I got a "Happy Easter" email yesterday morning from my dad, and it caused me to reflect on my relationship with him. Over the years, my relationship with my dad has been rocky. I have only a couple good memories with my dad. Once I remember a weekend my mom was away, and my dad made fried shrimp for dinner. We got out the pot and actually fried the shrimp; it was fun and my only memory of my dad cooking. I also remember "Daddy-Daughter Dates;" well more specifically, I remember one. By the way, the fact that this is one of the memories that survives proves that it can be a wonderful time for a father and daughter to share.
Ten years ago, my dad was in an accident. He was rear-ended by a semi on his way to El Paso, TX. The thing that probably saved his life was pulling a trailer, and giving the force an extra 35 feet to travel before reaching his truck. After the accident, a lot changed in my life. My dad couldn't work anymore (while he had no visible injuries, a lot of nerve damage was done) and he basically withdrew from the family. Over the next 4 years, I watched a slow but steady progression. My dad withdrew from the family and slowly became a stranger in our home. I watched my parent's marriage disintegrate right in front of my eyes. And I watched myself become more and more angry that I didn't have a father I could count on.
I've gone through the gamut of emotions in regards to my father, but I have also learned some helpful lessons along the way. This isn't a laundry list of lessons or ways to get over having an absent father. Rather, this is my working through how I've arrived at being the woman I am today.
My dad was always very exacting and demanded perfection. If I cleaned my room, he would walk in, find something out of place, and I would spend another hour cleaning. I wanted it to be spic and span. I never spoke out if this upset me, rather I internalized those feelings. I thought it was inappropriate that I would ever be mad at my dad; after all, I was supposed to honor him. I also earned straight A's in school (the first time I got a B was after my parents separated). I didn't want to tell him if I had ever messed up in school, and this pattern continues today. If he asks about my grades and I haven't gotten all A's, his first question is "Well, what happened?" As I grew up, I started to demand perfection from myself, in everything. If everything was not exactly right, I blamed myself and have on occasion made myself sick, trying to achieve the impossible standards I've held myself to. I even brought this to my relationship with God. I don't want to give the impression that this battle is behind me; it is definitely something that still affects me and something I still struggle with. However, my pastor said something in a sermon a few years back that really stuck with me. He said, "Jesus doesn't want you to have life figured out before you come to him. You come to Jesus and he transforms your heart." That wasn't an exact quote, but as close as I can remember. This hasn't been a way for me to dodge responsibility when I do mess up, rather it serves as a comfort that I don't have to have everything figured out. If I did, I wouldn't need Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life; no one ever did before, and no one has since. I certainly am not going to be the exception to this rule, and I should stop making myself suffer because of it.
Growing up in the church, I knew the commandment, "Honor thy father and mother." This is a tricky one, and I'm not going to attempt to explain the history or theological musings behind it. But this has been a lesson I've struggled to learn. Honor as a verb means, "to hold in honor or high respect; revere." I always struggled with how to do this if my father wasn't acting as a man of honor ("honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions"). I have come to respect my father for giving life to me, and I have come to respect his position as my father. I have realized I don't have to like everything he does (or has done). I am my own person and that's not only ok, it's good for me to be me!
The past 21 years have been a struggle at times, and I don't have it all figured out now. But I do know that I am blessed with amazing people in my life who offer guidance and wisdom in working through these challenges. I am amazed by the grace of God each and every day, and I am in awe of him making me into the woman I am.