Ever get panicked before a test? A job interview? A huge meeting? Well, I woke up today to answer the phone and became a nervous wreck. Not because of any of the above, but…because I was going to spend time with my dad. May not seem like a big deal to you, but to me…BIG. Let me start by saying that I love my Dad. He has provided for me in many ways over the years. He’s a hard working, determined, strong man. I look up to him for what he’s done in his life. He took care of my mom for two solid years after her stroke. She was paralyzed on her left side. Couldn’t walk, couldn’t do much of anything by herself, and I’m telling you now, my mom was not a light woman. The doctor’s recommended putting her in a nursing home saying my dad couldn’t handle the responsibility alone, but my dad refused. Mom did not want to be in a nursing home, she wanted to be home. And Dad did whatever he had to in order to make that possible. THAT’S love: sickness and in health. He gave up his freedom to take care of my mother 24/7. He even wiped her butt – now THAT’S love. Maybe that’s TMI but I want you to understand the depth of my father’s love for my mother. Maybe he isn’t a loving, affectionate man, but he did love her…more than anything.
Anyway, I met my dad today at the BMV to license and plate a car I bought from him. I thought we were going to meet later this morning but he wanted to get it over with. He gave me a great deal and I’m blessed again in that sense, but just the thought of being in a car with him for the 20+ minute drive home was…unnerving. My dad is very old school. He’s bold and sometimes, just flat rude. But that’s him. He dropped out of 9th grade to help support his family – he is number 6 out of 11 siblings. Work ethic is very strong. I admire him for that…but when it comes to love or affection: he gets an F. He can be highly critical and degrading. With my soft underbelly, this trait really impacts me. I tend to get quiet around him. I could say the sky was blue and he’d not only correct me but tell me how stupid I am in his own way. I’ve never felt good enough for him. Now, this is an attitude change I adopted from the book “Road Less Traveled” years ago. It’s not DAD that makes me nervous, I make myself nervous. It’s not his fault, it’s my reaction. If I don’t like the situation, it’s my responsibility to adjust or remove myself from it. Since I can’t, and honestly don’t, want to remove myself completely, I have to deal with days like these where it is just him and me. Just because he says things, doesn’t mean they are true. He’s not perfect.
It’s with my dad that I learned to walk on egg shells. He may be joking and fun one minute, but that can change at the drop of a hat. Could be because of something I say, or just a shift in the earth’s atmosphere, but it’s something that I dread to see happen. He’s so easy going and fun when he’s happy, and he can actually be pretty darn funny, – but that’s extremely the opposite when he’s not. Now, if you know me at all, I can be very outspoken, but with my dad…I clam up. Over the years I’ve overcome that fear but, it’s still there. You have to be willing to put up with the wrath of defiance…even if you are right. So, I pick my battles with him. I try to be selective with all my battles.
I guess there’s a feeling of rejection with my father…even when I know I’m right, he can make me feel so stupid, so unworthy, so worthless. Now, I have to remember the aforementioned book…I let him make me feel that way. I have to realize it’s not true, it’s just the way he is. We have to choose in life who we associate with. He’s my dad! I love him dearly, but I have to be careful because I do take what he says to heart.
My shell started to form way back in my younger years, but as I grow older, I’m trying to break free from it. Trying to adopt other coping methods and attitudes. And I am. Everything we experience, everything we go through, every aspect of our lives shapes us. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good, but it all shapes us. Maybe that’s why God talks so much about love. Love covers all sin. I know my dad isn’t perfect, but I do know he loves me. He’s not out to make me feel like shit, I let him do that. I can’t change him but I can change me and my perceptions, my reactions. Maybe I don’t know how to handle him all the time, but I am learning how to handle myself. I deserve respect, even from him, and he deserves my respect, too. I may be the youngest of 8 and he may feel a responsibility to take care of me, but I am a grown up. I have to make some mistakes myself and I need his support, not just his criticism. I need his love, not just his discipline. The more I get out of my shell, the better I feel about my relationship with my dad. My Father God helps me love my birth father more effectively. God shows me true, pure, unconditional love. And from that, I can love my dad…and myself…in the same way.
Ya know, I want to add that, as I thought about writing this blog, I thought for sure I’d cry and feel low and tredge up all kinds of old painful memories, but writing this has reminded me that we are all flawed. We are all sinners. He never meant to discourage me – maybe that’s how he grew up. Maybe he’s still living in his shell after 80 years. We are each, individually responsible for our actions and reactions in life. Not that it’s right to bring someone else down, but if someone brings you down, pick yourself up. Know who you are. God does. That’s why we need to admit to Him our faults, our sins. He’s the only One who can forgive us completely, the only One who can lift us up from the inside. He can help us be the person we are meant to be. Blame is lame. My flesh may be hurt, but my spirit thrives.
“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” ~ Colossians 3:21
“Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” ~ Exodus 20:12
“The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.” ~ Proverbs 10:1
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;” ~ Psalm 103:13
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father [a] the son he delights in.” ~ Proverbs 3:11-12