The other night I realized that for years I have been holding my father hostage to the past. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t angry, bitter or throwing it up in his face, quite the opposite. I took pride in the fact that we were reconciled and we had a nice relationship. On the surface it seemed as though all was well but unbeknownst to me, I was still in bondage and I kept my dad there too.
Years ago when I was growing up there were many hurtful moments between my father and I. These tumultuous years impacted and shaped me, and in my hurt I chose to walk away from the Lord instead of running to Him. I always thought about my past as something my dad did to me but not as something I did to myself. I considered my thoughts, feelings and actions to be the result of the things that my dad said and did. I did not think about my thoughts, feelings or actions being related to my choices. I was acted upon and I reacted. And later on I took great pride in the belief that although there were reasons for who I was, there were no excuses to remain that way and so I would not let my past dictate who I was.
When I returned to faith in Christ, I viewed my Christian growth as being despite the obstacles and hardships from my past. As I walked with Christ, He gave me the ability to overcome many things from my past, to see and understand them differently. Still, in my mind it was these past events that defined me, as opposed to being defined solely by who I am in Christ, who He made me to be. To define myself in Christ alone does not mean that these things did not happen to me, rather it is that they were never who I am. When I start to see myself in the light of the One who made me, none of those past things are there. The more the Lord removes shame and condemnation from me, the more my past fades away. The more I step into my true identity, the less my past defines me. I can still use those stories as a vehicle to showcase the grace of God but they become just that, stories. They no longer define me.
The other day when my interview with ProWoman ProLife was published, I sent the link to my father. We are a family of famous writers and authors in our own minds. My father has been working on an epic novel about heaven for the last decade, researching it and getting caught up in the excitement of philosophical and religious ideas related to the reality of heaven. I’m sure it will be a best seller if he can ever finish it (which I sincerely hope he will do because I do not want to feel an internal pressure to finish his dream should he leave this earth before it is completed!! Hint, hint dad). So needless to say, I forwarded the interview to him and my sisters because it was such an exciting honor for me. In the interview, I refer to myself as having been “emotionally damaged”. When I wrote that I was referring to the things I had done to myself in pursuing my value and self-worth in romantic relationships. However my dad thought that I was referring to emotional damage stemming from our history and he offered again to talk about anything that I felt would be helpful or healing. Sitting in the dark after reading his response, the soft glow of the Christmas lights twinkling, God revealed something incredible to me.
Over the years, from time to time when talking with my father we would refer to our past, usually the ugliness of those times and how God had changed me and brought me through it to whatever place I was at then. I would pat myself on the back and think about how wonderfully restored our relationship was because we could talk about all these things. But the other night, in the stillness and quiet, God gently showed me something else. Every time I would talk about the past, I was digging up my father’s shame, his failures and struggles. It was like digging up a pile of dead bones, standing over them and saying to the other person, phew, aren’t you glad we’ve got past that? Then burying it until the next time when we would dig ‘em up again. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Love covers over an insult. (1 Corinthians 13) I didn’t have love, I had pride. I didn’t have forgiveness, I had false humility. God knew who my earthly dad was going to be when He created me for His purpose. And God wasn’t resurrecting these dead bones, I was. I understood that all these years, I have been making my father pay for our past, making him responsible for the bad choices and decisions that I had made. When I saw that, I was grieved and convicted, and repentance came into my heart.
I also had that same intense experience of God’s grace that I had when He removed my condemnation related to the abortion. At that time, I experienced the most intense conviction that I had never had an abortion. With my dad, I had an intense conviction that he had never done any of those things. It literally felt just as if it never happened. My father was justified. I was justified. Just as if it never happened. As far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) Finally, I can stop digging it all up, I can stop taking it down off the cross and bearing it myself or putting it back on my dad. God made me the way I am for such a time as this. And my past doesn’t define me, God defines me. I never overcame or set myself free, God did. So I release my dad from the past, mine and his. It never happened, it is on the cross of Calvary, and it is under the sea of forgetfulness. And I am free, so free.