others, and I am stronger and wiser. I now understand my God-given purpose. I understand and know that there is nothing I cannot overcome. What does not kill you will definitely make you stronger.